Beyond bedcovers: Quilts are creative works of art Home: Modern and traditional designs will be on display next weekend at Friends School, in a show that also focuses on changes in materials and techniques.

April 13, 1997|By JoAnne C. Broadwater | JoAnne C. Broadwater,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Quilting may have its historical roots in a practical need for warm bedcovers, but the vibrant and creative quilts that will be on display next weekend at Friends School are a tribute to the imagination of the modern-day artists who made them.

When the sixth biennial show of the Baltimore Heritage Quilt Guild opens its doors Saturday, more than 100 quilts crafted by members of the organization will transform the school gymnasium into a museum.

"These are beautiful works of art," said Vicki Balzano, a co-chair of the show. "It's inspirational. Quilters look at the world a little differently than others. They look for things that they can translate into fabric."

An astronomer by training and a software engineer for the Hubble Space Telescope, Balzano looked to the heavens as inspiration for her quilt, "Ex-Astronomer," which is decorated with representations of her favorite star and a mariner's compass as well as buttons featuring the constellation Libra.

The show will also exhibit work by several well-known area artists, including Barbara Brown -- who is noted for her applique and her original Afrocentric quilt patterns. She designed the story quilt for the movie "How To Make An American Quilt."

Among the quilts Brown plans to bring are a one-patch design of multicolored West African prints embellished with cowrie shells, an applique wall hanging of an African woman with a child on her back looking out to sea and a pieced wall hanging of squares and triangles called "Jacob's Ladder" or "Underground Railroad."

Also featured will be Barbara Pietila, who is noted for pictorial quilts that tell stories about African-American life through applique. Included in her display may be a quilt that tells of a little girl's picnic outing with her grandmother and a family-tree quilt depicting the artist's childhood home.

"Quilting today has just exploded," Pietila said. "There are so many different styles. Anything you can conceive, you can do. But the most surprising aspect of contemporary quilting is that people still do the traditional quilts and are reviving a lot of the old quilt patterns."

That fascination with old as well as new patterns will be in evidence at the show. Guild members have been encouraged to enter their first and their most recent quilts as well as antique quilts to demonstrate changes in technique and fabric through the years.


With colorful bits of cloth as canvas and palette, they will illustrate varying skill levels, shapes, styles and sizes in their bed quilts, wall hangings and miniatures.

Among the historic patterns to look for are the yo-yo quilt with its circles of fabric and the ornate floral applique of the Baltimore album quilt, exclusive to Baltimore 150 years ago.

There may be log-cabin quilts and quilts with a Biblical theme that combine the techniques and ideas of a group in a single quilt. Look for whole-cloth quilts, which emphasize quilting stitches, raised surface designs, and colorful scrap and sampler quilts.

The bold colors and abstract designs of contemporary quilts can brighten a room. Watercolor quilts have an impressionistic quality that is also found in color-wash quilts with their small squares arranged in patterns by shading from light to dark.

Photo-transfer quilts create a photo album on fabric to mark a birthday, graduation or anniversary. And what a surprise to turn over a quilt and see "back art" -- an entirely different quilt instead of the typical muslin or single print backing!

Stitching a quilt is a time-consuming process, members say, and most of the display quilts will not be for sale.

"You put a lot of time and energy and love and emotion and creativity into them," said guild member Mimi Dietrich.

(Those who absolutely must shop will not be disappointed. Vendors will be on hand offering for sale such items as hand-dyed fabrics with distinctive color variations, patterns for a lighthouse wall-hanging series and reproduction prints of fabrics the 1800s.)

Dietrich is noted as a teacher of Baltimore album quilt-making and for her books, which include patterns of old quilts in the Smithsonian Institution. She hopes to display several new quilts inspired by the Smithsonian collection.

With several thousand visitors expected, the show is an opportunity for about 200 guild members to showcase their talents. Funds raised will pay for speakers, demonstrations and workshops at monthly meetings and support charitable projects.

Name of the prize

The show is named "Patches and Posies" for the quilt that will be the prize in its raffle. It was made by about 50 guild members with nine-patch squares and squares of applique flowers.

There will also be a silent auction of about 50 miniature quilts made by members. These range in size from 10 inches by 10 inches to 30 inches by 30 inches. Bidding will end at 3 p.m. Sunday.

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