And I found this beaded example by Crystal Behn, A Dine and Carrier artist:
The first Embroiderers’ Guild shot looks like a quilt, so I’m somewhat on topic, but since this is the Hall of Fame blog, I’d be remiss if I didn’t show Marie Webster’s Poppy quilt (The above version was made using Quiltsmart printed interfacing). You’ve all seen it in red, and maybe pink; this is a rather rare colorway from the collection of Suzanne Hardebeck:
Marie’s design has inspired many interpretations. Here are two that have been exhibited at the Quilters’ Hall of Fame. The one on the left is “Love Returns” by Susie Goodman, and the one on the right is from Bonnie Browning’s lecture at Celebration 2013.
I could tell you that the takeaway here is “Poppies are popular”, but my real intention was to provide a segue to an idea that struck me when I was at the Milwaukee Museum of Art a little while ago: twinning art and quilts. I thought it would be fun to see how many paintings would put me in mind of a TQHF Honoree.
You may be familiar with the story of how TQHF Honoree Jonathan Holstein noted the connection between the work of artists like Josef Albers and Amish quilts, and went on to mount the seminal exhibit of quilts as art at the Whitney Museum fifty years ago. Here are two Albers compositions from Milwaukee, and you can readily see the similarity between them and a log cabin quilt.
The paintings also made me think of the progressive color bands in the American Tapestry (Trip Around the World) kits sold by Heritage Honoree, Mary McElwain.
These were just the first connections I made. When I turned the corner, I came across another potential pairing, Georgia O’Keefe and Ruby McKim. What different interpretations! Where O’Keefe is organic in form, piecers have to be more angular. I personally find the painting to be almost sensual, but I also love the orderly arrangement of the quilt.
Next up was a fun artist who was totally unfamiliar to me: Cleveland Brown. I thought at the time that he and Honoree Yvonne Porcella would probably be kindred spirits. Their work shows a real sense of whimsy and action. Contrast these two treatments with Ruby McKim’s “take” on a circus. (I’ve put them one after another because I couldn’t figure out how to create a three-ring circus and still show detail.)
And finally, another Porcella/ painter visual connection can be made with Yvonne’s first quilt, “Takoage”, and an intriguing 3-dimensional piece by Israeli artist Yaakov Agam, “Union II”. The painting is done in such a way that it changes colorway as you move in front of it. First the quilt, and then a left-center-right view of the painting.
The painting also makes me think of Honoree Michael James’ early work. Here’s one of his quilts in the same colorway as the right view of Agam’s work.
If I count an O’Keefe/ Webster poppy match, I’ve linked six Honorees with paintings (some with multiple connections): Marie Webster, Jonathan Holstein, Mary McElwain, Ruby McKim, Yvonne Porcella and Michael James. I’ll bet you can think of more. I invite you to try to try this fun exercise the next time you visit an art gallery or museum, and let me know what you find.
Your quilting friend,
I’m writing on Saturday, but you won’t read this until after all the eggs have been found. I hope you had a happy Easter. And I hope you will enjoy this quick look at some of our Honoree’s Easter quilts.
Since Ruby McKim was last week’s topic, I’ll start with her. Here are the rabbits from the Peter Rabbit quilt; it was first published in 1916 in the Kansas City Star and is now adapted to a panel available on the McKim Studios website.
McKim was noted for the squared-off (quadratic) shape of some of her designs, but she also had softer images like the lambs in her Spring appliqué. This was part of the Four Seasons series originally published in the 1930s and also available on the McKim Studios website. What do you think of the triangular dandelion?
I had to look hard to find other Easter animal images by Honorees. Ruth McDowell has an entire farm series, but her work, although wonderfully realistic, doesn’t say “Easter” to me. I only found one other rabbit, this one by Yvonne Porcella (who usually does those happy, frisky dogs). But she did an Asian-inspired quilt and included a rabbit (from the hare-in-the-moon tradition) on the back of it.
The Quilters Hall of Fame has, as part of the collection, a number of objects that are not necessarily connected to our Honorees, but are used for education. Among these is an extensive number of family quilts, historic fabric samples, and quilts made by our great friend, Arnold Savage. This is one he finished in 2005 from a top constructed in 1934 of tiny Nine Patches that he made as a child while recovering from rheumatic fever. He hand quilted it with Easter eggs and named it “Opus 4 / Recovery Quilt 4 Easter Egg Quilt.” What an odd, but charming image to put in those alternate blocks! I wonder what made him choose that motif; maybe he was working on this at Easter-time.
When I thought about the Easter theme for this blog, the first thing that came to my mind was the Marie Webster French Basket pattern. Even though it’s filled with flowers instead of eggs and chocolate bunnies, it reminds me of an Easter basket. There is a good example of a completed quilt in the Hall of Fame collection, along with a pattern. As you’ll see in the third photo, instructions were sparse; but since this was sold as a stamped kit, maybe that was sufficient.
This design was very popular and appeared in other colorways. A few years ago, Honoree Georgia
Bonesteel designed reproduction fabrics based on Marie’s designs – this panel shows it in pink.
And here’s a French Baskets with a green background—which I like better, even though I’m usually a blue gal.
Webster designed three other basket quilts, Dutch Basket, Magpie Rose, and Pink Dogwood. Here are some shots of them from our collection.
And she also had a Bunny quilt, with eggs on the ground and in the baskets.
Other Honorees made basket quilts. This is a Ruby McKim Flower Basket quilt in the Hall of Fame Collection. McKim also had a fruit basket design, but again, nothing with eggs (and certainly no Peeps).
Honoree, Anne Orr was famous for her postage stamp designs, and she created at least two basket images in this style.
And a dishware pattern was the inspiration for Grace Snyder’s tour de force, Flower Basket Petit Point. There is a small plate in that pattern in the Hall of Fame Collection.
Of course, Marie Webster and many other pattern creators had lovely Spring flower designs which would be timely to show, but I’ll save those for another time. I want to stay on the Easter theme—unlike the editor here who really stretched the connection. I would not call those motifs “Easter Lily”, even if Honoree Ruth Finley did; it looks more like pomegranate and coxcomb to me.
I’m going to close with a quilt that looks more Autumnal, but which I think really conveys the Easter message. This quilt was made in 1939 by Mary Gasperik, our 2021 Heritage Honoree who will be inducted in July. In her own words, this quilt is about a woman “trying to bear the trials of poverty inflicted upon her by the depression” who must stop and rest “to gather fresh courage to reach the ‘World of Tomorrow’…. The birds are singing songs of encouragement. Beyond these mountains lies Recovery.”
And isn’t that an appropriate thought for us this year? We’ve been through a lot with the pandemic, but we’re on the road to recovery and there’s hope for the future. There’s always hope for a new beginning at Easter-time.
Your quilting friend,
Yvonne Porcella: Color and Inspiration
We could probably all use a little whimsy right now, and there’s no Honoree more whimsical than Yvonne Porcella. You may already know her as the founder of SAQA (Studio Art Quilts Associates) or you may be familiar with some of her colorful work; or she may be totally new to you, and someone you should get to know. I’ll try to give you a good perspective on her and maybe even be able to poke around and find something you didn’t know.
In an interview for SAQA (see link below), Yvonne modestly admits she was honored by the Quilters Hall of Fame because of her pioneering of wearable art. But she shouldn’t have been so self-deprecating because there’s a lot more to her textile career than that. As a self-taught creator she has had at least three distinctive fiber styles, starting with weaving and wearables, moving to bold colors with stripes and checkerboards, and finding calm with silky nature-inspired pieces. You can read her story at the bio link below, and I’ll fill in with some photos and other information.
I think Yvonne would have described herself as first and foremost an artist or creator, but she was also an author and teacher. A glance at the book titles that are available on Amazon and elsewhere gives you a good idea of how varied her work was.
Her first two books show the influence of her California hippie connection. That’s my era too, and I remember peasant wear and what would now be called boho style. The kimonos she designed as clothing would evolve into large-scale art for the wall. You can see some nice example of her early clothing at the San Francisco Fine Arts link below.
In the next books, you get the flavor of Yvonne’s love of color, and see that she has moved from clothing to quilted expressions. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a picture of Yvonne Porcella where she isn’t wearing something in bold combinations of color, often set off by black and white. Here’s a great photo of her, followed by the “color” books. I can’t say which is brighter.
And last comes her beautiful hand dyed and painted fabrics. The Quilters Hall of Fame is fortunate to have one of her silk scarves, and it is so ethereal that the photo can’t capture its beauty. Here’s the book and the scarf.
Let me go back a minute to color and show you a quilt that Porcella once owned and is now in the Quilters Hall of Fame collection. This is called “Halloween Quilt”, obviously for the orange and black border and framing squares. But it’s otherwise a riot of color—it’s not necessarily Porcella’s saturated colors, because it’s a 1930s quilt, but nevertheless, it has so many hues thrown together and in that sense it’s very simpatico with Porcella. There’s an interesting story in the link below explaining what this quilt meant to Porcella and how it got to quilt historian and Honoree Merikay Waldvogel who later donated it to TQHF. If you have access to Arts and Inspiration, (the book above with the checkered-bordered quilt) page 127 has a picture of the quilt on the bed in Yvonne’s guest room.
I’ll give you a few examples of how Porcella took inspiration from this quilt and used color in her own works…
Those three photos were taken from Yvonne’s blog, which is still up despite her passing. There’s a link to it below if you want to see more from her. There’s also a link to the Alliance for American Quilts website which has a gallery of Yvonne’s quilts and other information about her. Or you can just look at the Pinterest link and be overwhelmed.
Now let’s look at some of Porcella’s other work. I’ll have some examples, but Yvonne herself will show you one of her last series in the link below; it’s labelled “olive stuffing”, and if you follow the link, you’ll not only see some marvelous pieces, but also learn about the olive connection.
Like several other Quilters Hall of Fame Honorees, Yvonne Porcella has a quilt in America’s 100 Best Quilts of the 20th Century, “Keep Both Feet on the Floor”. This is a quilt about falling and recovering from injuring her knee; I have a friend who is in therapy following knee replacement surgery, and I can guarantee she isn’t experiencing as much fun as this quilt shows—but Yvonne was nothing if not fun. Here’s the quilt:
And here’s Yvonne’s first “art” quilt, made in 1980. It’s called “Takoage.”
Where did her ideas come from? At first, she says that at first it was just color, and you can see that in “Takoage” . She also, like many quilters, was inspired to make quilts for each of her grandchildren, and every one of those quilts is made of bold colors. But one of the things that sets Porcella apart from the many is that for her, inspiration was everywhere: a pet cemetery, an art museum, a personal experience, a visit by the Pope to a nearby town, a road trip, fast food, etc. For me, a goal would be able to say, “The sky’s the limit” in choosing the subject of a quilting project (I’ll never be that spontaneous, but it could be a goal); for Porcella, there was no limit.
Porcella did a lot of work-in-series, and many of her pieces have images that appear over and over in her work. One of my favorites is a flying dog; sometimes he’s checkered, sometimes he’s purple, once he had green hair, but he’s often chasing a bone and he always looks like he’s having the time of his life.
Another of Porcella’s series was her kimonos, inspired by a display of Asian clothing at an art museum. At first she made wearable works, but she changed her scale and went on to large wall pieces. The first one below is over ten feet long and almost seven feet wide.
This kimono quilt was inspired not by snow, but by another weather-related event. Once, while teaching at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Porcella was confined to her hotel room for three days due to a hurricane. Festival producer and TQHF Honoree Karey Bresenhan gave her a quilt book as a memory of the experience and it included a circus-themed quilt showing Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. Those two figures, made with squares and half square triangles, were incorporated into the quilted Haori coat. What a contrast between these two kimonos!
I feel like we need a break from brightness, and fortunately, Porcella can provide that too. She worked extensively with silks which she dyed herself. You saw the scarf example above; now for your moment of Zen, here are two of her nature-inspired works:
Don’t you feel more relaxed now?
If I haven’t yet told you something you didn’t know about Yvonne Porcella, I have two last things. First, she collaborated with Julia Child in the 2000 Oakland Museum exhibit Women of Taste: A Collaboration Celebrating Quilt Artists and Chefs. Their subject was Nicoise salad, and I would love to find out what Porcella came up with for that. If anyone has information, please let me know.
Second, her son, Don is also an artist. He’s best known for pipe cleaner sculptures and installations using popular craft materials. His works often make fun of absurd consumerism and the human condition. And what this says about Yvonne Porcella is that she has encouraged creativity: through display of her own work, through teaching, through SAQA, and even through the way she brought up her children. What an inspiration!
Your quilting friend,
PS. Here are my two “Porcella” quilts; one with bright colors and checkerboard and the other with a nature inspiration. Both have my hand dyed fabrics. If you have any to show, post photos when the blog comes out on The Quilters Hall of Fame Facebook page.