Meeting Sue

“Those are quilts?”

“How did you do that?”

“You mean these aren’t paintings?”

“Wow.”

“I’m amazed.”

These are phrases I overheard while standing near the booth where Sue Turnquist was demonstrating her art at the Georgia National Fair in Perry.  I’ve been an admirer of Sue’s work for several years, but had never had the chance to meet her.  We share a love of stitch, a passion for storytelling though cloth, and have trod some of the same soil in south Georgia.  I was delighted to have a chance to finally talk with Sue and learn more about her quilts.

Sue began quilting in the 1990’s after being entranced at the state fair in Missouri.  She bought a sewing machine and taught herself to quilt, beginning with traditional patterns.  A class with Caryl Bryer Fallert changed her approach, and she’s become a star in the quilting world.

Sue’s background in veterinary medicine is reflected by the animals she depicts in her quilts.  The selections you see in the photos are all Sue’s unique creations.  She starts with a photo, has it commercially enlarged, then creates her pattern.  Fabrics are fused to a background and she uses free-motion machine quilting to stitch it all down. Her attention to detail and precision cannot be denied.  And the visual impact is amazing!

Her zebra quilt is entitled Do These Stripes Make My Butt Look Big?  This quilt has won many awards, including the New Quilts from Old Favorites challenge by the American Quilter’s Society.  This and other of Sue’s quilts have traveled and exhibited extensively, nationally and internationally.  Sue  travels to guilds to share her work and teach classes.  I’m sure those audiences are as enthralled as the visitors I overheard in her booth.  Her work is amazing!

Other quilts you see pictured include Skeeter Eater, Piney Woods Mule, and Pony Express.

 

 

 

Sue’s winners at the fair for this year’s competitons are shown below:

The Glow of Orange

It’s October, cool, and time to think about glorious leaves falling.  I love to see the leaves drift down from the trees, and I love the colors as the chlorophyll breaks down.  The shades of red and yellow taking over from the green are spellbinding.  And orange is there, too.

Orange is not my favorite color in decorating or in quilts.  But this time of year, I incorporate it into our lives.  Our guild’s designated Challenge Queen, Tess, loves to require a bit of orange in her rules; so I’m learning to incorporate it without screaming.  And, if the theme is fall, I get to use pumpkins, which I love.  I love their shapes, texture, and color.  The pillow here is wool appliqué. The pumpkin and leaves wools were purchased hand dyes, the background is a recycled wool skirt, felted and reused.

Two recent projects include pumpkins.  This 5” x 7” framed piece is a pumpkin appliquéd onto a fabric replica of an old sampler in colors of autumn.

Another pumpkin is hand appliquéd on an old linen doily with free-motion machine quilting, hand embroidery, and beading.  It is attached to a remnant of an old quilt and measures 22” x 17”.

The middle layer is a found remnant of linen drapery fabric. I just love the grasshopper.  You can click on any photo to enlarge it, but this is one you might really want to examine.

Above is the entire piece.

This post describes some earlier quilts with fall themes and colors.

And to read more about Tess and challenge quilts, you can type “challenge” in the search box, or click on that category name.  There are several related posts.  Many include orange.

And, an earlier quilt called After the Chlorophyll is here.

Summertime in South Georgia

Memories of a hot summer day in my childhood include sweet, juicy, sticky watermelon.  At our house, there was most always a melon or two cooling in the shade of a pecan tree in the backyard.  Mid-morning was the time we would gather round the picnic table with Aunt Nellie’s butcher knife, some forks, and a big appetite!  I had a salt shaker in my hand, too.

This quilt is made using a photo of childhood friends with slices of that summertime treat.  The photo is printed on vintage linen fabric, the watermelon slices are painted and seeds are hand stitched with black thread.  A seed stitch was used, of course.  Machine stitching and wool batting adds dimension to the piece.  It is layered on red fabric and a remnant of denim jeans, measuring 10” x 12”.

Thanks to Arlene for permission to use the photo.  She and her brothers Wayne and Jerry portray the perfect summer scene in south Georgia!

 

Steel Magnolia

I heard her voice before I saw her.

While I was checking in with the receptionist, I heard her explaining to her husband about his procedure.  She lovingly, kindly, patiently explained the test they would perform on his arteries.

With my clipboard in hand, I sat near the husband on a couch in the waiting room.  I realized a woman in a wheelchair was near him, but didn’t pay much attention.  As I answered the questions about my medical history and symptoms with almost all no’s, I realized how fortunate I am to have these interruptions to my schedule – these bothersome tests that are recommended when one reaches a certain age – be nothing more than that.  I became conscious of the frail woman sitting near me.  She couldn’t have weighed more than 80 pounds.  But her leg braces and shoes looked much heavier.  She sat erect in that chair, though, alert and composed.

After her husband was called for his procedure, she sat quietly waiting.  When I heard a mechanical sound, I realized she had tapped her watch and it was audibilizing the time for her.  I paused to think of the challenges she has every day and now her husband is in for some tests.  My interruption to my day for this pesky test was seeming less troublesome by the moment.

Before I could complete my pages of family medical history and engage her in conversation, her partner returned.  He said, “ I can go now.  Should we call transport?”  “Yes, push me over and we’ll ask them to call.”  She tapped her watch again and it gave the time as “8:05.”  Then again, and it spoke “8:06.”  But it was 11:06 a.m.  Oh, my.

The pair approached the desk where, in a confident voice, she asked, “Could you call our transport for us, please?  The number is ….”. She recited the ten digits confidently.  And, then, “Thank you,”  in as strong a voice as any southern lady possesses.  That voice alerted me that this woman did not want my sympathy.  She has my respect.

I’ve thought of this couple many times in the days since that encounter.  I wonder about his test results.  I wonder who cooks for them.  I wonder if they get out a lot and interact with other people.  But I do not wonder if she is handling everything like a steel magnolia.  I know she is.

Art quilt notes:  The finished size is 13” x 17”.  The line drawing is free-motion machine stitched on a remnant of an old linen pillowcase.  The remainder of the work is hand stitching – layers of vintage lace, buttons, and an old quilt fragment complete the assembly.  The lace tablecloth remnant and linen coaster used as a label were dyed in my indigo vat.

Basking in Blue

I spent a lot of time in June dipping in my indigo dye pot.  I dyed and overdyed treasured bits of fabric.: baby blankets, remnants of old quilts, bits of lace, repurposed shirts.  I experimented with heavy paper and wooden buttons.


Part of the fun is the surprise element.  As time goes by, the vat becomes weaker and the color less intense.  Of course, any blue is beautiful to me, dark, light, and all shades between the extremes.  Every fiber reacts to the dye differently, and the results change based on how many times a fabric is dipped.

In an earlier post, I’ve written more details about the dyeing process.  And, if you want to see more work with my results, type “indigo” in the search box and you’ll find finished art quilts which included some of the pieces I had dyed.

Many of these recent bits of blue will become part of future pieces of art, but I made a journal keepsake preserving many swatches of treasured blues.  There are sixteen pages cut from old quilt remnants in shades of white.  Every added snippet of fabric, button, bead, and even thread, holds a memory of the search, the find, the experimentation with its color.  Preserving stories doesn’t always need words.

Sunday School Picnic

Another family photo has become a quilt.  This image of my husband’s grandparents was taken sometime around 1915, probably at Stone Mountain, GA.  The occasion was a Sunday School picnic.

I printed the image on a bit of vintage linen napkin, painted his tie, and machine stitched using free-motion quilting.  The rickrack frame is hand stitched around the photo on a layer of hand-dyed cotton fabric.


I used metallic thread to stitch the red layer to a vintage quilt remnant using a seed stitch, adding a bit of sparkle.

The label is a vintage coaster stitched to the old quilt remnant, too.  The final piece measures 12″ x 14″.

Paper Dolls

My mother entertained little girls by cutting paper dolls from paper.  She would fold the newspaper or catalog pages accordion style, then cut one-half of a girl in a dress.  All of us squealed as she unfurled the string of girls holding hands.

I finally learned to do the folding and cutting for myself, even to change the cuts to make strings of little boys, or of girls linking hands up, then down, then up again.

I had some fabric on hand that looked like little girls’ dresses, so I made a template and appliquéd some of Mama’s dolls on fabric.

Later it occurred to me that one of the granddaughters might like a parade of little girls like she once played with in paper.  I happened to have fabric from five dresses she had worn as a toddler.  I cut a pattern so that five girls would fit on a vintage doily I found, and a memory was rekindled. I layered the dolls and doily on a bit of indigo dyed linen and used machine quilting to add dimension. Buttons from those five little dresses were used as embellishments and to secure the layers to a bit of a vintage cross-stitched quilt.  The finished piece measures 17” x 16”.  

Four Brothers

The man on the far right…what’s that he’s holding in his hand?  That’s my grandfather, here with three of his brothers.  When I find a photo in which he is included, I’m always intrigued by how the photo was taken, since he was usually the one behind the camera.

I recently wrote about the coincidence that both my husband and I had maternal grandfathers who were professional photographers.  Sometimes we can find a cable in the photo leading to a remote shutter release.  Those were available from as early as 1918 in  advertisements like this one found here.

In this case, zooming and examining (you can click on any image to enlarge it) reveals no cable, and in the 1940’s when this photo was probably taken, there was no timer built in to cameras as we have now.  However, my Grandfather did have a son who helped him with his photography business by that time. Homer, Jr. went to work in the darkroom at age 7, in 1935.  It is likely that he, Jr.,  is the one taking this photo.  And, GrandDaddy is probably holding the remnants of a cigar.

I printed this photo on fabric from a vintage linen tablecloth, painted some elements, layered it on wool batting, and stitched around the figures with silk thread.  It is layered on cotton fabric, a layer of old burlap, and then on an old quilt remnant.  The resulting piece measures 14” x 17”.


The process of stitching these photos sometimes yields as interesting an image on the back as on the front.  Here you see what one viewer considered the shadows of these brothers.

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Man With Bicycle, 1905

Homer Carter and Homer Youngblood were both professional photographers in the early part of the twentieth century.  In our house, we have a lot of photos taken by these two men who, to our knowledge, never met.

Homer Carter was the father of Sadie, my mother-in-law.  Homer Youngblood was the father of Cleo, my mother.  Interesting, don’t you think?

This serendipitous happening means that we have some images on hand that were made with the best photographic equipment available at the time, and printed on quality paper.  Perfect for scanning and printing on fabric, I think.

This photo of an unidentified gentleman of the early 1900’s was compelling to me.  He was a client of Jim’s grandfather.  I printed his image on a remnant of a vintage linen tablecloth, painted the bicycle red, and quilted the layers with silk thread.  Free motion quilting gives dimension to the man and the bicycle with wool batting underneath.

The image is layered on a denim remnant, hand stitched with a Kantha stitch using red embroidery floss.  All is then layered and attached to a scrap of an old tattered quilt.

The label is written on a piece of an old man’s handkerchief.

Studying a Master

At the urging of my friend Priscilla, Jim and I took a road trip today to Newnan, Ga.  Selections from Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry’s body of work are on display there.  This amazing quiltmaker’s work has always intrigued me, so we hit the road.

Our route was along backroads, as usual for us, and we included some antiquing and enjoying other parts of the day, but the purpose and highlight was studying some 43 pieces of Caryl’s work.  We were almost the only ones there, photography was allowed, so we took our time. I read every word of her descriptions, studying the weight and fiber content of thread, marveling at the stitches she used and noting the color choices in each space.

Like many quiltmakers, Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry began making traditional quilts with commercial fabrics.  Over the years, her style developed using her hand-dyed fabrics, then a line of commercial Gradations fabric that she designed.  Some of her work is abstract, but all is full of meaning.  And the girl knows her mathematics!

Some of the work was familiar to me as signature Caryl Bryer Fallert – like the feather studies, the Fibonacci series, and her dancers.  Others, specifically the pictorial ones, were surprising to me that they were hers. Each piece was interesting in its own way.  I learned a lot from the experience, but being able to take close up photos of the quilting designs meant that I will learn from her work over and over again.

There’s something about seeing a quilt in person that makes it worth the trip.  Technology allows us to learn a lot online, to study excellent professional photos that inform us of details, and even to take classes from experts.  I’m familiar with Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry’s work though those technologies.  But the tactile nature of fabric means that any distance from a piece of fiber art diminishes the intimacy of the art form.  So being close enough to touch (even though I didn’t dare) brings that back into the experience.

I’ve seen some of Caryl’s work in shows in the past, but today at my leisure, I examined a variety of her works spanning forty years of quilt making.  Wow.

The Donald Nixon Center for the Performing and Visual Arts is currently “Forty Years of Light and Motion” through February 17.  Their website is here if you want details.  And Caryl’s website is here if you want to read more about her.

All photos are of Caryl Bryer Fallert’s work on display at the Nixon Center in Newnan, GA.