QUILT SHOW REVIEW:
... 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
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
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