LS: Art of Quilting Column September 21, 2008

Fiber artist rides sea horse theme

Deborah Snider’s love of sea horses inspired the art professor at Mesa State College to enter the real-life race to rescue the undersea creatures from possible extinction.

Snider, who admits to having “a love affair with the sea,” has landed a coveted spot in one of the quilt industry’s biggest showcases: the International Quilt Association’s “Quilts: A World of Beauty” contest.

Her quilt titled “Encrustaceans I” has been accepted for exhibit this fall at the international festival in Houston.

In a circular format, Snider features lobsters, crabs and sea horses in her 40-inch-square art quilt. She assigns deep meaning to her subject, explaining that her astrological symbol is a water sign.
“I’m Cancer the Crab,” Snider says.

Sea horses are one of her causes, and because they are being harvested in alarming numbers, Snider plans to donate a portion of any sales from her quilt to a group called Save the Seahorses.

But the quilt won’t be for sale for some time, because the finished result is to be a triptych, or a set of three, in a series she has planned.

Snider found fabric with the sea creature images on it, cut them out and fused them to her quilt surface.

The technique is called fussy cutting: the selection of individual motifs and removing those portions from the remaining fabric.

Formal, graceful and curvilinear are the words Snider uses to describe her first “Encrustaceans.” The second will be similar yet a bit more angular with the same types of critter fabrics. Sizes of the creatures will change some with a more abstract design in the third piece, she says.

When quilting on her Pfaff machine, Snider follows the curves of the pattern, appliquéing over the raw edges.

“I’m very organic in the way I do the quilting,” she explains. When it comes to the stitching, Snider says she’s a neophyte.

“I love the design phases, but sewing is the hard part for me.”

The plight of sea horses is not her only concern. Snider fears for our planet’s bumblebees as well.

In two related collages, she focuses on the insects, which she says are in peril from colony collapse disorder.

The works of art, titled “Bees Knees I and II,” recently were part of an inaugural exhibit by the Rocky Mountain Collage Society in the college’s Johnson Art Gallery. In them, Snider combines hand-drawn elements with
paper and fabric collage on board.

Finely detailed with her pointillism, the pieces are each 20 inches by 20 inches and framed with glass.

Vellum creates shadows on the bees, and ebony pencil rubbed over embossing paper gives a honeycomb effect.

She applies color with archival pigment markers, which she purchases at Michael’s Arts and Crafts. Finally, more fussy cutting of fabric flowers decorates the perimeters.

Ghost bees cut from translucent vellum and more of her pointillism with a .03 micron pen show the dissolution of the hive and fate of the bees.

As Snider interprets her collages, their meaning truly emerges. Sincerity fills her voice.

“My name, Deborah, means ‘the bee’ in Hebrew,” she says, “so I have sort of a heart connection” with this theme.

Again, she plans to donate a portion of any sales from the collages to Save the Bees.

The mixed-media work also excites Snider, as it’s the first art she’s made with paper and fabric together.

“It’s opened up an entirely new universe of possibilities for me,” she says. “I’m excited for the future.”

And Snider’s students should be excited as well. Grand Junction and Mesa State are lucky to have such a talented artist teaching here and sharing her enthusiasm.

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