Book turns new page on quilting art world

What do the Grim Reaper, nudes and groovy old purses have in common?

No, they’re not part of the plot in Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie.

All three subjects serve as inspiration for three contemporary quilt makers whose styles vary as starkly as their interests.

Yet they are among 20 women profiled by author Spike Gillespie in a beautiful book titled “Quilting Art, Inspiration, Ideas and Innovative Works from 20 Contemporary Quilters” (Voyager Press).

It’s a large coffee table-style book with more than 150 photos of their best pieces, along with generous advice from the artists. It can definitely be used as an idea book.

I’ve chosen to highlight three of the 20 quilters here: Boo Davis, Margot Lovinger and Pam RuBert.

1. Evil Rock Quilts: That’s what Boo Davis of Seattle calls her creations. Mostly self-taught, she’s been working as a full-time textile artist since early 2008 from her dining room that she converted into her studio.

While piecing her designs, Davis listens to heavy metal music. Her rock ‘n’ roll quilts actually reinterpret old quilt traditions, Davis says, “by putting an evil spin on things.”

Especially fond of the Log Cabin pattern, Davis often uses it as a base to show off a skull or devil horns or the Grim Reaper.

When it comes to color choices, she prefers ugly colors.

“I like to make things challenging and not so pretty,” Davis says in the book.

She might choose hideous “safety” orange and brown, for instance.

Davis sends her quilts out to a longarm quilter for finishing.

2. Without dye, paint or bleach, Margot Lovinger of Seattle has refined a figurative art technique with layered fabrics. Her background is in painting and sculpture, but she focuses on textiles because they don’t require a large space or expensive tools.

Usually starting with a photograph and a nude model, she emphasizes shadows through directed lighting. Shadows are key to her fabric work, Lovinger says in “Quilting Art.”

After configuring the basics of her design, she begins to layer sheer fabrics, actually “tinting” the skin tones from darkest to lightest with a cloth palette.

Lovinger says she does only minimal stitching on her work.

As part of the Contemporary QuiltArt Association, a Seattle area organization with about 120 members, she also enjoys gathering with like-minded artists and showing her work with theirs in galleries.

But sometimes, her nudes are shunned when it comes to public display. Lovinger doesn’t like having to edit what she’s produced, “which I don’t even think is that racy,” she says in the book.

3. We all need to laugh more and lighten our days, according to Pam RuBert of Springfield, Mo.

Her quilts resemble cartoons — bright, funny and full of visual puns. RuBert likes nothing more than turning an ordinary idea into an absurd one.

Her trademark character, found in the PaMdora’s Box series, is a pointy-breasted gal who “views the world around her with a strange mixture of astonishment, dismay and amusement,” RuBert says in the book. (Her chesty lady is clothed rather than naked.)

Her idea with art quilts is to tell a story and entertain the viewer, which RuBert has been doing since 2002.

First sketching cartoonish scenes, scanning them into a computer and dropping them into a scale drawing, she then fuses fabric to her quilt top.

One of her quilts, titled “The Vintage Purse,” is an homage to accessories. Through the quilt RuBert explores the pros and cons of groovy old bags, according to the “Quilting Art” book.

“I love cute little vintage purses,” she says. “But there’s never enough room for everything.”

This is a mere sampling of the personalities and artistic vision you’ll find in “Quilting Art,” a fascinating book that reflects the evolution of quilting. In her introduction, the author Gillespie makes an astute observation about contemporary pieces compared to traditional ones.

“Just as pop music and classical music are each built upon the same scales and yet are never mistaken for each other, I believe that traditional quilts and nontraditional quilts should be able to coexist peacefully in their separate realms,” she writes.


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