Art of Quilting Column May 24, 2009

Quilt sisterhood knows no bounds, no boundaries

Theirs is an elite sisterhood based on tattoos, totems and talents. The three women — award-winning art quilters all — met just a few years ago at the International Quilt Festival in Houston and discovered in one another their kindred spirits.

They refer to themselves as virtual sisters connected not by birth but by artistic creativity.

Annette Hendricks of Chicago, Helen Godden of Canberra, Australia, and Gail Thomas of Vernon, British Columbia, pool their international creativity, their education and their fabrics on collaborative quilts that keep winning accolades on a grand scale.

“The Three Sisters” quilt won first place in 2007 in the group category at the annual Houston contest. 

When the trio first met over dinner, two of the women shared their tattoos. Godden wears a dragonfly on the back of her neck, and Thomas has decorated her body with several dragons.

Then, Hendricks divulged that she has identified with a purple coyote (her totem) for most of her adult life.

“In that goose-pimply moment, we knew that destiny had brought us together for a purpose,” Hendricks says.

In their cases, a totem is defined as an animal with which a person feels a kinship and takes as a personal symbol.

Hendricks says she already had a quilt started with three abstract flowers on it.

After the women brainstormed some ideas, Thomas took the quilt top home to Canada and painted their portraits over the flower heads. She mailed it back to Hendricks in Chicago, who basted it and quilted their faces and other parts.

Next, Hendricks shipped the quilt to Australia, where Godden did the all-over machine quilting. The quilt made another trip to Chicago for Hendricks’ finishing touches.

“Communication through the wonders of technology has certainly made this possible,” Hendricks says.

When their creation won in 2007, the women already were in the designing process for another collaborative quilt. But they yearned to actually do the work together under one roof this time.

So, they asked art quilter extraordinaire Ricky Tims if they could meet for a retreat at his Colorado studio in La Veta.

Tims was up for the rendezvous and played host to the artists for nine days in March 2008, where they really got to know each other.

The result was a large quilt, 9 feet by 5 feet, titled “Seasonal Sisters.” Their images are depicted in portraits of spring, summer and fall, complete with their totems, of course. 

“Seasonal Sisters” turned out to be an amazing quilt, Hendricks says. “Yet it did have its own set of challenges, from its size to the two-week delay in Canadian customs, which caused a huge burden of stress.”

They barely finished the entry in time for the fall 2008 Houston show, but their talents and efforts in triplicate paid off. 

“Seasonal Sisters” was named winner of a new award, “The World of Beauty,” and $7,500.

“When we’re together, we settle up,” Hendricks says, explaining how they tally their expenses from shipping to insurance to entry fees, finally splitting their prize money.

After all this work and reward, the women are taking a well-deserved break for now.

But, Hendricks promises, a third quilt will materialize.

Their quilting fans will be waiting, too, I promise.

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