Artist draws on Irish roots for rock-solid ‘stone’ quilts

“Polnabrone Dolmen” is fiber artist Denise Labadie’s version of a stone monument she saw in County Clare, Ireland. The quilt, measuring 63 inches by 32 inches, was one of two pieces she displayed in June at the second annual International Quilt Festival of Ireland in Galway, Ireland. Labadie, who lives near Boulder, says the actual dolmen is a short drive from Galway.

Also shown at Ireland’s International Quilt Festival in June was “St. Kevin’s Monastery II,” 55 inches by 65 inches. Labadie discovered the ruins in County Wicklow, Ireland.

Denise Labadie hugs a Piper stone in Ireland, which she says “first spoke to me and has my heart.” She will lecture on “Irish Landscapes and Stones — An American’s Evolving Art Quilts” on Saturday morning at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.

“Killevy Church II,” 48 inches by 61 inches, is one of Labadie’s most recent painted fabric creations. The ruin is in County Armagh.

One of Labadie’s favorites, “Irish Stone Fort Ruin,” 40 inches by 48 inches, is a replication of a photograph taken in County Kerry.



■ WHAT: Lecture on “Irish Landsapes and Stones — An American’s Evolving Art Quilts” by Denise Labadie of Boulder and her fabric-painting workshop on “Let’s Get Stoned.”

■ WHEN: 9:30 a.m. registration Aug. 24, with meeting and program to follow; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 25 workshop (advance registration required at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)).

■ WHERE: Glenwood Springs Community Center, 100 Wulfsohn Road, Glenwood Springs.

■ SPONSOR: Colorado Quilting Council,

■ FEES: Lecture free to members, $10 for guests. Workshop costs $55 for members, $75 for non-members.

Last week, I wrote about Happy Hour. Today’s topic is for those of you who might entertain an interest in getting “stoned.” If that’s the case, I know just the place.

Pot may be legal in Colorado now, but I’m not advocating that sort of behavior. The party to which I’m referring is the Colorado Quilting Council’s annual Western Slope meeting on Aug. 24. The guest instructor’s workshop is titled “Let’s Get Stoned” and features fabric painting, with the intention of creating cloth that simulates rocks.

Denise Labadie, who lives near Boulder, specializes in contemporary art quilts of ancient stone circles, portals and passageways, and monastic ruins. During her Saturday morning lecture, she will speak about “Irish Landscapes and Stones — An American’s Evolving Art Quilts.”

All this will take place at Glenwood Springs Community Center, 100 Wulfsohn Road. Her lecture is Saturday, with registration at 9:30 a.m., and her workshop is planned from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 25.

Labadie’s great-grandmother arrived in the United States from Ireland in 1888. The artist made her first visit to the Emerald Isle in 1991, “affirming a deep connection” to the ancient land, stones and ruins.

Since then, Labadie has created a body of prize-winning work including “Poulna-brone Dolmen” and “St. Kevin’s Monastery II,” which were displayed in June at the second annual International Quilt Festival of Ireland in Galway.

A dolmen is a tomb or monument consisting of a large, flat stone laid across upright stones. “Poulnabrone Dolmen” is from a photo taken in County Clare, Ireland. The actual dolmen is a short drive from Galway, Labadie says, and its title translates to “well of the sorrows.” Recent excavations found at least 22 adults and children buried within the tomb, she writes on her website,

Before making this quilt, Labadie and her son sculpted a miniature clay model of the dolmen, took photos of it in the dark with a flashlight and used Photoshop to help her with “the strong monochromatic values and harshly brooding shadows.”

She creates her own fabric with Seta color paints, achieving texture and realistic appearance with sand, salt, sugar and dirt during the drying process. Like a stonemason, Labadie individually cuts, pieces and appliqués each stone to her quilt background.

The skies and landscapes are more abstract, she explains, with thin horizontal pieces stripped with trims and yarns. Heavy machine quilting adds more texture and shadowing.

Internationally renowned quilt artist Ricky Tims of LaVeta endorses Labadie’s art with this statement:

“The first time I saw one of Denise’s ‘stone’ quilts, I was immediately drawn to it. The lighting and perspective is always dramatic. Each quilt exudes such a quiet reverence that when I come face to face with one, I find myself in a meditative stance — transported back to another time and another place. Denise’s quilts are good for the soul.”

One of Labadie’s large portal quilts, titled “Dun Aengus Stone Fort,” won two awards at Quilt National 2007: the McCarthy Memorial Award for craftsmanship and the People’s Choice Award. The inspiration was a ruin near Galway. The quilt measures 63 inches by 71 inches.

A favorite of hers is “Irish Stone Fort Ruin,” a discovery made on Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. Burial crosses and forgotten cemeteries in Ireland also inform Labadie’s work, and many of her “stone- scapes” have been sold. Ladadie’s stunning creations often are juried into shows around the country, and she is represented by a gallery on Martha’s Vineyard.

She plans to reconnect with the Irish countryside and hunt for more megalithic stones and monastic ruins this fall, with a trip scheduled in mid-September. From there, Labadie is off to a castle in Scotland, where her son will be married Oct. 16.

Her Irish eyes are sure to be smiling during this upcoming journey, and if you’d like some of her quilting luck and insight to rub off onto you, don’t miss Labadie’s lecture this coming Saturday in Glenwood Springs. After all, it’s just a stone’s throw away.

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