Handmade Artists' Blog

A Toast to the Quilt Influence New Years 2014

tumbling BlockScholars of American cultural history have declared that the two arts America has contributed to the world are patchwork quilting and jazz. They represent improvisation and the spirit of independence, also the will to have uplifting elements in a harsh environment and ‘making something out of nothing’ as the folk songs say.

Not true that either was born out of nothing. Settlers in North America brought a heritage of whole cloth quilts, trapunto (stuffed quilting), applique, tapestry, and weaving as well as heraldic design and Celtic knotting; jazz musicians had drumbeat and wailing and storytelling to lay their foundations on. Both of these arts are attempts to improve existence with rhythm and design, sound and sight, warmth and joy. Settlers brought art traditions to the new land and here they met new imagery and music and culture in Native American tribes

Handmade Quilt by Hartford avenueI have always been drawn to balanced design (yes, I am a Libra).  It is a comfort to have color and excitement as small elements in my environment. As a teenager I attended the Newport Jazz Festivals and, while resonating to the music, doodled a lot of abstract designs. I loved how starting with one theme of music or line led into elaborate patterns which soared with excitement and then returned to their underlying elemental source. It is refreshing to realize that things come full circle after all, that extremes can be enjoyed and tamed, that the beginning gives blood to the extension and then returns to itself.

Patchwork Mountain Handmade QuiltMy grandson claims that my home is cozy to him. I think it is because I have touches of quilts and color all around, just enough to comfort and not overwhelm. I have wall quilts, pieced pillows, mats, table runners as well as full-size quilts throughout my home and I use quilting elements in the clothing I make, even in my other arts. Lately I have been experimenting with piecework knitting, with repetitive design in embroidery, with quilt motifs in watercolors, adding them to stationery. Table setting often becomes a piece of quiltwork design.

These little pieces of quilt music  are a soothing background noise. They may at times reach to crescendo but that excitement but will always return to peacefulness and comfort and warmth. They balance the major elements of  our surroundings.

Here’s to a wealth of quilting around us, a toast to the new year.


Susan Gillespie   Tenthousandthreads

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