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home : arts & entertainment : arts & entertainment September 20, 2017

9/5/2017 12:04:00 PM
Art quilts on display at Sisters Library
Sharon Carvahlo, left, and Torrie Gordon, right, in front of their art quilts on display in the Sisters Library computer room until September 29 as part of the Friends of the Sisters Library September art exhibit. photo by Sue Stafford
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Sharon Carvahlo, left, and Torrie Gordon, right, in front of their art quilts on display in the Sisters Library computer room until September 29 as part of the Friends of the Sisters Library September art exhibit. photo by Sue Stafford

By Sue Stafford

Art quilting is a unique way to express creativity and explore new methods of quilting. Rather than crafting a quilt using traditional patterns, the art quilt comes in many forms and is often inspired by the experiences, imagery, and ideas of the artist.

Two local quilters, Sharon Carvahlo and Torrie Gordon, have created a variety of art quilts reflecting their personal experiences and individual processes. The quilts are hanging in the computer room at the Sisters Library, as part of the September Friends of the Sisters Library art exhibit.

Carvahlo chose Sisters as the place to retire to be close to her daughter who lives in Bend, and she thought Sisters would be "a great place to explore my art." Prior to moving to Sisters, she lived in Virginia and worked as a writer and editor for a variety of government agencies in Washington D.C. She originally came from the San Joaquin Valley in California.

Carvahlo and her mother both enjoyed sewing, but she didn't know anyone who was a quilter. She began quilting by taking an adult education class to learn to make a wall hanging for her home. Shortly after moving to Sisters, Carvahlo took a class on art quilts from Jean Wells.

"That class spun me in a totally new direction," she recalled.

She refers to her process as "intuitive quilting." Her pieces range in size from small square-foot pieces to 40-by-40-inch quilts. The size is determined by the size of the wall on which the quilt will hang.

Just last month, Carvahlo had three quilts accepted into juried shows - the Studio Art Quilts Associates (SAQA) show in Beaverton; the 2017 Northwest Quilting Expo in Portland; and the international Quilts=Art=Quilts 2017 exhibit in Auburn, New York. Carvahlo is excited to attend the opening in Auburn in late October. The exhibit will hang through the end of the year.

Carvahlo's art quilts are full of small details that require careful study to appreciate them all. Most of her fabric is digitally printed on an inkjet printer, using designs she creates on her computer using Photoshop Elements. The fabric comes with a backing that allows it to pass through the printer. She uses not only fabric, but also paper on which designs and photographs are printed.

"I love to control my fabric," Carvahlo explained.

She manipulates patterns and designs and often merges photos and/or patterns together. One of her quilts hanging at the library was created using leftover scraps of material that she cut apart and reassembled into a


"I dabble in other art forms - watercolor, sketching, mixed media - and my quilts are a continual mash-up of all of those," remarked Carvahlo.

Torrie Gordon, who has been quilting for 17 years, said whenever she saw quilts, she would think to herself, "When I'm no longer working I will take up quilting."

She considered herself a "dabbler" when she started out with traditional quilts, but is now fully hooked on art quilts. She admits she isn't prolific, as she spends a great deal of time on each quilt. What she does create is usually the result of a class she has taken or a SAQA challenge.

Gordon said the hardest part of the process for her is coming up with the idea for a quilt. She enjoys getting inspiration from others or from photographs. One of her pieces at the library was inspired by a class she took dealing with the four elements, taught by Rosalie Day.

"I chose water and wrote down as many words as possible describing what water does - gushes, reflects, cascades, gurgles, bubbles - and each piece in the quilt was inspired by one of the words."

"Quilting is hard work for me," Gordon admitted. "I wrestle with every single tiny piece. I spend lots of time looking at what I've done to figure out what's next. When it is close to being finished, then I get jazzed when I can see the whole picture. I don't do things I really like quickly," Gordon said of her process.

She generally has someone else do the quilting of her pieces.

"Quilting is where I ruin it. If I value it, I get a professional to do the quilting."

She has, however, done some hand quilting and does do embroidery.

Gordon and her husband moved to Sisters five years ago from Salem, where they had lived since the mid-70s. After graduating from college in California, they lived in Arizona for a time.

The quilts will be in the computer room until September 29. In the community room, Dennis McGregor's animal art is on exhibit for the month. McGregor is starting a GoFundMe account to help publish a children's book featuring the animals. On Friday, September 22, after the Fourth Friday Art Stroll, McGregor will be at the library playing music and talking about his art and the book from 7:30 to 9 p.m.

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