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Art By Women, About Women

By Emily Milner

I’m not a quilter, although it’s one of those hobbies I can see myself taking up at some point in my life. And I’m also not an artist, or an art historian. That’s my official disclaimer. But it turns out you can enjoy a quilt show even without technical or artistic expertise.
What moves me about the Springville Art Museum’s 35th Annual Quilt Show is the way the quilters turn womens’ work, goals, hopes, dreams, and hobbies into art. I love that the quilts were not just made by women (except one! “Seascape,” by John P. Curran) but also about women, from quilts featuring aprons (“Grandma’s Apron,” by Lisa Dunn; “Mary’s Apron Quilt,” by Mary Tibbets) to one celebrating housework (“A Woman’s Work is Never Done!” by Lorena Norris).

Many quilters sewed for their families, creating quilts both as gifts and as memorials. Janet L. Carpenter made “Rhyme Time Fairies” for her grandchildren: appliqued with fairies and original rhymes, in rich and delightful fabrics. “Something Blue,” by Iras Mae Miller, celebrates a child’s wedding in shades of blue. “Mama Says,” by Judy Dixon, honors her mother’s homespun wisdom by stitching “waste not, want not” and similar sayings onto different squares. And “Honoring our Pioneer Ancestors,” by Megan Christensen, my personal favorite, turns old family photos and stories into a beautiful quilt.

I wandered through the halls with my husband, who appreciates quilts because his great-grandma was a quilter too. I read all the stories behind the quilts, like this one: “I made this one for my son, twelve thousand three hundred twenty-two half-inch pieces, who died while I was making it, so it became a memorial quilt.” (“Devin’s Tears,” Tomi Day) And I felt grateful to these women, who shared their humble, powerful art with me. And, of course, with their families.

Are you a quilter? And if you are, have you read these Segullah essays?
Threads,” by Deann Campbell, about her mother’s final quilt
Crazy Quilt Existence,” comparing R. Angela Zecca’s varied life to a crazy quilt

About Emily Milner

(Poetry Board) graduated from BYU in Comparative Literature, but it was long enough ago that most of what she learned has leaked out. She would like to mention other hobbies or interests, but to be honest she spends most of her free time reading (although she does enjoy attempting yoga). She used to blog at hearingvoices.wordpress.com. For now, though, Segullah is her only blogging home, and it's a good one.

18 thoughts on “Art By Women, About Women”

  1. Mara, if you click on the link in the text, their site has a few of the quilts online, but not all. They are in the process of putting together a catalog for the show, but I don't know if they post those online or not.

    My inner political correctness police is reminding me that men care about home and family and weddings and chores and even quilts too. True. But I love the way quilts made by women elevate work that's traditionally been done by women.

    And my inner critic is also mentioning that there were several fascinating quilts that used the texture and color of fabric to create non-family related but still eloquent art ("Postcards I," Jalaine Taylor, for instance).

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  2. I am not a quilter, but my Mom is. I don't think I will ever BE a quilter, because I don't like sewing if I have to pin anything together. 🙂

    With my mom's hobby being such a part of our growing up, I do love quilts. She has made us all quilts over the years, and has bins of them to show for her years of work. We have finally convinced her to let us have some of them, and stake a claim on others for the future.

    My sister and I each have two twin quilts. The first's main blocks are embroidered dish towels from a few "great" relatives, with period fabric for the rest of the piecing. The other is a smaller version of the quilt it was initially intended to be; Mom was making it for our beloved Grammie, who passed away before it was done.

    I will have to watch for the show next year. It's been too long since I last went to a quilt show.

    Fun post, Emily! I love that your husband went, too.

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  3. Thanks for the reminder about the show — I try to make it over there every year if I can. I loved having the quilt show as the backdrop for my wedding reception 12 years ago.

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  4. My brother's wedding reception was at the Springville MOA, and he and his bride were upset at first to find out that the quilt exhibit would be there (this was 2 years ago). I thought the quilts were a fantastic background.

    Esp. love the quilts made from old clothing, etc. Incidentally, Dooce.com has been featuring quilts lately in her Daily Style section.

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  5. I'm a quilter, although I haven't done much recently. My quilt frame is currently being used to display finished quilts.

    One thing I love about my quilts is that my husband designed some of them. We work together on our quilts. He is a lot more artistically inclined than I am and the quilts we've done together are better than those I've done on my own.

    We really need to get down to Springville.

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  6. I just realized the show is still on–duh me. My mom is coming into town just before it ends–we will definitely be going! How fun!

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  7. I just started quilting (RS does it again – I learned to paint thanks to RS too) 2 years ago. I will admit if I *had* to handstitch things, nothing would ever get done. And when I first sat down I was sewing-machine-phobic (is there a word for that?). It would take make 1/2 hour or hour just to START sewing.

    I love the hobby, for the fabric, it's individuality, the color, the artistry, the history… ok I'm hooked! Quilt shows are one of the things that show me just how far I have to go. It's a hobby with built in goals. 🙂

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  8. I love seeing anything creative. I wish I could quilt but i get too lost in the details. I think the work of our own hands can be so therapeutic and powerful! I host a painting studio night at my house once a month we call it our modern quilting bee. I love how creations for our homes bind the generations.

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  9. I totally do not get quilting. (Too much work!) That being said, I think it's marvelous that such a historical past time is alive and well. It's such a link to our heritage.

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  10. Quilters and quilt-appreciaters, thanks for commenting!

    One thing I love about the idea of quilting is fabric. I feel the same way in a fabric store that I feel in the bookstore (and it's the opposite of how I feel in a furniture store). In bookstores and fabric stores, there's all this possibility. Books I could read, fabrics I could combine. If I sewed. Which I don't, really. But I might. Especially if I had really cute fabric to sew with. I just want to go buy fabric, even if I don't end up creating things out of it.

    Furniture stores, though, deeply depress me. I feel overwhelmed by all the possibilities. I am Interior Decorating Challenged: I don't know what I like or what would look good, and I don't want to spend money on it anyway. Fabric and books, though, are cheap enough that I won't forever regret a purchase ("No! I should never have bought that pink gingham!!" just isn't the same as "I hate that couch, and I'm stuck with it forever because I can't afford another one.")

    But back to quilts: I highly recommend the quilt show. Like Jenny said, it's art that connects us to all the centuries of women who have kept their families warm with needle and thread.

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  11. I've always loved the quilting show, and I'm sorry I missed it this year. My grandma was a quilter, so we'd try to take her to see it when she was still coherent and walking. I'm hoping some day I'll be able to learn to quilt.

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  12. I am a sucker for fabric too- my husband wonders why i need bins and bins of it– I just love all the colors and patterns- I wish I could go see the show- whenever I see great quilts it makes me want to quilt!

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  13. Jennie W., I frequent a forum for heirloom sewing and smocking (which is a very labor-intensive craft, too) and I have read women on there say that they don't get the point of quilting since it is just "cutting up fabric into little pieces only to sew it back together." 🙂 I do get quilting and heirloom sewing and smocking, but I'm starting to face that I just don't have time for any of them.

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  14. It's a great exhibit, isn't it, Emily? I took my kids last week and we walked through the halls, picking out our favorites in each room until my toddler started getting restless and I was afraid she'd start grabbing. And besides, who needs an excuse to visit the Springville Art Museum? It's a fantastic place!

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  15. My husband was friend with Devin, who was the young man that died. My mom and I went down to the quilt show yesterday, and I had no idea Tomi Day (Devin's mother) made the quilt. When I read the story and saw her name, I couldn't help but cry. What a sweet tribute that was! Devin was such a great guy and had such an impact on my husband.

    I'm grateful for everyone who put so much time and effort into their quilts! It was a great show!

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