Off the bed and into the gallery

Exhibit shows that quilts are more than just covers - they're an art form, too

December 24, 2006|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,Sun Reporter

Quilting isn't just about bed covers anymore. The art form is being used in other household goods including sculptures using quilting, decorative wall hangings, place mats and pot holders.

With quilting's increasing popularity, the Carroll County Arts Council decided to showcase the art form in Not Quite Quilts, an exhibit that runs through Feb. 3 at the Carroll Arts Center in downtown Westminster.

"We tend to think of quilts as something to cover up with, but they can be [other things]," said Susan Williamson, the Arts Council's visual arts coordinator. "We wanted to broaden people's points of view of what a quilt can be."

The center's Tevis Gallery is filled with quilts of all kinds and sizes - contemporary, traditional, antique, abstract, portrait style, pictorial, floral, animal and children-themed - created by seven quilters from Westminster, Dundalk, Bethesda and Ruxton.

Linda Thomas of Westminster made a quilt featuring images of Chinese children and written Chinese characters, representing her and her husband's love for the country.

The couple is in the process of adopting their second child from China, and she has made and sold China-themed quilts to help cover adoption expenses.

"Susan put up our story from our Web site at the exhibit," Thomas said.

The Thomases, who are co-pastors of Sonrise Community Church, have six children, but decided to adopt a boy from China after visiting the country in 2004. They expect to add a daughter to their household in February.

Marilyn Russell and her daughter Laura, both of Westminster, are showing their works, including Laura's small peace quilt that was a "challenge" work from her quilting group, and a "Childhood Window" quilt showing teddy bears, a Raggedy Ann doll and Humpty Dumpty sitting by a window.

The elder Russell has several pieces in the exhibition, including a "Twelve Days of Christmas" quilt that she made after taking a class on the design, and the colorful "Sunnybonnet Sue Through the Ages," which shows the little girl surrounded by a garden enclosed by a white picket fence.

"I'm very traditional, but I like to decide what I am going to do, and I decide the colors and choose the border," said Marilyn Russell.

Russell's other pieces include a tea party wall hanging, koi in a pond and a quilt of bright red poppies - her favorite flower.

One of the not-quite-quilt works is Russell's "Halloween Witch," a doll made from a kit that provided the face and hair. Russell dressed the doll in quilted pieces in autumn colors.

Quilts often tell stories, as does Russell's "Lewes, Delaware." After visiting the town where her husband grew up, she enlarged the photos she took of his home, church and other historic buildings and created the block prints of the various sites.

Some designs are more complicated than others.

Helen Englar of Westminster created an "Ocean Waves" quilt, which she says is "an old pattern that's been around for years. It's a tricky piece, but I made charts of the way the patches went together," she said.

Also on display is an antique quilt more than 100 years old that Englar got from her mother-in-law, whose father gave it to her, she said.

"The quilting on that is exquisite," Englar said, as she, Russell and Thomas examined the fine hand-stitching.

The three women swapped stories of parents and grandparents who also quilted, techniques of quilting (hand stitching, machine sewing and applique), and other works in the exhibition.

Mary Scales of Dundalk has several striking quilts in the show, especially a portrait of Jesus in a checker square pattern.

Other quilters with pieces in the show include abstracts by Floris Flam of Bethesda and Millie Tracey of Ruxton, who displayed a Baltimore Album quilt.

"The Baltimore Album quilts were made in Baltimore at a certain time period," Russell said.

Williamson also noted the social aspect of quilting and the people behind the works.

"These women get together and they don't just quilt," Williamson said. "They stretch their minds and imaginations with fabrics, patterns, stitches and techniques."

Today's technology also has created many tools for the quilter to work with that makes their job easier and more creative.

"I think for many of these women, their hands are never idle," Williamson said. "They take things with them to work on wherever they go."

And this particular group, Williamson said, "Went above and beyond the call of quilting."

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