Major works of art can come in small sizes

Some really good things do come in small packages.

I was privileged earlier this month to view 61 small works of art in a trunk show from Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA). This prestigious group boasts 2,400 members, national and international, including collectors, gallery owners and museum curators.

Its mission is to promote the art quilt through education, exhibitions, professional development and documentation.

In celebration of the association’s 20th anniversary this year, members were asked to create one-foot-square art pieces to travel in three separate trunk shows.

Two regional representatives from the Front Range brought one of these exhibits to Grand Junction to share with members of the Art Quilt Association. It was the first time SAQA quilts have been shown on the Western Slope.

Sparkling with beads and specialty threads, the dozens of little art quilts were exquisite. About 30 attendees were allowed to examine them closely and learn about the wide-
ranging techniques used by the artists. 

Christi Beckman of Berthoud and Carol Ann Waugh of Denver, SAQA representatives for Colorado, Wyoming and Utah, presented the trunk show and explained how the three exhibits materialized.

More than 200 quilts were created, and each is being sold online at the 2009 Benefit Auction.

Bids are being taken now at

Money raised goes toward SAQA’s exhibit, education and outreach programs.

It’s a reverse auction, which means each piece starts at $750 with the price reduced each consecutive day that no bid is made.

“Collectors are paying as much as $750 for them,” Waugh says.

Beckman and Waugh submitted their works to the exhibit as well.

Being a member of Studio Art Quilt Associates “gives me inspiration,” Waugh says.

SAQA publishes a quarterly journal and an annual book, “Portfolio,” which showcases its members’ works.

The executive director, Martha Sielman of Storrs, Conn., recently curated and wrote “Masters: Art Quilts: Major Works by Leading Artists.” It gives a mini-retrospective of 40 master artists’ work. Sielman now is working on a second volume, due in spring 2011.

Such publications give others a peek into the artists’ thought processes and techniques they employ to arrive at their final objective.

As for the small art quilts I saw, each had a statement written on the back by the maker.

For example, Nancy G. Cook of Charlotte, N.C., features tree leaves and seeds, which she describes in her artist statement as “a metaphor for the stages of life.”

Cook makes her own freezer paper stencils, then creates a design with Tsukineko inks on cotton sateen that has been hand-dyed. She also embroiders some details by hand.

Sylvia Weir of Beaumont, Texas, begins her quilts with a photograph converted to a gray scale.

Next, she draws it with pen and ink and selects fabrics. Weir zigzags the raw edges of cloth onto the background fabric and creates the features and shadows with a variety of thread on her sewing machine.

Her piece titled “Lleva una Camisa Verde” tells the story of a little boy she met during a medical mission trip to Honduras last year.

Upon viewing just a portion of these 20th anniversary quilts, I am impressed with the scope of this organization and its collective eye for creativity.


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