Monday, October 6, 2008

Under the Influence

I've been wanting to put up some photos here of Grandma's work. This flower pot quilt is in the show. It was the second of three quilts she made for me, the youngest of 10 grandchildren. I had it on my bed as a teenager.

I'm also including the statement that is accompanying my current show at the Blinking Light Gallery, which is dedicated to her. Don't miss the artist reception this Saturday from 3-5. I'll be wearing a special apron and serving Red Rose tea and Grandma's most requested sweeties.
And this is a slippery-lined wool project bag she made and gave to me as a teen. I didn't appreciate it until I was in my 30s and I still use it to carry my knitting projects around with me.

It Skips a Generation

I am inspired by quilters from the 19th and early 20th centuries who produced beautiful and dynamic work from the limited fabric choices they had. Like quilters of my grandmother’s generation who recycled materials that were readily available to them, it is important to me to find and use beautiful quality materials that might otherwise be wasted. While I do use some new designer fabrics that I find particularly appealing, I try to use recycled materials as much as possible.

I especially like to use woven cotton button-down shirts and older fabrics resurrected from the cast off fabric collections of others. I strive for simplicity in composition; to marry fabrics in unexpected, humorous and beautifully harmonious ways, with attention to colors and associations evoked by prints. The fabrics I use sometimes depict scenes or characters that take the viewer to another time and place. I enjoy including an obviously recycled decorative element in my work when I can. I want people to experience the realization, “Hey, this used to be a shirt!”

As my work has evolved it has become apparent to me how much I’ve been influenced by the work of my grandmother, the late Marion B. Curtis. She worked with clothing scraps and other fabric remnants and had a unique way of combining prints and colors. Marion was born in 1898. She and my grandfather moved back and forth between Pawtucket, Rhode Island and Penobscot Bay, Maine, where they ran a summer guest house for their friends from Southern New England.

Grandma ran the kitchen and strictly oversaw a small staff of housework helpers. When she allowed herself a break she would sit in her special chair with a clear view of the road for easy tracking of local comings and goings. She never sat down without picking up a handwork project. A true Victorian, she held the philosophy “Idle hands make the devil’s work.” All 10 grandchildren received full sized quilts entirely hand pieced, tied and bound. These often included lovely embroidery work of which she was a master.

Grandma was very prolific and produced countless works in needlepoint, embroidery, felt collage and quilting. She died at age 92 in 1990. At the time I was an art student, struggling to impress upon my professors that my increasing desire to “paint” in fabric was something they should take seriously. I’m grateful for her example and continuing influence. I continue to discover her work with fresh appreciation.

Sarah O. Green October 1 2008

I apologize for this sideways picture. Not sure why blogger turned it...and I tried to provide a sideways pic that they could then straighten but...
I had to include it anyway because look at those individual stitches that make up the little dogs shaggy fur - wonderful.
This Mother Goose quilt was the first quilt Grandma made for me as a very wee one. So wee that my mother packed it away when I was three so I never had a clear memory of it. Mom presented it to me again last January on my 40th birthday. I imagine the embroidery patterns were bought as a whole set. Check out the wonderful 1930s storybook font.

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