Stories told through quiltsSweeping your eyes across the more than two dozen quilts now on display at Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Duluth leaves you thinking there’s no common thread among them.
By: Marty Sozansky, For the Budgeteer News
Sweeping your eyes across the more than two dozen quilts now on display at Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Duluth leaves you thinking there’s no common thread among them.
There are traditional quilts and art quilts, quilts from the 19th
century and some completed only recently, some as small as a piece of notebook paper and others that fit a full-sized bed.
Quilts created in the 1930s from the remains of worn-out print dresses hang alongside some created from new, boldly colored fabrics.
A closer look, though, reveals exactly what the quilts do have in common: each has a story that accompanies it, told in first person by the quilt’s owner.
“Quilts! Memories and Stories” will be on display to the public at UUCD, 835 West College Street, from 9 a.m. until
5 p.m. weekdays and Sundays as activities permit, through January.
An opening reception, also open to the public, begins at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, October 27.
“The stories are as varied as the quilts themselves,” said Linda Powless, chair of the UUCD Arts Council. “And we’re celebrating each of them in this exhibit. The memories and stories give each of the quilts meaning, not only to the owner, but to anyone who sees them.”
Powless’ own quilt was made by women in her family around 1900 from bits of Sunday dresses and men’s ties.
It was utilitarian — designed as a bed covering for warmth — as most early quilts were.
But others in the exhibit tell different stories and were created for different purposes.
Arts Council member Bev Berntson designed and stitched “Kevin’s Path” for her brother Kevin Anthony Berntson, who died in 2009. The “Attic Windows” quilt, according to Bernston, comforted her brother near the end of his remarkable life.
Another quilt with a personal story is “Leah’s Welcome Quilt,” displayed by Terri Ach of Duluth and made by her friends in Massachusetts to celebrate the adoption of her daughter Leah.
Family quilts from the first half of the 20th century — each accompanied by the owner’s memory or story — include one owned by Geiger Yount of Duluth. The “Churn Dash” quilt has her father’s name written on it, indicating to Yount that he probably took it to college with him in September 1918.
Ann Fryberger’s quilt was made by her maternal grandmother in Oklahoma; she had 13 children and her stack of quilts was 10 feet high. Fryberger’s story also describes her grandmother’s “fluffing” the feather mattresses her family slept on, every morning, with a broom.
Powless is enthusiastic about the exhibit, not only because of the variety of quilts, but also because collecting them and their stories, and the effort to display them, was a community-building effort at UUCD.
And, she adds, “The diversity of quilts and the stories they tell are a way for us to express our congregation’s interests through art,” she said.
Besides the traditional quilts made by family members and personal quilts created to mark special occasions, the exhibit includes some created as art. One example is “Kitten Quilt,” by Marlene Wisuri of Duluth, using a photo-fabric cyanotype process. Wisuri pieced and machine-quilted her art.
“The Twelve Days of Christmas” is another example of textile art by Kris Nelson of Cloquet. Nelson reveals in her story that it took seven months to complete the project, during which she remembers humming the song most of the time she worked on it.
Nelson’s art quilt is hand-appliqued, one of several quilt-making techniques seen in the exhibit. The early quilts were hand-pieced and hand-quilted, and some show the embroidery techniques of the quilt maker. Others are machine-pieced and quilted, while others are tied. And one contemporary piece in the exhibit is based on a drawing by
8-year-old Dane Powless, rendered as textile art by quilter Martha Ritter of UUCD’s Arts Council.
All hang in and around UUCD’s sanctuary.