Show removes wraps to spotlight area talent

111509 2c best of show

What a fascinating week I’ve just had watching a quilt show come together at the Western Colorado Center for the Arts in Grand Junction. “Quilts Unwrapped 2009” opened Friday and runs through

4 p.m. today at the Art Center, 1803 N. Seventh St. Uncovering the talents of the Colorado West Quilters Guild and showcasing members’ work were the goals, and pulling off this event reminds me of the adage that “it takes a village to raise a child.”

Well, it took the dedicated Art Center staff and their many volunteers, along with dozens of guild volunteers on various committees, to make this exhibition materialize.

More than 200 quilts in four categories were judged in one day — a huge task — by Cindy Brick of Castle Rock. Brick is a professional textile appraiser, a historian, an author and a nationally certified judge.

It was enlightening to eavesdrop as Brick evaluated each entry. She based her decisions on overall workmanship, the quality of the piecing and applique and the quality of the stitching. She noted the visual impact of each piece and any unusual or notable techniques and details. Brick also offered written critiques.

For example, she admired the composition of a charm quilt I entered but gave some suggestions about my machine embroidery that looked less than stellar on the back. It was a tedious process for the judge, but I appreciate this type of instructive feedback.

Best of show went to Karen Thompson of Grand Junction for a large quilt titled “Flowers All Around.” Thompson’s large blocks were filled with baskets of flowers she appliqued by hand, and her hand quilting stitches complemented the designs.

“I just love applique,” Thompson says. It shows. She also added trapunto (a form of stuffing) to give the patterns dimension.

A viewer’s choice award will be given to the quilt receiving the most votes from the public. You still have time to check them out. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today. Admission is $3.

While in Grand Junction, Brick lectured on “The Incredible Crazy” during a monthly meeting of Colorado West Quilters. She shared many crazy quilt examples from her collection, and some of those are featured in her “Crazy Quilts” book. The oldest example of a crazy quilt that Brick is aware of is from 1839.

“The earliest ones weren’t made of silks and wools but of cottons,” she says. “And they had no embroidery on them.”

Nor were they built on a fabric foundation and, as a result, many were extremely fragile.

One of her crazies from Civil War times resembles a one-patch diamond shape with each piece basted on paper.

Spiders embroidered on crazy quilts are fairly common, as they were symbols of good fortune. Even more popular were fans, Brick says, as symbols of flirtation. These items likely were Oriental influences, because Americans were fascinated with the Orient. Japanese motifs most often were used, Brick says.

Crazy quilts also were made as memory quilts with a death theme, sometimes incorporating clothes and even the hair of deceased children or soldiers.

Other crazies can be found with souvenir ribbons from presidential campaigns. These allowed women to express their political preferences and perhaps persuade voters, even though women didn’t have voting rights.

Women were taught needlework techniques in school. Because they also were taught the language of flowers, quilters sewed floral designs in their quilts. Red roses showed the purest form of love, orange blossoms referred to matrimony and poppies meant remembrance.

Still to this day, Brick says, “we stitch what we think about — politics, life, love.”

Drop by The Art Center today to see what Western Slope quilters have on their minds in 2009.

And don’t forget to vote for your favorite quilt.


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