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Intriguing Inspiration

There are several resources I use from which to gain inspiration when I am quilting. My usual go-tos are Pinterest, Google, and Instagram, as well as several books in my library. My favorite source of inspiration, though, is viewing a quilt show. Recently I visited two venues that just made me want to return home and spend hours quilting in my studio.

In April we made the short trip to the Homestead National Monument in Beatrice to view the first exhibit — a display of 13 art quilts that were created to celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service. These small quilts are approximately 27” x 42” and depict such National Parks as The Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as the Homestead National Monument. The exhibit was first shown at the Homestead in December 2015. The quilts then traveled to each of the parks represented as well as the International Quilt Museum in Lincoln before returning to the Homestead last month. Each quilt will now be permanently displayed at its respective park.

All of the quilts were designed and stitched by artists from the Lincoln-Omaha area. They used a variety of techniques to recreate images to represent each park such as photos printed on fabric, couching with yarn, buttons, and embroidery stitches. It was fun to view the quilts up close so that I could see the quilting and embellishments. When I stood back to see the quilt as a whole though I discovered elements that I had missed up close, such as the shadow of the Gateway Arch in the quilt of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis. You, too, can enjoy these quilts by visiting the National Park Service website.

In May the Forest Acres Quilting Club toured the International Quilt Museum in Lincoln. I have been there several times but discovered that none of our club members had ever been. Since the Ken Burns exhibit was scheduled to leave the museum on May 13th, I knew that we needed to plan a trip sooner rather than later. Tom and I had viewed the Ken Burns exhibit when it opened on the first Friday in February - a terrific time to go since the museum, as well as other galleries and museums in Lincoln, offers free admission. The museum has several gallery spaces so you can expect to see a variety of displays when you go. You might also have a chance to see some volunteers inspecting and/or refolding quilts in the workroom.

The Ken Burns exhibit was simply spectacular! Most people know of him from his work on documentaries exploring such historical events as the Vietnam War, the Civil War, Lewis and Clark, and Baseball. Many were surprised to discover that he is also a collector of quilts. There was a quote on the gallery wall in which he said that he makes documentaries for other people, but he collects quilts for himself. While I enjoyed looking at his quilts, I really liked the way he talked about them. His words were on every wall next to every quilt and a couple of quotes were especially meaningful to me: “You fall in love with people. You fall in love with quilts.” “Quilts rearrange my molecules when I look at them.”

Also on display at the museum were quilts made by Eiko Okano from Japan, Velda Newman from Northern California, and Molly Anderson from Minden, Nebraska. Okano’s quilts centered around the theme of food - not what you generally expect to see in quilts. While I was not drawn to the chosen theme, I was interested to see how her quilting enhanced the final project. Newman’s quilts were very large - only three hung on the gallery, one on each wall (see picture below). She used a variety of fabrics such as cotton sateen, cheesecloth, hand dyed silk, and batiks to create her portraits of butterflies and seashells. She also used hand embroidery, hand quilting, machine quilting, paints, and inks to bring her subjects to life. Anderson’s quilts were some of my favorites. Her backgrounds of her small art quilts were constructed using hexagons. She then used broderie perse appliqué, buttons, yarn, and beads to recreate mountains, bird’s nests, and other landscapes and still lives. I loved how she used traditional piecing techniques in unexpected colors. Once again it was necessary to view the quilts up close and at a distance to fully appreciate these works of art.

What kinds of things inspire you to quilt? Let us know by adding a comment below!

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