Corrections or additions?
This article by Nicole Plett was prepared for the June 13, 2001
edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Quilting’s Patchwork Feast
There may come a time — and it’s not far off —
when quilting will be recognized up there with jazz as one of
most brilliant, improvisational art forms. This week the State Quilt
Guild of New Jersey is hosting "2001: A Quilter’s Odyssey,"
Friday through Sunday, June 15 through 17, at the New Jersey
and Exposition Center in Edison. Billed as the largest quilt show
in the Eastern United States, the "Odyssey" features an
of more than 400 quilts competing for awards, plus a hundred more
in special exhibits. Following on the guild’s debut show of 1999,
this is the result of two years’ planning.
The State Quilt Guild of New Jersey was incorporated in 1997 to
the art of quilting and gain public recognition of quilting as an
art form. "We’re actually the backwards quilt guild," says
founder Melanie Normann from her home in Howell where she also runs
her business, the Threadmakers Quilt Studio.
"The concept of a statewide New Jersey quilt show predated the
guild. I wanted to do the show but needed a sponsoring entity, so
I brought together a group of professional quilters and we decided
to form the state guild as the non-profit entity." Twenty-five
of the state’s local quilt guilds are also members of the state guild.
"Although there are still people who make quilts for beds, today
quilts are off the bed and onto the wall," she says. Nationally
women are the predominant makers of quilts, but there are more men
quilting today than ever before. "Men are more likely to become
professional right away," Normann notes. "Perhaps otherwise
they can’t justify the time they’re spending at it."
Normann grew up in Middlesex County, attended Valencia Community
in Florida where she was a chemistry major and an art minor. She
quilting in the early 1970s. "It was actually a result of my
streak," she says. "All the women in my family for last two
generations have been painters, so I insisted on doing something
"I’m attracted by the impact of the design and the colors that
are used to express it," she says. "I care far more about
that than technical skill." Like the quilting field in general,
Normann’s quilt-making has evolved over the years, from her earliest
traditional work to the art quilts she now makes. "Today my work
is very painterly, so I’ve come around full circle."
"There’s a tactile quality to fabric that no other medium has.
You may look at an oil painting for its texture, but you don’t
touch it. Quilts make people want to touch them — make them want
to snuggle up under them. We actually have to put up guards at the
show to keep everyone from touching."
A team of certified judges will evaluate the show’s
entries in 14 categories that include Art Quilts, African American
Quilts, Youth Quilts, Quilts as Clothing, and Traditional Quilts.
This year’s special "challenge category" is the Self-Portrait
Quilt in which quilt artists have been invited to interpret the theme
literally or symbolically. Among the special exhibits is one by the
Montclair-based Nubian Heritage Quilters Guild, celebrating the legacy
and artistry of African-American quilting, and a show of 50 quilts
by young people.
The three-day event includes workshops, classes, and lectures by a
faculty of eight of the nation’s most respected quilting teachers.
In keeping with its space-age title, the exhibit will update quilting
to its contemporary art status with modern techniques that incorporate
computer generated photos and applique methods to incorporate
and landscape elements into the design.
Classes, workshops, and demonstrations are designed to appeal to
at all levels and some openings may be available for on-site
Author and artisan Lynn Kough gives a humorous but practical lecture
on fabric selection, "Too Many Choices Too Little Time," on
Friday, June 15, at 2 p.m. She is the author of two books on quilting:
"Stretching Tradition: New Images for Traditional Quilts"
and "Quiltmaking for Beginners." She will also teach a
class she calls "Surprise." Other workshops and classes range
from brushing up on basic skills and sewing machine techniques to
more intricate work such as transforming drawings into patterns,
painting, and reverse applique.
Ruth McDowell, an acknowledged expert on machine piecing, leads a
two-day seminar on that topic. Another six-hour workshop on
Painting and Embellishment" is led by Yvonne Porcella, known for
her hand-painted fabrics, wall hangings, and art quilts. Dierdra
teaches Tahitian Applique, a free-form applique method that requires
no pins or ironing. (For a schedule of classes and workshops, go to
the website at www.njquilts.org or contact Libby Schoenwolf,
Youth is part of the focus of the burgeoning art of quilting and the
show will include a display of 50 quilts by children. Ten sewing
have set aside for the children’s hands-on quilting classes for girls
and boys ages nine and up, that takes place on Friday and Saturday,
June 15 and 16. Working with fabric kits assembled by guild members,
each young quilter will create a small wall hanging to take home.
As part of the children’s program, 10-year-old Sara Hahn of Manalapan
with give a talk titled "Kids Can Quilt." Hahn has one of
her own prize-winning quilts in an exhibit touring the country.
In New Jersey alone, more than 15,000 women, men, and children are
counted as practitioners, and as members of the state’s 40 clubs and
guilds. Quilters have become the largest individual purchasers of
fabric in the country, and sewing machine manufacturers are also
their product for the quilter’s market. The show will include 45
offering displays, demonstrations, and all the latest gadgets and
supplies. There will also be an extensive sales section of books on
quilting. The New Jersey Quilt Convention’s debut show, in 1999, drew
more than 5,000 visitors. The group is hoping for an even greater
crowd this year.
— Nicole Plett
New Jersey , New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center, Edison,
732-591-0257. To reach the Expo Center take Route 1 north to 514 East,
Woodbridge Avenue. Go four miles and turn right into Raritan Center;
follow signs to Convention Center and Exhibition Hall. $10; under
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