Icy snow queen melts competition

Author Hans Christian Andersen first introduced his Snow Queen when he wrote the fairy tale in 1845. He based the story on the universal theme of good versus evil and, through the years, his icy character has been depicted in films and television, children’s books, even ballet.

The Danish story teller created the image of living snowflakes in all sorts of strange shapes, constantly surrounding and guarding their queen, who was dressed in white fur and reigned over the frozen, empty halls of her snow palace. The fairy tale still resonates with many people today, especially with art quilter Sheila Riess of Ellicott City, Md. Riess won a first prize in the 2009 Hoffman challenge sponsored by Hoffman Fabrics of California.

Her portrait quilt titled “The Snow Queen” was the top quilt in the applique category in this prestigious contest. Riess says she used her 16-year-old daughter, Caitlin, as a model for the queen’s face.

“That was probably the hardest part, as my daughter is bright and sunny, and I needed to portray her as cold and mean,” Riess says.

She cites as her inspiration a particular passage from Andersen’s fairy tale, in which the child Gerda goes to the snow palace and encounters the large, “terrible” snowflakes.

“Some were like great porcupines, others like twisted serpents with their heads stretching out, and some were like little fat bears with their hair bristled; but all were dazzlingly white and were living snowflakes … .”

The challenge fabric was a brown and gold paisley called Earth Pearl, and contestants were required to use this in their design.

Riess incorporated the fabric into the queen’s clothing because it looked rich and regal, but she says it was challenging to make the paisley work with the other colors she chose — the blues and purples of a cold winter’s night.

She finds that the more quilts she makes, the more her work evolves.

“I try to do something new in each quilt I make,” Riess says.

For example, in “The Snow Queen, Reiss added shiny acetates to the piece and beaded the night sky and snowflakes.

“I didn’t love doing it, but the results were good,” she says.

Riess made sure to quilt heavily on the finished portrait, adhering to advice from judges in previous contests. The finished quilt measures 25 inches by 24 inches.

Riess already is making plans for the 2010 Hoffman challenge. This year’s fabric is called Turquoise/Gold in an airy vine and floral design.

For all of you Western Slope quilters, the featured fabric and its coordinates are available in Grand Junction at Hi Fashion Fabrics and Quilter’s Corner. For details about entering the contest, go to http://www.hoffman challenge.com.

Other quilt winners for 2009:

First in pieced category: “Never Ending”  by Cathy Pilcher Sperry of West Chester, Ohio.

First in mixed technique: “Profusion of Paisley”  by Alice Means of Bolton, Conn.

Prizes were also given in clothing, dolls and accessories, and for best use of Sulky thread.

First for best use of Sulky thread went to “Hide & Seek, a quilt measuring 44 inches by 36 inches, by Ann Horton of Redwood Valley, Calif.

The entire collection of Hoffman Challenge pieces for 2010 will be on display Aug. 20-22 at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Festival in Loveland.

Judging is based on originality and creativity, creative use of the challenge fabric, visual impact and workmanship.

Riess says she already has an idea for this year’s Hoffman challenge fabric.

Most likely, it will feature a portrait of her younger daughter, Shannon, 14. This one may be part of a series based on the seasons of the year. “Winter” and “Summer” have been finished, Riess says, but she’s thinking of using the newest fabric in “Spring.”

Her initial Hoffman entry was also the first portrait/art quilt Riess had attempted, and four years later she was thrilled to be a winner with her “Snow Queen.”

“I’ll probably enter every year until I hang up my fabric,” she says.

Spoken like a true quilting queen.


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