QUILT SHOW REVIEW: Today's Pleasures

... Tomorrow's Treasures VIII: Quilts by the Bay

By Christina Holland

Members of the Suncoast Quilting Circle have been gathering every week since 1981 to learn and share and, most especially, to quilt. Some of their individual and collaborative efforts can be seen every other year at their quilt show.

The theme for this year's show, held the first weekend of March, was "Quilts by the Bay," and indeed many of the works featured there were reflections of life by Florida's Tampa Bay.

Actually, several of them would fit right in at a "Quilts Under the Bay" show. Among these underwater scenes was Betty Ferris' "There's Something Fishy about This," in which brightly colored tropical fish swim across, and straight out of, the quilted background. I also really enjoyed "Seahorse Sushi for Supper Again?" The artist, Virginia Robinson, says that the copper lame fabric of the title seahorses "screamed" at her. It certainly livens up the piece.

There was no shortage of avian representatives of the bay area, either. Ichabod Crane, who's actually a great blue heron that used to hang around Betty Ferris' yard, is immortalized in one of her quilts, "Icky." There were many herons to be found, along with a great white egret ("Sentinel," by Evelyn Spillan) and smaller birds. Beth Frierson did double duty in "Little Shore Birds," piecing both the birds and their aquatic reflections.

Then there was Deb Kenneda's "Song of the Mockingbird," probably the only time I've seen someone try to capture the essence of music and commit it to fabric. She actually did pretty well at that, impossible as it might seem.

Speaking of Florida and its most commonly seen birds, though, one of the best had to be "Snowbirds," by Pauline Salzman. This intricately pieced and quilted wall hanging portrays the annual migration from the cities of the frozen north to the hybiscus-strewn south. The large pink car in it is wonderfully rendered, and the whole composition speaks to us year-round Florida residents.

Of course this quilt show included more traditional quilt designs as well. There were whole fields of stars and gardens full of every flower and a veritable army of angels. Definitely, there was something for everyone.

Actually, if I had any complaint about this show, it'd involve the way the quilts were grouped. I haven't been to many shows, I admit, but putting several similar quilts (completed as part of a single meeting or class, I suspect in some cases) next to one another reduced the potential impact of each individual quilt. Often they would have made much more of an impression mixed up a bit more.

There were some quite unique quilts mixed in, although often scattered around the edges. The realm of the fantasy included "Knight's Crossing" by Lynn Nottke, which the artist made for her collegiate son. His college mascot is a knight, which she portrays fighting a very large, green dragon. As she explains it, "My son, the knight ... the dragon, college."

My absolute favorite work was Carol Betts' award-winning "I'll follow the Sun," an almost Van Gogh like impression of the sun shining down on a field of sunflowers. It didn't make me any less intimidated by compass designs, but it certainly provided a clear example of why they might be worth learning.

In terms of categories of quilts, I was especially impressed by those sporting three-dimensional effects. Besides the fish in "There's Something Fishy about This" mentioned above, there were many geometric objects rendered nearly solid to the eye One of the best of these was Sara Jane McMillan's "Inner City"; another great one was "Diamond Cube" by Sue Wareham. My personal favorite in this type of piece, though, was "Perspective Piecing" by Elaine Haberman. When I first looked at it, I thought there were several miniature quilt panels hung at right angles, the lines are done so well.

In a similarly mathematical vein, several of the pieces incorporated tessellated shapes. Some were pure geometry, such as Mary Schatzman's "Spinning Stars." In "Oriental Lady," Pauline Salzman combined some of these same spun stars with a realistic human figure and a pair of antique (and broken) chopsticks, and Helen Rogers gave tessellating pinwheels a different feel with old-fashioned print fabrics and cavorting kittens in "Happy Cats and Tessellating Pinwheels."

"Quilts by the Bay" was held in the campus activities center of the University of South Florida, Bayboro, where I am a student. It was well attended but not unpleasantly crowded on the Saturday afternoon I attended. All of my favorite local quilt and fabric stores were represented, including Rainbow's End, The Sewing Circle, and Country Quilts and Bears. In addition, I was able to pick up business cards for a few new (to me) places to try out, such as The Quilting Bee in St. Petersburg, Patches Galore Inc. in Ellenton, and Willa Bee Studios (www.willabee.com). Also present was ruth carolyn miller (ruthie), along with several examples of her patterns. Her sea turtle looks especially fun, I think, although there are several nice ones to choose from.

The stores and such were set up along the edges of the hall, leaving the middle area entirely free for the quilts. This was a pretty good arrangement, from my point of view; it was easy to explore the quilts and get totally inspired and then mosey over to the sales booths to buy patterns, books, fabric and tools for that new project. Come to think of it, I guess that's a pretty good set-up from the stores' point of view, too.

The largest sales area was the boutique organized by the Suncoast Quilting Circle itself. They were selling finished products of various types, supplies, and materials. They seemed to do a brisk business. There was also a classroom area, where three different demonstrations per day were given in diverse subjects: cracked mosaic charmed crazy quilt, easy bias binding, snippets, taming the flannel quilt, stack & whack, and hand quilting. Unfortunately I was unable to attend these, but based on the quilts I saw displayed, I could learn a lot from these ladies. I'll have to plan better for their next show.

Somehow or other, the guild members also find time to quilt for charity. Each member makes at least three items per year: lap robes, booties and bibs for hospitals, nursing homes and infant and preschool centers. In addition, for each show they collaborate on a charity quilt. This year's quilt was a Baltimore Album. Half the proceeds went to Hospice, and with the other half they once again chose to help out the University of South Florida's Oceanography Camp for Girls.

I went to this show while in the middle of reorganizing my sewing area. I started out tired and preoccupied, and truthfully I didn't think I was in the mood for a show. It proved to be a wonderful time, and just the break I needed. Everyone I spoke with was pleasant and helpful, and the quilts themselves were a great reminder of why I took up quilting in the first place



Planet Patchwork