The Quilt Story

This is a photo from the night of the opening of the show. Each piece is close to but not exactly 37" by 37". I wish I had  paced myself better so that I would have professional photos of all of them. When the show ends in February, I will be able to do that. If you want to see more images of the entire show you can visit my Facebook artist page called Maria "the stitcher" Shell. <http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.256313654497306.59570.246902322105106&type=1>

This is a photo from the night of the opening of the show. Each piece is close to but not exactly 37″ by 37″. I wish I had paced myself better so that I would have professional photos of all of them.

Before I tell you the story of the sweaters, I must first tell you the story of the quilts.

Last January, I was one of 44 regional artists (Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and British Colombia) invited to participate in the Bellevue Arts Museum’s Biennial show.

Their first biennial in 2010 was called Throw Down and featured ceramists from the region. The current biennial is called High Fiber Diet and hi-lights the work of artists using fiber as their medium.

My proposal for the show was to create nine Color Grid quilts and display them in a huge grid. In hindsight, I don’t know what I was thinking. These quilts are insanely time consuming. Each one is composed of more than a thousand pieces of fabric. Each piece of fabric is selected, cut, and stitched individually. I stitch many, many, many pieces of fabric that never make it into a final composition. So, that was my first problem–TIME MANAGEMENT.

I did actually count the pieces of fabric on this one. there should be exactly 1,114 pieces of individual fabric in this composition.

I did actually count the pieces of fabric in Deep Blue Sea. There should be exactly 1,114 pieces of individual fabric in this composition.

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Here are several close up shots of Deep Blue Sea. About mid-way through making these nine color gird quilts, I decided to start using prints again. I am so glad I did.

Here are some close up shots of Deep Blue Sea. About mid-way through making these nine color gird quilts, I decided to start using prints again. I am so glad I did.

Next, my high school math teacher was not particularly good at inspiring challenged learners. Quilts are geometry in motion, but I didn’t know that then. So, I took the easy way out and copied answers from the back of the book–who knew I would pay dearly for this later in life. I made four compositions before I realized something was wrong.  These quilts will not read as a grid if they are not equal in size. Second problem–SIZE DOES MATTER.

Here is one of the pieces that was too small to be one of the final nine pieces. That was bad news. The good news was that I sold the piece to a dear friend.

This is Aztecian one of the pieces that was too small.

Force Field was also too small. This piece was just selected to be part of a show called DEUX. For the show each artist has two piece that speak to each other. The really exciting thing is that if things go well, Force Field will get to go to France as part of a traveling version of the show.

Force Field was also too small. This piece was just selected to be part of a show called DEUX.This is a traveling show which means Force Field might get to go to France.

Now, I’ve been working on these quilts off and on since the end of January 2012. While trying to do this, I am also maintaining a household of three boys, two cats, and one beast of dog. I am teaching, serving on a non-profit board, hosting an assortment of house guests, and traveling outside to an opening in Philadelphia and visiting family in Kansas. It really started to feel like one of those dreams where you keep going and going, but never EVER get anywhere.

Third problem–LIFE HAPPENS. I have always worked to a deadline. I get it done, but behind the scenes things are ugly. This adventure was no exception. In the final six weeks of stitching, Anchorage had two major wind storms resulting in our home being without power for almost ten days. I stitched for several days by generator. While Walt doesn’t believe me, I think I almost died of carbon monoxide poisoning in the process. All the alarms went off, and I dragged myself out into our yard. I had a very strong desire to just lay down in the yard and sleep. I fought the urge off, walked around our neighborhood, and finally got up the gumption to turn the dang thing off. Our Anchorage generator is not one of those sweet Honda 2000s. It is a beast. Next up, my beloved cat Huckle dies. And finally, when it couldn’t possibly get any worse, Walt has to leave on a business trip for ten days.

Okay, he looks a bit grumpy here--getting his hair cut always made him a little annoyed with his people. He really was one of the best cats to ever grace this earth. I loved him dearly and am very grateful I got to spend the time I did with him.

Okay, he looks a bit grumpy here–getting his hair cut always made him a little annoyed with his people. He really was one of the best cats to ever grace this earth. I loved him dearly and am very grateful I got to spend the time I did with him.

In a state of complete sadness and exhaustion, I mail the quilts overnight delivery to Bellevue. I crawl across the finish line on my hands and knees.

Thats me in front of the Color Grids at the opening of the how HIgh Fiber Diet  in Bellevue. My studio is not big enough to hang these all together, so it was really exciting to see my work be so big and me be so small.. It has got me wondering about artists who do installations, who think BIG. Can I do it too?

Thats me in front of the Color Grids at the opening of  High Fiber Diet at the Bellevue Arts Museum.  It was really exciting to see my work be so big and me be so small.. It has got me wondering about artists who do installations, who think BIG.

And this is where the sweater story begins.

This entry was published on December 28, 2012 at 7:02 PM. It’s filed under Quilt Stories and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

6 thoughts on “The Quilt Story

  1. Jane Ahrens on said:

    Your work is so precise and striking. Great works take great efforts. Very impressive. So sorry about your cat, Huckle. Was he a Somali? We had one just like him but grey and we used to get him a lion cut and he had the same expression on his face. He unexpectedly died at age 10, a complete mystery. Somalis are very devoted to their owners so when they leave they are especially missed.

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  2. Jane- Thank you for your note, both about my work and Huckle. I am not sure what breed Huckle was; we got him from the pound in Valdez, Alaska. He was such a wonderful part of our family. I am sorry to hear your cat passed away at a young age too. I guess we just have to be happy for the time we did get to spend with them.

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  3. Pingback: The Year of the Sweater | Maria Shell

  4. Pingback: High Fiber Diet-The Bellevue Arts Museum’s Biennial | Maria Shell

  5. Pingback: To the Studio | Maria Shell

  6. Pingback: Wind Storm-Power Outage-Blizzard | Maria Shell

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