Art of Quilting Column June 07, 2009

Tradition stands test of time in contests

If it seems that contemporary and innovative quilts of landscapes and portraits grab most of the glory these days, it’s because their resemblance to fine art paintings is so remarkable.

All the national and international contests and exhibits have special categories for art quilts, and viewers marvel over their lifelike qualities.

An online audience member of “The Quilt Show” on the Internet, featuring Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims, recently asked these quilting stars if traditional quilts are still being entered in major contests.

They quickly responded with a resounding “yes” and posted a slide show of 15 traditional entries from the 2008 Pacific International Quilt Festival in Santa Clara, Calif.

“Tradition is alive and well and beautiful,” Anderson and Tims say.

That was soon followed by a slide show of another 10 traditional quilts from the recent international quilt market in Pittsburgh.

So fear not, old-fashioned and cherished quilting patterns have not been forsaken.

For example, judges at Denver National Quilt Festival IV in May had a good share of traditional bed-sized quilts to pore over. They gave first prize and $600 in that category to a quilting duo who have made quite a name for themselves in the industry: Claudia Clark
Myers of Duluth, Minn., and Marilyn Badger of St. George, Utah.

The pair’s winning quilt, titled “Big Bird Blues,” is one of 14 quilts they’ve collaborated on since 2001. Their idea for this predominantly blue and yellow one started with a theme challenge at the 2007 Machine Quilters Showcase in Overland Park, Kan.

The concept was to use patterns that appeared in the Kansas City Star newspaper from 1932 through 1963, Myers says.

They chose three block patterns — Silver and Gold, Nosegay and Sawtooth, plus a lotus pattern “that was meant to be hand-quilted, but I used it as a machine applique pattern,” she says.

“Marilyn incorporated the same design for some of the machine quilting and added three more, including the wonderful Tea Leaf quilting in the border,” Myers explains.

What neither of them expected was how the appliqued lotus pattern looked “exactly like the famous Big Bird’s face, which is where the name came from.”

In their collaborative efforts, Myers describes herself as the one who designs, pieces, appliques and embellishes.

“I also pick the fabric,” she says. “Marilyn designs all the machine quilting patterns and executes them on her APQS longarm machine.”

Badger is a consultant for American Professional Quilting Systems, after having taught longarm quilting for 11 years. She also travels and markets the machines for the firm. She and her superb stitching have been featured on several TV quilting shows and in many quilt magazines.

Myers says Badger has been known to give her a hand in the piecing department as well, especially if they happen to be in the same place.

They travel to major shows and demonstrate the APQS machines, rooming together and brainstorming their latest ideas.

Last year in Santa Clara, the duo won best of show for another of their shared quilts, titled

“Awesome Blossoms,” at Pacific International Festival.

The long-distance working relationship is possible with the help of the Internet, a digital camera, telephone and overnight FedEx, Myers says.

For the past 17 years, quilting has been her passion. In 2006, she was named Minnesota Quilter of the Year. Myers is generous with her knowledge, even sharing some helpful tips on paper piecing on her Web site,

Most likely, she and Badger will be putting their heads together on yet another prize winner with its roots in tradition.

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