Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Along the Spice Route

Along the Spice Route
Along the Spice Route is an exhibit of 41 wall quilts interpreting a spice used in cooking today and its country of origin. In addition to the artistic interpretation of a spice, the goal of the exhibit is to provide a learning opportunity to the origins of spices, learn the importance of early trade routes and the connection between countries. Curated by Ann Reardon and Paula Golden.

Below are my 12 favorites from the 
 Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza XXII
September 2015 in Oaks, PA

The Color of Enlightenment-Saffron by Ricki Smith Selva
"Saffron can be used as a dye as well as a spice. This quilt depicts the saffron robes of a Theravada Buddhist monk in Southeast Asia. The golden-orange color, which represents wisdom, strength and dignity, traditionally came from using saffron as a dye. A captivating photo taken by Katine Rogers in 2011 was the inspiration."

Road to Mathura- Ginger from India by Carole A. Nicholas
"Ginger was first grown in southern China. It was soon to be distributed through global trade networks along the spice route to India. It can be used fresh or as a ground powder. Ginger has a fiery taste with a hint of citrus. Here, three women take their head loads of pungent, peppery ginger root to market in Mathura. The ginger plant depicted in the filigree stone screen ("jaali")."

 Za'faran-Saffron by Ricki Smith Selva
"Saffron is the world's most expensive spice. In Afghanistan saffron cultivation may offer a legitimate alternative to opium production for some farmers. The handwork is lovingly offered as homage to the painstaking work that yields this gorgeous spice, and especially to the farmers of Kandahar Province who are risking their livelihood to become part of saffron's enduring story."

Hildegard's Herbal- Asafoetida by Patricia Powers
"Asafoetida" is a spice from northern India. It has a bitter taste that is softened by cooking it in hot oil or butter. In this quilt Hildegard von Bingen, a nun renown as a great healer. Hildegard was born in 1098. Her words on Asafoetida in her manuscript "Physica" are shown here. Her theories and those of oriental medicine have great similarities."

Banda Niera-Nutmeg by Karen Starnes
"Nutmeg was highly sought after spice due to its medicinal properties, as well as hallucinogenic effects when consumed in large quantities. "Banda Niera" depicts mid 1500's Dutch traders negotiating a nutmeg purchase on the shores of Banda Island. Their ship awaits in the bay between the settlement of Banda Niera and the volcano named Fire Mountain."

The Spice Bazaar- Cumin by Karin Tauber
"Cumin seeds come from a plant with lacy white/pink flowers, a member of the parsley family. Its flavor is pungent, earthy with a sweet after taste. A spice bazaar is depicted where cumin is found in many forms. There are dried bundles on shelves, dried seeds in sacks, ground cumin in clay pots and a bowl of black cumin in a corner. Inspired by a Silvia Hanna Dahdal oil painting."

Mustard Seed- Western Asia by Susan Fox Price
"Mustard seeds come in three varieties: black mustard, brown mustard, and white mustard. In the time of the ancient Spice Route it was popular in China, India, and the Middle East (Western Asia). This quilt focuses on the Middle East where black mustard grows. We look from inside a stone house over an ancient village with fields of mustard in the distance."

Turmeric by Alicia Cox MacWright
"Turmeric grows wild in the forests of southern Asia. It has been used in southern India for thousands of years as a dye, a medicine and a culinary spice. It was used to dye the clothes of temple dancers known as "devadasis". My quilt show these dancers performing the Bharata Natyam, a classical Indian dance that originated in the temples of Tamil Nadu."

Tanzanian Cardamom by Peg Green
"Cardamom appears to have originated in the Kerala hills of southern India. Cardamom trade came overland into Asia Minor and by sea to the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa. It is used in many spice mixtures and to flavor coffee in some parts of the world. Here Cardamom flowers in stages from buds through blooms and seedpods drift down across the surface of the scene."

 Cinnamon by Jill Jensen
"Cinnamon comes from Sri Lanka, this type is what is known as "true" cinnamon. Its flavor is sweet with a woody aftertaste. It is used in many dishes world wide. I was drawn to cinnamon not by the flavor or scent but its rich reddish-brown color. I have used block printing and fabrics that I have discharged. The designs are reminiscent of Sri Lanka and the leaves of the cinnamon tree."

 Saffron by Paula Golden
"Saffron is carefully harvested from the flower of the Crocus sativus, commonly known as the saffron crocus. Saffron is the dried vivid crimson stigmas of the blossom. Hundreds of flowers must be harvested to produce a commercially useful amount; because of this it as remained "the gold" of the spice trade."

Merci, Edmond Albious Vanillla, Madagascar by Beth Wiesner
"Vanilla comes from Madagascar and neighboring islands in the Southwestern Indian Ocean. It is derived from orchids and is the second most expensive spice. Thanks to Edmond Albious for discovering a hand pollinating method that saved the vanilla orchid. A window, based on an historic arch in Ambohimanga, Madagascar, frames the view of the vanilla crop."


This post is dedicated to my fellow blogger Tasha at The Purple Cook and to my other girlfriends, Barbara, Heather, Cindy and Greta, who have the gift of knowing how to use spices in their cooking.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

ARTAA at the Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza XXII

The Introductory Tour of ARTAA Presented by the Adirondack Regional Textile Artists' Alliance (ARTAA) as seen at the Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza XXII

“In Anticipation” by Lucille Makrin of Cambridge, NY
Lucille writes, “This piece began as an ARTAA theme “Flight.” A photo captured by my son at the Adirondack Balloon Festival, September 2009, was the impetus. They were blowing up “Where's Wally” and my 3 year old granddaughter was waiting to see “Nemo” inflated. The shadow of the observers is on the back side of the balloon as seen throught the inslide of the balloon. How cool is that?”
Note: Lucille is my Mother-in-Law. The son and granddaughter mentioned above are my husband and daughter.

“Life II: I have a Teenager” by Lisa B. Filion of Queensbury, NY
Lisa writes, “Living with a willful adolescent gives me plenty of material to use in my art in this second piece of a series about my life. Brightly painted and snow dyed fabrics reflect the colorful world I inhabit these days.”

“The Devil Made Me Do It” by Nancy DiDonato, Diamond Point, NY
Nancy writes, “Inspired by a church's stained glass window, this machine appliqued piece was created using batik fabrics for the “glass” and multiple layers of grey satin stitch to replicate the leading.”

“For Sale” by Eileen Donovan of Queensbury, NY
Eileen writes, “This piece was created with transparent paints and resists. When completed, it makde me think of family farms that have been lost with the advance of highways and development.”

“Dunes” by Joanna Monroe of Hudson Falls, NY
Joanna writes, “I spent many hours hiding in the dunes when I was a child. The sunny ski and blue water horizon altered when I changed position. Terns defended their nests in the fluttering forest of green and brown beach grass by dive blombing intruders. Sand stuck to everything. It was good.”

“Torn Apart and Going In Circles” by Karen Sturtevant of Clifton Park, NY
Karen writes, “I have a fondness for circles and they appear frequently in my art work. The title “Torn Apart and Going In Circles” says it all about this piece. A whirl win of circles flying freely about, changing direction many times as I adjusted my course and vision to keep up with them.”

“Dreaming” by Kris Gregson Moss of Queensbury, NY
Kris writes, “Dreaming refers to my wish to visit Russia. This quilt was created to travel to St. Petersburg with the ar tquilt group, Fiber Revolution in 2010. It is based on a well known cathedral in that city.”

“Contemplation” by Sherrie L. Turkheimer of Saratoga Springs, NY
Sherrie writes, “Contemplation” is about design and composition. Vibrant colors, subtle values, interesting textures, meaningful lines and shapes. I like experimentation and pushing the boundaries. I love line drawyings and the subtleties of positive and negative spaves. Always evolving to another level of ability and artistic growth is important to me.”

“Feathered Tulip” by Gail B. Frenz of Brant Lake, NY
Gail writes, “As a traditional quilter, I challenged myself to create an original art quilt. With careful planning, the curved piecing proved to be easier than I expected. I feel a great sense of accomplishment as I view my feathered tulip, which is guaranteed not to wilt.”

“Stop and Smell the Roses” by Patricia Spillane of East Greenbush, NY
Patricia writes, “My original rose photograph has inspired many projects, but my favorite thus far has to be the thread painting of this work. Ghostly, imaginary images slipping out into the border satisfied my desire to combine photography, drawing, and fiber in the single piece of art.”

September 2015 in Oaks, PA

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Afghan Girl

Her name is Sharbat Gula, but for the tech savvy print media consumed First World, she was simply known as "The Afghan Girl". Her image as seen here was taken in 1985 by National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry in a refugee camp in Pakistan when she was about 13 years old. For the next 17 years all the world had was her image to represent the plight of children in war zones the world over.

Thousands of miles away and living a life of privilege and peace, I saw that original National Geographic cover and remember being consumed with The Afghan Girl. My inner dialogue was full of  preteen questions (for I was 12 at the time). "Did she have parents? Sibings? What does it mean to be in a refugee camp? Where is Pakistan? Wow, she is my age, I wonder if she has any friends there." My thoughts about her and her life came and went for many years ahead as we learned of the struggles in the Middle East.

Finally, in April of 2002, the Afghan Girl was found.  17 years later, she still lived in the war-torn countryside of Afghanistan with her husband and three daughters. She spoke little, but said much in the interview. Below is the full text from Steve McCurry's piece about his search for her.

I remember as a newlywed in 2002 and 29 years old, that I dreamed of having my own children, but couldn't ever imagine having three! Her oldest was 13 already! Then I was stopped and saddened by the idea that Sharbat Gula herself cannot read and that all she wants is education for her daughters. Some harsh realities of life come in waves. The idea of children NOT being educated at least to the level of basic literacy was new to me...or at least it truly sunk in with this moment, just as the idea of children living in a war zone was a revelation to me back in 1985 when I saw Sharbat for the first time. I felt deeply for this woman I did not know.

Finally in the Spring of 2015 at a the Northern Star Quilters' Guild Show in Somers, New York, Sharbat Gula returned and completely stunned me. I hadn't thought about her and her life in years, but here she was. All the feelings of connection and "relationship" (if you will) came flooding back. Quilt artist Marla Silbernagel of Warwick, NY created this piece during a workshop with Leni Weiner. The goal being to study color relationships as she recreated the original photograph.

I still don't really know what all this means, but I can say that Sharbat Gula's images from 1985, 2002 and 2015 have made me revisit many questions I still carry about the nature of war, the effects of war on the lives of children in war zones and beyond, our response to others even those who live on the other side of the planet, and how we can live daily keeping all of this in mind. 

How many others has Sharbat's life impacted?  We will never know, but I most certainly am thankful for my connection with her.


A Life Revealed

Her eyes have captivated the world since she appeared on our cover in 1985. Now we can tell her story.

By Cathy Newman
Photograph by Steve McCurry
She remembers the moment. The photographer took her picture. She remembers her anger. The man was a stranger. She had never been photographed before. Until they met again 17 years later, she had not been photographed since.
The photographer remembers the moment too. The light was soft. The refugee camp in Pakistan was a sea of tents. Inside the school tent he noticed her first. Sensing her shyness, he approached her last. She told him he could take her picture. “I didn’t think the photograph of the girl would be different from anything else I shot that day,” he recalls of that morning in 1984 spent documenting the ordeal of Afghanistan’s refugees.
The portrait by Steve McCurry turned out to be one of those images that sears the heart, and in June 1985 it ran on the cover of this magazine. Her eyes are sea green. They are haunted and haunting, and in them you can read the tragedy of a land drained by war. She became known around National Geographic as the “Afghan girl,” and for 17 years no one knew her name.
In January a team from National Geographic Television & Film’s EXPLORER brought McCurry to Pakistan to search for the girl with green eyes. They showed her picture around Nasir Bagh, the still standing refugee camp near Peshawar where the photograph had been made. A teacher from the school claimed to know her name. A young woman named Alam Bibi was located in a village nearby, but McCurry decided it wasn’t her.
No, said a man who got wind of the search. He knew the girl in the picture. They had lived at the camp together as children. She had returned to Afghanistan years ago, he said, and now lived in the mountains near Tora Bora. He would go get her.
It took three days for her to arrive. Her village is a six-hour drive and three-hour hike across a border that swallows lives. When McCurry saw her walk into the room, he thought to himself: This is her.
Names have power, so let us speak of hers. Her name is Sharbat Gula, and she is Pashtun, that most warlike of Afghan tribes. It is said of the Pashtun that they are only at peace when they are at war, and her eyes—then and now—burn with ferocity. She is 28, perhaps 29, or even 30. No one, not even she, knows for sure. Stories shift like sand in a place where no records exist.
Time and hardship have erased her youth. Her skin looks like leather. The geometry of her jaw has softened. The eyes still glare; that has not softened. “She’s had a hard life,” said McCurry. “So many here share her story.” Consider the numbers. Twenty-three years of war, 1.5 million killed, 3.5 million refugees: This is the story of Afghanistan in the past quarter century.
Now, consider this photograph of a young girl with sea green eyes. Her eyes challenge ours. Most of all, they disturb. We cannot turn away.
“There is not one family that has not eaten the bitterness of war,” a young Afghan merchant said in the 1985 National Geographic story that appeared with Sharbat’s photograph on the cover. She was a child when her country was caught in the jaws of the Soviet invasion. A carpet of destruction smothered countless villages like hers. She was perhaps six when Soviet bombing killed her parents. By day the sky bled terror. At night the dead were buried. And always, the sound of planes, stabbing her with dread.
“We left Afghanistan because of the fighting,” said her brother, Kashar Khan, filling in the narrative of her life. He is a straight line of a man with a raptor face and piercing eyes. “The Russians were everywhere. They were killing people. We had no choice.”
Shepherded by their grandmother, he and his four sisters walked to Pakistan. For a week they moved through mountains covered in snow, begging for blankets to keep warm.
“You never knew when the planes would come,” he recalled. “We hid in caves.”
The journey that began with the loss of their parents and a trek across mountains by foot ended in a refugee camp tent living with strangers.
“Rural people like Sharbat find it difficult to live in the cramped surroundings of a refugee camp,” explained Rahimullah Yusufzai, a respected Pakistani journalist who acted as interpreter for McCurry and the television crew. “There is no privacy. You live at the mercy of other people.” More than that, you live at the mercy of the politics of other countries. “The Russian invasion destroyed our lives,” her brother said.
It is the ongoing tragedy of Afghanistan. Invasion. Resistance. Invasion. Will it ever end? “Each change of government brings hope,” said Yusufzai. “Each time, the Afghan people have found themselves betrayed by their leaders and by outsiders professing to be their friends and saviors.”
In the mid-1990s, during a lull in the fighting, Sharbat Gula went home to her village in the foothills of mountains veiled by snow. To live in this earthen-colored village at the end of a thread of path means to scratch out an existence, nothing more. There are terraces planted with corn, wheat, and rice, some walnut trees, a stream that spills down the mountain (except in times of drought), but no school, clinic, roads, or running water.
Here is the bare outline of her day. She rises before sunrise and prays. She fetches water from the stream. She cooks, cleans, does laundry. She cares for her children; they are the center of her life. Robina is 13. Zahida is three. Alia, the baby, is one. A fourth daughter died in infancy. Sharbat has never known a happy day, her brother says, except perhaps the day of her marriage.
Her husband, Rahmat Gul, is slight in build, with a smile like the gleam of a lantern at dusk. She remembers being married at 13. No, he says, she was 16. The match was arranged.
He lives in Peshawar (there are few jobs in Afghanistan) and works in a bakery. He bears the burden of medical bills; the dollar a day he earns vanishes like smoke. Her asthma, which cannot tolerate the heat and pollution of Peshawar in summer, limits her time in the city and with her husband to the winter. The rest of the year she lives in the mountains.
At the age of 13, Yusufzai, the journalist, explained, she would have gone into purdah, the secluded existence followed by many Islamic women once they reach puberty.
“Women vanish from the public eye,” he said. In the street she wears a plum-colored burka, which walls her off from the world and from the eyes of any man other than her husband. “It is a beautiful thing to wear, not a curse,” she says.
Faced by questions, she retreats into the black shawl wrapped around her face, as if by doing so she might will herself to evaporate. The eyes flash anger. It is not her custom to subject herself to the questions of strangers.
Had she ever felt safe?
”No. But life under the Taliban was better. At least there was peace and order.”
Had she ever seen the photograph of herself as a girl?
She can write her name, but cannot read. She harbors the hope of education for her children. “I want my daughters to have skills,” she said. “I wanted to finish school but could not. I was sorry when I had to leave.”
Education, it is said, is the light in the eye. There is no such light for her. It is possibly too late for her 13-year-old daughter as well, Sharbat Gula said. The two younger daughters still have a chance.
The reunion between the woman with green eyes and the photographer was quiet. On the subject of married women, cultural tradition is strict. She must not look—and certainly must not smile—at a man who is not her husband. She did not smile at McCurry. Her expression, he said, was flat. She cannot understand how her picture has touched so many. She does not know the power of those eyes.
Such knife-thin odds. That she would be alive. That she could be found. That she could endure such loss. Surely, in the face of such bitterness the spirit could atrophy. How, she was asked, had she survived?
The answer came wrapped in unshakable certitude.

“It was,” said Sharbat Gula, “the will of God.”

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Rainbow Quilts of the Vermont Quilt Festival 2015

"Circle of Life" earned Lisa McCarthy of East Kingston, NH an Exceptional Merit Purple Ribbon (that means the quilt earned 98, 99 or 100 points on the scale of 1 to 100). Lisa writes in her description, "I love the use of bright bold colors. When I saw this pattern by Jacqueline de Jonge, I added it to my 'must-do' list. I had fun playing with the color layout and it went together like a dream. Many thanks to  long-arm maching quilter Carrie Zizza, whose vision and artistic flare are amazing."

On the right is "Prism" by Linda Pearl of Nashua, NH. (I'm sorry that I did not get a better photo.) Here is Linda's description, "It is an interpretation of Flying Geese, with a modern layout and quilting scheme. This came from my desire to play with a bright palette. It is the second in a series I am currently working on. Quilted on a home machine."

Karen Viega's "Really? What was I thinking?" earned her a First Place Blue Ribbon.
From East Bridgewater, MA, Karen writes, "My quilt guild challenge for spring was Fall in Love with Color. We each chose a photo whose colors we wanted to work with, and then interpreted those colors into the design. I came up with this foundation pieced rainbow log cabin variation. 3700 pieced later, I thought to myself, "Really? What was I thinking?" Quilted on a home machine.

"Whoosh!" Deborah Rouse's Third Place Ribbon winning quilt caught my eye for not only the bargello factor, but also for the awesome antique buttons. She writes, "A fun bargello quilt using my stash of fabrics and new and vintage buttons! Inspired by a quilt designed by Nancy Altsman of Black Cat Creations. A class by Karen Dever at the Village Quilter in Mt. Holly, New Jersey. Quilted on a home machine."

Below is Margot Cohen of Cedarhurst, NY's "Field of Flowers." This Third Place Yellow Ribbon quilt is described by the maker in this way, "I fell in love with hexagons thirty years ago when I took my first quilting class. Since then I have made many hex quilts. My late husband told me I could have any quilt I wanted as long as "I made it." I saw a picture of this quilt and just had to have it, so I made it. It is hand quilted."

Below from the Instructor's Showcase comes Karen Eckmeier's "Random Rose Garden." She describes it like this, "Based on the words "finding center"-- this quilt was inspired by a hand drumming workshop. Each block was supposed to be an individual drum beat, but it turned into a garden instead!"

Instructor Kimberly Einmo's "Fire and Ice." She writes, "Fire and Ice is a variation of my original design called Lone Starburst. I wanted to create a vibrant, modern interpretation of the more traditional Lone Starburst pattern; giving it a fresh update with streamlined, simple techniques. There are no set-in seams used in the construction of this quilt! This quilt has won several national awards including Best Modern Quilt at AQS Quilt Week 2014 in Chattanooga, TN. Judi Madsen of Green Fairy Quilts did the exquisite machine quilting."

Finally, contestant Lee Sproull of Leeds, MA entered this "Cubic Kaleidoscope" and earned a Third Place Yellow Ribbon.  Lee writes, "Bright colors swirl around lively red centers. Quilted on a home machine."

Dedication:  In the middle of this year's Vermont Quilt Festival, as I was trying hard to absorb all the colors, all the people, all the techniques and all the gorgeous art in this amazing show, I learned that my sister and her girlfriend of many years will be married next June. I was then overwhelmed with joy to know that they too will have all the love, security, and legal benefits which come with marriage. Therefore, I dedicate this post to my sister Liz and to Jeanne in the name of LOVE, of support, and of all that is truly rainbow bright and beautiful! 

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Best of the Vermont Quilt Festival 2015

In its 39th year, the Vermont Quilt Festival is New England's largest and oldest annual quilt event.
Here are the Best Of Show quilts from this year's VQF experience.

Hexagon Quilt "La Passion" by Grit Kovacs from Ebstorf, Germany won Best of Show from Outside the USA and also Best Piecing. Grit writes, "My hexagon quilt is an original design, sewn by hand, and took two and one half years to complete. The inspiration developed on a holiday in France. I used 7,240 pieced. Long-arm quilted by Birgit Schuller."

Best in Show and the Governor's Award for Best Vermont Quilt comes "Celestial Sedona" by Norma Ippolito of Chester, VT. Norma writes, "This quilt features a variety of construction techniques. Building from the center out, it became a three- year journey resulting in the most challenging quilt I have made, and also the most rewarding. Pattern Sedona Star by Sarah Vedeler Designs. Quilted on a home sewing machine."

Sharing blue ribbon winner Micheline Caron's "Sous Une Bonne Etoile" because it is the same quilt design as the Best of Show above. From Canada, Micheline also quitled this beauty on her home sewing machine.

Heidi Merrill's "Curves Bliss" earned Best Long-Arm Machine Quilting. Heidi is local to us here in upstate NY. From Clifton Park, she writes, "I made my own design and used EQ to design my own pattern. I used Suzanne McNeil's 10 Minute Block method, but modified it by cutting out the backing to reduce bulk. I used alternating chain blocks to create the overall design."

Best Applique Award goes to"Le Jardin Joyeau" by Christine Wickert of Penfield, NY. She writes, "Two chunks of silk- one brick red and the other a stripe- begged to be used for Beautiful Botanicals design by Deborah Kemball. The stripe became the backing. Hand quilted."

The Best Miniature goes to "6522", George Siciliano's masterpiece.  He writes, "This quilt has 6522 pieces of dupioni silk....It's not fused, embroidered or painted. Just good old fashioned piecing. Quilted on a home sewing machine." George and his wife Ginny are master quilters and teachers and live in Lebanon, PA.

"Creme Caramel" by Joanne Mac Nevin of Pembroke, MA earned the Best Machine Quilting Award on a Home Machine. She writes, "My sweet tooth is very pronounced and, from the beginning, this quilt has evoked visions of caramel, vanilla ice cream, custard, marshmallow fluff, butterscotch, whipped cream and a little mocha. Yum! The pattern is White Chocolate by McCall's Quilting and the border is Ice Blueberries by Pat Delaney."

Finally, "October" by Susie Wimer of Ranson, WV earned a blue ribbon and the Founder's Award for this show. She writes, "I love leaves and cannot resist picking them up in the fall. I used real, actual sized leaves for the pattern. My then six-year old grandson then helped gather them, learning the trees as we went. By the time I finished he was fourteen years old. Hand quilted."

These are the Best Of Show which I was able to capture quickly on my camera and remember to share with you. I was also a participant and vendor this time around.  My apologies if your quilt is missing. Please feel free to comment below and share a photo or to do the same at This Quilting Mama on Facebook. Thank you and stay tuned for more quilts from the Vermont Quilt Festival 2015 over the next few weeks.
Peace and Happy VQF inspired quilting ahead,