Thursday, June 12, 2014

Grand Central Centennial Quilts

This past weekend, I took myself on a self-proclaimed and self-directed "This Quilting Mama" tour of New York City and New Jersey. My first three stops were in Manhattan.

The City Quilter, a Manhattan based fabric store, in partnership with American Patchwork & Quilting Magazine created a national contest to celebrate and honor the Centennial of Grand Central Station. Four fabrics were created "incorporating the distinctive colors and iconography of this beloved building." This final exhibit at the New York Transit Museum includes 30 finalists from the over 80 entries. It will be on display until July 6th, 2014.

Honorable Mention: "Mercury's Concourse" by Fran VanEron of Fort Collins, Colorado.

Grand Prize: "Time Flies But We Take the Train" by Amy Krasnansky of Baltimore, Maryland

Finalist: "Stars of the Four Winds" by Pamelia Paddock of Abilene, Texas
Second Prize: "Chasms 16: Under the Stars" by Beth Carney of Yonkers, New York

Finalist: "Celebrating the Wheels of Progress" by Margaret Caldwell of Panama City, Florida

Honorable Mention: "GCT Centennial Cake, CELEBRATE!" by Nancy S. Hoskins of Springfield, Virginia

First Prize: "Grand Central Terminal Mandala" by Ligaya Siachongco of Woodside, New York

Honorable Mention: "Family Tribute to Grand Central" by Nancy H. Gary of Hudson, Ohio

Honorable Mention: "Frank's Daily Commute" by Julie Quigley of Brookfield, Wisconsin

Finalist: "It's About Time" by Melinda Meers of Melbourne, Florida

Honorable Mention: "Meet Me at the Clock" by Christina Blais of Stratford, Connecticut

Finalist: "Coming and Going for 100 Years" by Karen Morrison of Katy, Texas

So sorry to have missed the title and maker of this quilt. 

Finalist: "Escalator to the Stars" by Charlotte Noll of Lauderhill, Florida

Finalist: "Time Tables and Ticket Windows" by Patricia Porter of Lincoln, California

Finalist: "100 Years-- Out of the Darkness and Into the Light" by Kim Gimblette of Ossining, New York

Finalist: "Grand Timeline" by Laura Laslett of Greenwood Lake, New York

Finalist: "A Celebration of Service" by Angela E. Jones of Chula Vista, California

Finalist: "Happy Birthday" by Sheva Farkas of Silver Spring, Maryland

This one is my personal favorite as the top "photograph" is made from hundreds of very, VERY small pieces. AMAZING watercolor technique work. It is called "Movement and Connection" by Lisa Ann Bova from Dublin, Ohio and earned and Honorable Mention.

Finalist: "Memories of Grand Central Terminal" by Carolyn Rancier of Abilene, Texas

Honorable Mention: "As Time Goes By" by Gretchen Crozier of Fremont, California

Finalist: by Theresa Nielsen of Royal Oak, Michigan. Sorry I didn't get the whole title.

Finalist: "100 Year GCS" by Lisa Jenni of Redmond, Washington

Friday, May 23, 2014

When Antiquity Meets Modernity

Once upon a time I was sent a lovely note through my quilting Facebook page, This Quilting Mama. It read, "Hi Lynn - I hope you are doing well. I have a very random reason for contacting you. I'm cleaning out my parent's basement and found my grandmother's quilt squares that I had always wanted to have assembled. I know you are an avid quilter... would you consider taking on the project? Or know someone who might? Or any advice? Thanks in advance for any help you can give!
Best regards, Carol"

Carol and I went to Westminster Choir College, in Princeton, New Jersey for our undergrad years. The school is outrageously small and therefore everyone knows almost everything about each other. I haven't seen Carol since in mid-1990s, but do keep up via Facebook.

What a pleasant surprise! "Sure, I'll look at the blocks, but can't promise anything."
This is what I received.

Antique fan blocks, completely hand pieced using 1930s fabrics, set on muslin with black blanket stitching. I was completely blown away. They were in great shape and had vibrant colors, no staining, etc.

The project began under the mantra "Art takes time. I hope you aren't in a rush."
Carol confirmed that these blocks had been in a hope chest for decades, so therefore, what's a little more time?

Here is their story in Carol's own words:
"These fan pieces were made for my grandmother by her sister in 1938 on the occasion of her wedding.  My grandmother and grandfather lived in Los Angeles and these pieces were moved around Southern California for many years in a cedar chest until she moved to Texas to live with my family in 1990.  When she showed them to me, it was her great desire to have them finally turned into a usable quilt, instead of sitting dormant and unseen. 

I love the variety of colors used throughout the pieces, and am so excited to see it finally assembled.  While my grandmother, Marie, is no longer with us, this will be a beautiful reminder of both her and my great aunt, Margie. 

It took me awhile to find someone to piece them together, but it has been worth the wait!"

"My grandma (Marie) and my grandpa (Keith) from their wedding in 1938."
Cutting the blocks to one standard size was my first psychological hurdle. They were amazing and it seemed that Great Aunt Margie's spirit was sitting on my shoulder as I tried to decide how to proceed.
The pressure, all internal, was immense. Finally, I did it and made that first cut, then the next challenge appeared. What background fabric that would work with all these amazing colors?
I searched high and low and eventually found this yellow with little letters and roses at a quilt shop in New Jersey.

The first attempt at a layout can be seen here.

Once pieced, we were off to see Eileen McCabe, of Quilting Threads in Schenectady, New York.
Eileen and her husband had definite concerns about the long arm machine and the fragile antique blocks. Therefore, we decided upon custom quilting within the sashing and a rose pattern in all the triangle setting side units.

The final result is just stunning and no photo can seem to do it justice.

Unable to deliver this quilt in person, I mailed it to Carol.
She, kindly, called me before opening it. Present at the time were her parents and sister. It was a very moving moment even for me, hundreds of miles away and on the phone.

These are the reviews in her own words:

 Carol writes, "My sister said this: 'What an incredible project this turned out to be. Seeing our Great Aunt's handiwork turned into such a lovely quilt was very touching. I'd be lying if I didn't say we could feel her presence in the room as we opened up the package that day. A real family heirloom, created by some incredibly talented people. Thank you!!'
I will tell you that both my parents had tears in their eyes as we collectively unfolded the quilt.  They had forgotten that I had sent off the squares to you, and it was such a wonderful and touching surprise to share as a family. My grandmother has been gone for more than 10 years now and having this "new" quilt is kind of like having a gift from her. My grandmother would be so happy to see the quilt in it's final state.  She always had wanted it finished, but these things just, well, life gets in the way. 
I can't imagine being any happier with how it turned out.  The incredible handiwork of the assembly down to the attention to detail in the quilting pattern... I am overjoyed to have this memento of times past. Thank God people like you have kept traditions like quilting alive.  Please pass along my warmest thanks to the other ladies who had a part in this project.  
Sending you big hugs and my heartfelt thanks for completing this incredible work of art. 

You are most certainly welcome, Carol.

The intersection of antiquity and modernity worked out to challenge, to inspire and to touch many people through this project.
I hope your Grandmother and Great Aunt are smiling on us now. 

With gratitude for the opportunity and experience,
aka. This Quilting Mama

Friday, April 4, 2014

Artist in Residence

From a letter to the parents at my child's elementary school:

"The Cultural Arts Committee of the PTO provides assemblies and programs that are educational, stimulating and fun for students at Craig. We cover a range of subjects and approaches in order to reach the varied learning styles and interests of our students. For several years we have discussed the possibility of hosting another performer in residence. That is a guest “teacher” who spends a longer time at the school and is able to meet with students in more intimate, classroom settings than can be achieved during a morning assembly.

We are planning to bring artist Anne Francey to Craig School as our artist in residence in March. Ms. Francey, a native of Switzerland, is a resident of Saratoga Springs (NY) where she is an art professor at Skidmore College. She also conducts art workshops for students. Her goal in these workshops is creating collaborative murals using ceramic or paper tiles, which combine to reflect a stated theme for the community.  We think her work is beautiful and meaningful and we are excited about what she has to offer to our students.

Ms. Francey will work with us on a program called 1001 Faces, which will involve the whole school; students and faculty, in the creation of individual portraits a which are affixed permanently to a series of wall panels."

Here is the amazing result:

 Thank you Craig School PTO for the wonderful experience of Ms. Francey and her art.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Full Circle

Once upon a Fall afternoon in 2008 I wandered into my Pastor's office and declared, "I have a project I want to take on, but need accountability. Can you help me?" 

That moment began my relationship with the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative ( and my promise to make them enough small format (9 by 12 inches or smaller) quilts to raise $1000 for Alzheimer's research. My pastor's role was to provide a small piece of wall space upon which I would place the quilts each month and she would help me name them. 

Over the next five years I made 30 little quilts included these and earned $1250. for the cause. I also dedicated my 40th birthday party to AAQI (and my church's Camp Fowler and doubled the amount above. It was a perfect union of my ability to be creative,  to FINISH something, as well as the goal of fulfilling my promise to the organization. A perfect storm which kicked off a full-circle moment that came to conclusion this week.


Simultaneously as my little work and contribution, Ami Simms and the team at AAQI had monthly auctions, continual online sales and the following traveling quilt exhibit to raise funds and awareness about Alzheimer's disease.
"Alzheimer's Illustrated: From Heartbreak to Hope" was a traveling quilt exhibit about Alzheimer's. It was exhibited at venues throughout the United States through September 2013.

The exhibit featured 236 quilts. Long, narrow "Name Quilts" were made from 55 purple patches, each marked with the name of a person who has/had Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia.

The "wrong" side of the fabric patches are showing. The color looks faded. The bright side of the cloth, full of the color and pattern of life, has been turned to the inside of the quilt, never to be seen again.

The Name Quilts created a wall more than 10,000 names, representing and honoring the 5.4 million people in the United States who have this horrid disease.

Hanging among the Name Quilts were 54 small format art quilts that tell the story of Alzheimer's from a variety of perspectives.

In the last minutes of the AAQI project which is now officially retired as they raised over $1.1 Million for Alzheimer's research projects, I purchased three of these Name Quilts. There is a label on the back of each saying who collected the names, where and who quilted it.
Here are some detail photos.

The full circle moment came when I made two of these long quilts into stoles as thank you gifts for my pastors. Jan and Craig Hoffman are a husband and wife ministry team. They have served our church, The First Reformed Church of Scotia, New York, for 20 years and this week marks the beginning of their next 20 years with us. Pastor Jan was my support through this project and knows Alzheimer's disease intimately through the suffering of family and of church members.

This gift provided closure for me of a long time commitment and passion, as well as a tribute to all those who know Alzheimer's as victims or caregivers.

Pastor Craig reminded us that "even when we do not know who the names are (on the strips of fabric), or even when we can't remember our own name, God knows and names us His Own." 
For that, I am thankful.