I have written in previous posts about my art collaborations with two friends, one a watercolorist, the other a colored pencil artist. That isn’t a totally accurate description of my friends’ talents: they both use a variety of media in their work. I am the photographer, and that’s about all I do. Oh, well. We have completed a seventh collaborative art piece, and this one was the most challenging yet. As we progressed on the work, we all had doubts about whether it would be a successful piece of art when we finished. That doubt lingered until it all came together. Yesterday we matted and framed it and showed it to our artists’ group. It was a hit! It will be in a show at Woodberry Forest School in Orange VA, September 5 through November 3. If you live nearby or within an easy drive, try to come to our reception on September 5th, 5-7 pm. There will be a lot of great art, great food, wine and wonderful artists to make the evening enjoyable.
So….what is our collaboration? We made a crazy quilt. Not out of fabric, but out of paper. Let me tell you first about crazy quilts.
The history is a bit confusing. One source says they became popular in the late 1880s in the US, but another says that they originated during Colonial Times. I will give you my take on what I’ve read. I believe that the Colonists, who came from Europe with limited supplies, started using patchwork as a way to repair old and torn garments so that they could continue to be worn. They probably didn’t start out as beautiful, but more functional in nature. As fabric became readily available, the artistry and design components followed for quilting in general. In the late 1880s the CRAZY quilt emerged among the wealthier classes as a way for them to show off expensive fabrics and their extensive embroidery skills. Oddly shaped pieces of silks, velvets and satins were sewn together and embellished with a large variety of embroidery styles. As the popularity of quilting increased, quilters began to establish themes to commemorate an important event, or they used fabrics that were of sentimental significance in their lives. Crazy quilts were not created for warmth or function, but for decorative use. I have three of these quilts in my possession, all pieced and embroidered by my great-grandmother, with satin on the opposite side that my grandmother quilted. These quilts were presented to all female members of my family. Oddly enough, crazy quilts were rarely “quilted” per se. The embroidery was embellishment enough.
But, I digress. I was talking about an art collaboration, wasn’t I? Yes, we made a crazy quilt. None of us were sure we could pull it off. I will show you first what our finished piece looks like in black and white. Notice the placement of the light and dark pieces. I see movement and texture. Do you?
Black and White Study
This is our finished art quilt. The colors we chose are warm golds and reds, some grey and black, and sepia tones. See if you can determine which square addresses each segment of a community. Then see if you can name all of the things within the square that support it. This collaboration is large. The finished size is 24″ x 24″ framed. You need to see it up close and personal!
The Finished Product
A quote from the book Crazy Patchwork, 1884, says this: “No species of fancy-work yet invented has ever given more scope for the exercise of artistic ability and real originality: hence, the secret of its popularity.”
I would say that the Crazy Quilt has once again provided an avenue for creativity, artistic ability and originality. Leslie Barham, Frances Lacy and I hope you feel the same way.