Even in this unusual year, the holiday rush is taking place. So, no Honoree this week, but a heart-felt wish for merriment and light from my house to yours. And a virtual tour. I’d like to welcome you to my home and share my holiday spirit with all my quilting friends.
I live in an 1886 house built by a local stonemason as a honeymoon cottage for one of his daughters. We don’t have snow yet—I’m still hoping for a White Christmas—so this is a shot from a past year.
The turret is the ideal place for a tree. This year we have a live Fraser fir downstairs with old-fashioned lights, glass ornaments, and lots of glimmer. There’s a little artificial one upstairs with a funky tree skirt I made.
I have quilts in every room downstairs. They make easy decorations and provide a nice backdrop for my collections of angels and the turned wooden ornaments my husband makes.
There are Christmas tins all over the kitchen. I started collecting these years ago while garage-“sailing” with a friend; she bought furniture, but all I could afford were the tins at 10-25 cents. The price has gone up, but the new ones I buy now come with cookies. I think they’re rather jolly.
We spend most of our holiday time on this back porch with a wood-burning stove, watching classic Christmas movies. Here’s where I show off the Santas, and the third tree. The quilt is one of four new Christmas ones I made this year—a record, thanks to staying at home.
And would you like another peek upstairs? We have Christmas quilts on both beds; blue is my color, and Jack loves red.
Back to the kitchen for a cup of coffee and cookies. I usually bake at least a dozen kinds of cookies each year. This year, I made seven kinds of shortbread, plus other recipes. I can’t share one in person, but here’s a picture from some cookie plates of Christmas past:
Or how about these that look like quilt blocks?
If you were here, you could use a cup from my mug tree. When I was working, I often got a holiday mug in the grab bag, so I found a way to display them all without taking up counter space.
Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this “visit”. I look forward to having a real, in-person visit with many of you at the 2021 Celebration, but in the meantime, I wish you happy, happy, merry, merry, and all the best of the season.
Your quilting friend,
Nancy Crow: 1997 TQHF Honoree
After last week’s shopping spree, I am making good on my promise to write about a live Honoree. I don’t know which is harder: the live ones often have great internet links, but I never know how they’ll react to what I say; the ones who have passed are harder to track down for info, but they never complain. I guess I should just be glad that each Honoree is interesting in some way. This week’s subject, Nancy Crow, has plenty of interesting accomplishments (see the link below for her bio), starting in 1979 with her co-founding of Quilt National (a juried biennial exhibition of contemporary quilt art) and coming up to date with her recognition in 2019 as a “Master of the Medium”.
I’m especially interested in Nancy as an artist and what it means to make art (I just make quilts, and sadly, there’s a difference). The best way to get an overview of Nancy’s work is to take a look at the covers of her books; Nancy has authored half a dozen books, and they are regularly available on Amazon and other sites. If your timing is right, you might be able to score an autographed first edition.
Or you could get a good impression Crow style from the covers of two books written by Maya Angelou which feature Nancy Crow quilts.
So, what is Crow style, and how did it get that way? Let’s start with what Nancy recently said about herself: this is her “Artist’s Statement” which accompanies her exhibit, “Nancy Crow-Drawings, Monoprints and Riffs” at the International Quilt Museum:
I have made over 300 quilts.
The purpose of my quilts is to make something beautiful for me. They are a means of expression. They represent my deepest feelings as a response to my life. My quilts are how I see color; how I see shapes; how I see line. They are about complexity, sadness, hope and always beauty. My style of quilt-making is contemporary in that I want to express my experiences now and not copy old quilts. They are traditional only in that they are machine-pieced and quilted.
Here’s the catalog from the exhibit, which is up through March 7, 2021. There’s also a link below for a virtual tour of the exhibit.
Color, shape, and line… Nancy is academically trained, having earned a B.F.A. in ceramics at Ohio State University, and an M.F.A. with a major in ceramics and a minor in tapestry weaving from the same institution. If you look at her list of classes taught at her Ohio facility –more on that later– you’ll find other “art” terms like figure and ground, linear motifs, etc. But how does that translate into quilts?
Well, several things help. First, Nancy has a design inspiration wall that includes varied artifacts, including woven vessels, carved animals, and scraps of weaving. You can see some of the weaving structure repeating in the lines of Nancy’s quilts—especially the warp lines. Then, Nancy has developed a technique of free-form cutting where she pulls a rotary cutter towards herself –dangerous, but it allows her to see where she is going and to feel that she is actually drawing with the blade.
But the biggest factor for turning training and technique into art has to be work—sweat equity. Here’s a quilt I could imagine myself doing—alright, maybe not all that piecing, but at least using the same palette. I’m a sucker for blue.
What doesn’t show, however, is that this quilt is one of a series of 22! Crow worked for three years exploring the 45-degree angles interplay with stripes and squares. Here’s another version that has more movement and “glowing” colors, and a third one that emphasizes the squares but uses “flatter” colors:
And here’s another pairing. I prefer the one on the left, but I can’t say why. Which one speaks to you?
Wikipedia identifies over a dozen Crow series, not including the November studies. I don’t know about you, but by the time I’ve finished one top, I usually don’t want to see the same thing again, so hat’s off to an artist who buckles down and repeats, repeats, repeats for the sake of her art. It’s clearly hard work. (If you watch the exhibit below, you’ll see some of Nancy’s thoughts on this level of work: “totally focused”, “10-12 hour days”, “going forward”, “learning” and more). With all this work and discipline, where do feeling and expression come in? Nancy would probably say “Everywhere”, but I’ll give you two examples. One of Nancy’s series is Passion, a group of five quilts she created while caring for her dying mother. I can only imagine the emotions poured into each of those art pieces. Another is her Chinese Souls series, inspired by an incident she witnessed while on an art exchange in China in 1990.
Here’s what she says about those quilts:
“Chinese Souls quilts are my memorial to more than 60 teenage boys who were bound and loaded on two trucks to be driven to their execution for petty crimes. I witnessed this horrible incident when I was an exchange artist in China in September 1990. The boys were all wrapped with heavy ropes. In these quilts, the circles represent their souls and the bull’s-eye embroidery, and the hand-quilting represents the ropes tied around their souls. The colors of the circles represent the individuals.”
No discussion of Nancy Crow would be complete without a little information about one of her other interesting aspects; in addition to being an artist, she’s also a teacher. She lives on a farm near Columbus, Ohio where a converted 1848 timber barn serves as a retreat center for five- and ten-day workshops taught by Nancy and others. This has got to go on my post-COVID bucket list. I’ve done some dyeing on my own but would love to have expert guidance. Does this look like fun, or what?
I was going to put a link below for the 2021 schedule, but the classes are already filled, except for one. Oh, what the heck, I will put the link below so you can see what types of classes she teaches and be ready when 2022 rolls around. It will happen—I promise!
I was going to tell you about a living quilter this week, but there’s something time sensitive I need to address. As I write this, there are only 19 more shopping days until Christmas! But don’t worry; The Quilters Hall of Fame is here to help. Have you browsed the online store? If not, I’ll give you some teasers with the individual links here and a general link to the store below. I know that not all of you readers celebrate Christmas but take a look anyway because you might want a gift for another occasion—or even something for yourself; you deserve it this year.
If you’ve enjoyed learning about the Hall of Fame Honorees through this blog, you’ll probably like the book version. There’s lots of new info I haven’t included and plenty of beautiful pictures.
You’ll find many other books in the store. They’re written by some of the Honorees so you can’t go wrong.
Or how about showing off your knowledge of Marie Webster with a mask in a limited-edition fabric taken from her quilt designs? On the right is Poppies and on the left is French Baskets. There are more in the store.
I’ve started baking my Christmas cookies and I always wear an apron in the kitchen. I have florals and dogs, Mardi Gras and Halloween, and several general-design ones, but I pull out the Santas and the reindeer for December. If you know someone who wishes they could be in Paris, why not get a French-themed apron? Or, if you prefer not to “travel”, there’s always candy.
Didn’t get that holiday sewing done? (I know you had lots of time this year, so you were probably making a full-sized quilt, finishing UFOs and sewing masks.) But if you’re short on a hand-made gift, we’ve got it.
Or here’s one that doesn’t use the traditional red and green and could be out all winter long. I know I would never do so much piecing for a table runner, so this would be worth the price.
I’m not going to include any pictures of the many bags that are available; you can use the link below. But who wouldn’t appreciate receiving a tote gift? I know most people aren’t going out much these days, but come summer, we’ll all be looking for something to cram our beach stuff into. Shop ahead.
The homemade items in the online store have all been made by volunteers, myself included, and the sales help support The Quilters Hall of Fame. If you want something for a Christmas gift, order soon to allow for shipping. And TQHF says “Thank you”.
I don’t want this week to be all infomercial, so let me re-visit an idea from last week. I told you a little about my development of the connection between fashion trends and quilt designs. Well, it turns out that great minds think alike: The International Quilt Museum just hosted a virtual session on a similar theme called “Mad Men, the Mid-Century Modern Aesthetic, and Modern Quilts”. It was presented by Luana Rubin of eQuilter.com and Dr. Carolyn Ducey, curator of collections at IQM. (I say “similar” because I was looking at contemporaneous connections, and they took the connection forward from the 1950s to current modern quilting.) Ahhhh; affirmation!
There’s a link below for more of IQM’s virtual events; be on the lookout for the recording of “Mad Men” (December First Friday) and for upcoming First Friday postings. And there’s a link for Textile Talks too. So much to “do” this winter; maybe I won’t miss getting out.
By next week, my tree should be up and baking done, so I promise a full post about (who will it be ????).
Lenice Bacon: The Special Beauty of Handmade Things
While nodding off after Thanksgiving dinner, it came to me that there have been several times when I wrote, “I’ll tell you about that later” or “That’s a whole other discussion”. Well, this seems like as good a time as any to catch up on loose ends.
When I was writing about Honoree Carrie Hall and her couture business, I promised to flesh out my idea of a connection between quilts and fashion. We know that quilts often follow home decorating trends (crazy quilts in the heyday of Victorian “more is more” style; Thimbleberries when country décor was popular), but I have wondered if there is also a parallel with fashion. I’ve found a couple of interesting pairings so far; you might call them “spurious relationships”, but, hey, it’s a start.
Fringe was big in the 2010s and that’s when I made one of those wrong-sides-together quilts with the ragged seams.
In the 2000s, you could get rhinestones on the pockets of your jeans or on a tee shirt, and you could put rhinestones and other embellishments on your quilt.
In June, 2016 there was an article about a comeback of the 90s bandana trend, and that same year Quilting Digest had “9 Easy Bandana Quilts to Inspire You.”
So, do you think I’m on to something here? In my spare time I’d like to go back through the decades and see if I can find other connections. I really do have lots of time these days, and I beat myself up for not being more productive. Maybe this will get me going, but that’s unlikely to happen until after the holidays. Stay tuned. Or, better yet, help me out by finding a fashion trend in any decade and then seeing if you can find a quilt style to match. Send me your info in the reply section.
I also want to tie up the loose end about why I sign off with “Your quilting friend”. Some of you are my in person friends, and all of you share a common interest in quilts which could make us friends when we meet. But this all started when Honoree Xenia Cord gave a lecture on women who sold quilt patterns from their kitchen tables in the 1950s, and the Round Robin letters of the 1960s. She read us some of the correspondence, and I was overcome with nostalgia for a time I never experienced. Well, almost never. I was too young to really correspond with others during that time, but I do remember that my mother got a weekly letter—airmail with a six cent stamp—from my grandmother. So, I guess this is my way to recognize a time when life wasn’t so complicated, so rushed and slap-dash. It’s my nod to all the great quilting correspondents. And there were quite a few. We’ve talked about Honorees Bertha Stenge and Florence Peto being pen pals (that sounds less stuffy than “correspondents”), but Peto also exchanged letters with another famous quilter, Emma Andres. In 1939 Emma read an announcement in McCall’s Needlecraft about Peto, and wrote to her in care of the magazine. Peto and Andres only met once, but their friendship in writing continued until Peto’s death. And both Peto and Andres were in written contact with a prominent male quilter, Charles Pratt; Andres used Pratt’s techniques to create her masterpiece, “Ninety and Nine”.
You can see more Andres quilts at the link below, and you’ll also learn that Emma had a connection with another Hall of Fame Honoree, Carrie Hall. I feel like we’re peeling an onion with all of these interlocking stories. But that’s what I think was so great about the letter-writing time of the 40s and 50s.
Another corresponding pair was Florence Peto and Honoree Lenice Bacon. Do you know the story of what happened when they met? Bacon visited Peto’s house and at first she thought Florence was the maid. No one ever tells why the mistake was made, but I imagine it was that Bacon came from a fairly well-to-do family (she was a descendant of the Virginia Randolphs, lived at a place called “Cedar Dells” and also had a summer home) so she probably wasn’t used to someone answering her own door. After the initial faux pas, the meeting went well; Peto had a copy of Bacon’s book, “American Patchwork Quilts”, and (according to Bacon’s report of the visit) praised it profusely.
As much as I enjoy Facebook, especially now when our live visits and events are curtailed, I can’t help but feel that we’ve lost something that the letter writers had. Sure, we have instant access, but they had the pleasure of anticipation
Well, that loose end is a sigh for softer times, and also a segue into this week’s Hall of Fame Honoree, Lenice Bacon.
You can read more about Bacon at the bio link below. She’s known for her lectures on quilt lore and for her book, American Patchwork Quilts. The book is comprehensive, plus she gets credit for naming the Darting Minnows block which appears in Hall of Fame Honoree Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns. And she gets credit from quilt scholar Teri Klassen for being one of the only early quilt history authors to recognize, albeit in a limited and perhaps skewed way, the contribution of African-American quilters.
Here’s Lenice giving her “Quilts and Quilt Lore” lecture to the Boston Women’s City Club in 1950. She’s showing one of her favorite quilts, Friendship Quilt, made of pink and white appliqued prints. Notice the time-inappropriate “Colonial” costume.
There’s not much more to tell, but I did find a few fun snippets. First, unless there was another nationally-published Lenice Bacon in her day, our gal went in for doggerel. It’s hard to picture a proper Southern lady who became a Boston society lady writing at this level, but here are some examples:
Another factoid about Bacon is that she lectured on topics other than quilts. Her programs included talks on Alexander Graham Bell, Greek poetry, “Negro” folk music, Browning (Elizabeth Barrett or Robert? Or both?) and the Currys of Boston.
Okay, Curry isn’t as well-known a Boston name as Cabot or Lodge, so I had to look into that too. Samuel Silas Curry and Anna Baright Curry were the founders of what became Curry College; it was the School of Expression in 1915 when Bacon matriculated. That struck me as an odd name, but I learned that there was a pedagogical movement known as expressionism, and its proponents were expressionists. In modern educational terms, we might say their focus was critical thinking, reflection, “deep reading” as opposed to rote learning. They championed elocution, public performance and vocal self-confidence. No wonder audiences were universally delighted to hear Lenice Bacon. She expressed herself as she had been taught, and the result was always reported to have been charming.
That’s it for this week. I’ve got to get to work on my Christmas decorations.
In this video, Susan Price Miller shares with us the process she went through and the history she learned while making “Rising Sun.” This quilt is her admission to the American Quilt Study Group’s traveling exhibit “200 Years of Solid Color: Cultural and Regional Distinctions, 1800-2000,” on display at The Quilters Hall of Fame September 29 – December 12, 2020.