$200,000 prize elevates quilt art to new heights

A landscape art quilt titled “Sleeping Bear Dune Lakeshore” recently won $200,000 as the top entry in ArtPrize, an annual competition in Grand Rapids, Mich. Its creator, Ann Loveless of Frankfort, Mich., was inspired by a photograph of the scenic area along Lake Michigan. Loveless has been making landscape quilts for 10 years, but this is her “most ambitious piece yet” and took 400 hours to complete, she says. The four panels measure 20 feet long and 5 feet high. Anyone can enter the yearly competition; this year, it featured 1,524 pieces of art by 1,805 artists from 47 countries. Check out the contest website at artprize.org. PHOTOS SPECIAL TO THE SENTINEL

Ann Loveless of Frankfort, Mich., works in her studio creating three types of landscape art quilts — collage, impressionistic and confetti. She does not work from patterns or do any tracing. With photographs as inspiration, Loveless cuts and places fabrics directly onto batting, fusing them and machine stitching. See her work at quiltsbyann.com.

Art quilter Ann Loveless lives barely a stone’s throw from the scenic landscape that put a whopping $200,000 in her pocket.

A native of Frankfort, Mich., she can visit any time she wants an area that was named the “Most Beautiful Place on Earth” on ABC’s “Good Morning America” in 2011: the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore along Lake Michigan.

Loveless turned a photograph of her state’s northwestern shoreline into a landscape quilt of enormous proportions — four panels measuring, in all, 20 feet wide and 5 feet high.

The quilt won the top prize, almost a quarter of a million dollars, at ArtPrize, a 19-day competition earlier this month in Grand Rapids, Mich.

It was Loveless’ third quilt entry in the contest and the first time a quilt won the highest award. She felt numb when her name was announced.

“Textiles in general, they’re not considered fine art,” Loveless says. “And a lot of times, you just sort of think of grandma’s quilt on the bed. But definitely this is art, and I know all the quilt community, they are very proud of me.”

Many who viewed her creation — a fusible appliqué, raw-edge collage — mistook it for a photograph or oil painting because of its incredible, realistic detail.

Loveless thinks her big win will pave the way for other textile artists, elevating their work to the fine art genre and respect they deserve.

“Sleeping Bear Dune Lakeshore” was displayed at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Mich., one of 168 venues showing ArtPrize entries.

There were 1,524 pieces of art by 1,805 artists from 47 counties in the competition.

ArtPrize, billed as the world’s biggest art competition, was started in 2009 by entrepreneur Rick DeVos, with $360,000 in prize money awarded to the top 10 finalists.

The contest is funded by the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation, co-founders of Amway Corp. Winners are selected through public voting by Internet or mobile device.

With 400 hours of work in this year’s panoramic entry, Loveless says it is her “most ambitious piece yet.”

She does not make patterns and she doesn’t trace, a method she finds tedious.

“I use photographs for my inspiration, then cut and place fabrics directly onto the batting, fusing and machine stitching,” she explains.

Sometimes, she’ll draw lines onto the batting with a marker as a guide for fabric placement in the larger areas.

“But then I use my eye, along with putting it up on my design wall and standing back to check areas and see if it is going right.”

Batiks and purchased hand-dyed fabrics with vivid colors and patterns are Loveless’ main components when quilting, but her collage style evolved to include more texture with wool, linen, polyester sheers, silk, metallics and yarns and other fibers.

She has a degree in clothing and textile design, and in 2004, Loveless discovered landscape quilting, which now is her full-time profession.

Her husband, Steve, and she own State of the Art Framing and Gallery in Beulah, Mich., where her art quilts are displayed and sold.

Besides collage, Loveless has developed two other quilting styles, impressionistic, which she learned from Japanese artist Noriko Endo, and confetti, which yields smaller quilts she sells at art fairs.

She says she’s made hundreds of quilts, learning by trial and error, and “seeing what I like best.” 

She travels and teaches others, mainly in Michigan, though Loveless will probably be in high demand nationally since her ArtPrize accomplishment.

You can see examples of her quilts at quiltsbyann.com.

“Sleeping Bear Dune Lakeshore” likely will be shown as part of the 2014 QuiltWeek in Grand Rapids, sponsored by American Quilter’s Society, and later next fall at International Quilt Festival in Houston.

Loveless also looks forward to publishing a book on her collage technique in September 2014.

But the burning question most everyone asks is how she’ll spend her $200,000 fortune.

Her answer: The one thing every quilter wants, of course, a shopping spree for more fabric to make more quilts, a new sewing machine, some funds put back for retirement, and maybe a ski trip.

Though fond of her native Michigan, Loveless says she also loves Colorado and tries to visit annually for skiing in the Rockies. One of her dreams is to “spend winters in Colorado and summers in Michigan.”

We Colorado quilters heartily welcome her to our state, but we would insist Loveless take a short break from our powder to share her quilt art expertise with us.


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