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November 17, 2009

Color Take Away: Quilts Tell Colorful Tales

Modern.  Interactive.  Conversational.  Irreverent.  I'm talking about quilts, people!  Though these aren't always the words you use to describe them, quilts can really be amazing works of art.  I've been obsessed with their beauty and their tactile quality.  Whether it's a quilt from the midwest, New England,  or India, there's a personal story told through the motifs, fabrics, and colors in each quilt.  The quilts below are each quite original in their style and colors and they're my inspiration for color as we move into winter.

Quilts are making history.  The International Quilt Study Center and Museum (IQSC) in Lincoln, NE is the best source I found for pretty much anything you want to know about quilts.  Their website is fabulous and they feature a Quilt of the Month that highlights a chosen designer's.  I've recently worked with them to identify the key Benjamin Moore colors found in November's Quilt of the month.  We featured it in our e-mag, Nuance, and I wanted to share it here, too.

NOVEMBER 2007_024_0001


"MOOG" by Jan Meyers-Newberry: Michael James, Co-curator of the collection made an interesting note about her hand dyed fabrics when he said "She works dye color as a watercolorist might...".  The IQSC site also says that the artist's inspiration came from the 1960's Moog synthesizer (an electronic keyboard!) that "had vertical bands of colored lights that run up and down as the music changed."  Meyers-Newberry also added, "Maybe I am imagining this...but that's what I remember." 

Quilts can fit in anywhere.  Though traditional quilts are blankets that can keep you and your special someone warm, some quilters are creating smaller quilts that can add eclectic beauty to any interior.  Victoria Gertenbach, the creative force behind Silly Boodilly, is shaking things up in the world of quilting with her mini fabric embroidered quilts and Mod Squares quilted pillow covers that were featured on Metropolitan Home's blog for their bold sense of color and their connection to Josef Albers in color theory.

I'm enamored with her sense of abstract style.  In Abstract No. 5, Victoria creates an assembly of color and texture that is a study of the simple use of color, line, and texture.  She does all this in a finished 6"x6" fabric canvas.  Other pieces by Victoria use "imaginary amoebas, space spores, and flowers" as inspiration.  Now, that's using your imagination! 

Quilts are a creative force.  What happened in the 1990s when a very talented woman with degrees in both theater and graphic design took a two-week quilting class and subsequently noticed that there's "something missing in the contemporary-quilt marketplace"?  She created Denyse Schmidt Quilts with a perfect balance of the traditional sewing techniques she employed in theatrical costume design and her graphic design sensibility. 

Denyse schmidt for Sarita Handa

Denyse has done work for private clients and well recognizable ones like the Pottery Barn quilt I covered in the summer and the Sarita Handa double sided quilt above, helping to establish quilts as a symbol of modern style.  A woman after my own heart, Denyse had this to say about her work.  "I'm not afraid to mix unlikely colors and patterns.  Creating unexpected combinations is freeing for me, and people respond to them."  Perhaps her confidence comes from her experience sewing costumes for the Boston Ballet or maybe from her time creating robes for a monastery?  Whatever the origins, Denyse Schmidt's op-art aesthetic is directional in the world of quilting. 

Quilts can easily add dimension, character, and color to your space.  To make a quilt work well for you, select one or two of the least prominent colors in the quilt for your walls.  If your quilt has a lot of organic pattern, use more straight lines in the rest of the space and if your quilt is more angles, use some organic inspiration in your room.  Either solution will help to balance the space and to let your quilt stand out a bit.

Have the itch to stitch and want to get into quilting?  Quilts are the ultimate in recycling and can really be made from anything-- your children's old clothes, remnants of bridesmaids dresses, old neckties...you get the picture.  The International Quilt Study Center has a fun tool on their site that lets you create your own virtual quilt and email it out to yourself or your friends.  If you're in Connecticut, sign up for one of Denyse Schmidt's Improvisational Patchwork classes where students blindly draw scraps from tall brown-paper bags and sew together whatever they get.  According to Denyse, "It makes you stay open to possibilities you wouldn't otherwise see."  Good advice for quilting--and life.


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Thanks for talking about quilts! Quilts can be contemporary, traditional, simple, complex, they can fit in any home, and any personality. The world would be a better place if everyone had a quilt. I keep thinking we could help solve the middle east peace process with quilts!

Love the mix of colors. Love Victoria's bold use of color and love how you pulled out the paint colors for each one.

Great post. I've been a fan of Victoria for some time and am also enamored by her shape and color combinations. Her balance of modern and traditional really appeals to me. How wonderful it is to see her here. I like your other two choices, too and am off to see more about them.

Cheryl, your words should be carved into stone (or embroidered into a quilt somewhere). I couldn't have put it better-- Love never goes out of style, does it? Glad you liked the suggestions on color, too!

Hi Stepanie, Thanks for stopping in. I agree with your thoughts on Victoria. The best part is that she's a true artist, genuine and very passionate about all she does- I love it!

Wow, Maria, thanks for the thoughtful edit and for sharing your link, too!

I love the lessons about decorating with quilts. As a quilt artist myself and serious lover of colour and design I think they are great suggestions.
The final thing to remember is that quilts, like art, should also be loved. There is no point having something in your room that you don't love.

I absolutely love Victoria's blog and her work. Her work is unique, inspirational, and she has such an amazing sense of color.

Great post with some gorgeous contemporary quilts. If you're interested in learning more about color in quilting, free lessons and videos are available at my blog: http://www.colormastery.com/blog

You are right on target in your descriptions of quilting with one exception: traditional quilts are not considered blankets. They are still quilts, and the difference is a quilt has three layers: top, batting, and backing. Blankets are one or two layers usually with no quilting.

Enjoyed the post - beautiful eye candy. Love Benjamin Moore paints too.

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