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home : arts & entertainment : arts & entertainment June 28, 2016

7/8/2014 12:56:00 PM
Quilters' show 'A Natural Affinity'
Quilters Pat Pease and Wendy Hill have a joint display at Sisters Library. photo provided
+ click to enlarge
Quilters Pat Pease and Wendy Hill have a joint display at Sisters Library. photo provided

By Helen Schmidling

Two quilters were asked to describe their quilting style in one word. Wendy Hill quickly responded, "eclectic." Pat Pease had to think on it a while before she came up with, "contemporary." Ten quilts by the two friends comprise an exhibit called "A Natural Affinity," in the community room of the Sisters Library.

Hill, who lives in Sunriver, began sewing at age 9 and has been quilting since 1971. She is the author of several popular books on quilting. Pease, from Bend, started quilting a dozen years ago. She studied art in college, and considers quilting the finest expression of her creativity, and the sewing machine a valuable tool.

"I really can't sew," she said, modestly.

They met several years ago at the Mountain Meadow Quilt Festival in Sunriver, when Pease was in charge of the event.

Their "Natural Affinity" was born in friendship and executed as a series of five quilt challenges for the 2013 Pacific International Quilt Festival in Santa Clara, Calif., last October.

The five challenges are called: "Unlikely Materials," "The Value of Value," "Contemporary Japanese Fabric," "Invent Your Own" and "Pass It Back and Forth (Do Not Speak)."

Quilt challenges often present themselves in surprising ways. "Unlikely Materials" came about when Pease opened a bag of fabric and pulled out some horsehair interfacing. Because of its rough texture, horsehair is almost never used as a quilting material. But Pat and Wendy rose to the challenge, incorporating fabrics made from goat, sheep, and camel hair, paper, silk, hand-dyed hemp, burlap, synthetic paper and appliqué - all unlikely materials for a quilt.

"It's not something you'd want to cuddle up under," Hill said. Or maybe that was Pat. They sometimes tend to finish each other's sentences.

Hill featured the unusual horsehair as the main fabric or background in her "Unlikely Materials" quilt, which she calls "Cairn Study 3." A cairn is a purposefully stacked mound of stones, usually built as a landmark. In this landmark quilt, Wendy stacks color blocks in graduating shades of greens, reds, purples, and blues in three panels appliquéd to the neutral horsehair fabric. The panels are joined with an intricate series of machine-quilted arrowheads or points, in colors reflecting the cairns. What appears simple at first is actually quite complex.

Pat named her "Unlikely Materials" quilt "Snow Strings" because it incorporates many horizontally placed shades of white and off-white, from the palest of creams to darker grays. Working in a mostly white palette was a challenge in itself for Pat, who is much more likely to explore color in works like "One Orange Dot," her "Invent Your Own" challenge, with the challenge theme "Inset Circles."

The mostly white quilt "was kind of a stretch for me, but once I got going, I really loved it," she said. "I can't think of a color I don't like."

Wendy's "Invent Your Own" challenge quilt, at 92-by-92 inches, is actually too large to display in the library, so it's represented by a photograph. Two photographs, actually, because she challenged herself to make a two-sided quilt. One side is her personal "Keep It Simple" challenge she christened "Color Blinded Again," with eight-pointed stars on a mostly white background.

The other side of this big quilt is her "Value of Value" challenge called "Color Blind," and it really is blindingly colorful - with subtle color shifts from one corner to the next. Although it may look like your great-grandmother's crazy quilt, depending on how you look at it, the artist quite purposefully planned the shift in color values.

Pat's "Value of Value" challenge is called "Marsh Scene," and depicts birds gracefully landing in a marsh while a pair of hunters hide behind tall grasses. The value here is not only in color, but in texture, not to mention the subject matter.

Both women have a fondness for color, and the colors in Japanese fabrics are just different. They really pop. The fabrics are usually cotton or a cotton-and-linen blend, and extremely fun to work with. Just as artists get inspiration from other artists, quilters often find inspiration in fabric designers - in this case, the Echino fabric collection by Etsuko Furuya. They mix it up with bright oranges, purples and blues, and contrast with black-and-white prints. A real smorgasbord of color plays out in "Echino Yet Again" by Pease, and "Ripple Effect" by Hill.

A particularly unique challenge was the one that they created, called "Pass It Back and Forth (Do Not Speak)." Each woman worked on a quilt started by the other, and passing it back to her partner five times before the quilts were finished. One resulting quilt is called "Square Dance," a triptych of 18-inch squares, each composed of squares within squares in different colors, weights and textures. The other back-and-forth quilt is called "Silent Reflections," and features individual fabrics imprinted with text, tree trunks, deer and other forest creatures in shades of black and white, gray and soft ochre. This quilt went from horizontal to vertical and back to horizontal.

The machine-quilted details are ultimately vertical, while the final quilt orientation is horizontal - a fitting juxtaposition.

The quilts will remain on display in the Community Room of the Sisters Library throughout the month of July, sponsored by the Friends of the Sisters Library.

The quilt artists will be teaching classes here on Thursday and Friday, July 10 & 11, and will be at the library for part of the day on Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday (the library will be open this Sunday). That's the best time for anyone interested in this unique show and its components to meet these two remarkable friends, up close and personal.

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