A Study in Opposities: Lea Stansal and Mary Koval

I am posting my experiences at the recent European Patchwork Meeting, held in a series of four small towns in the Alsace region of France.  The town of Saint Marie-aux-Mines, the main venue, had many places to find quilts:

Ste MarieauxMines Map

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The poster above links to the numbers in the map.  Once we left the L’Espace Commercial, we walked across the street to the Theater, where two sets of quilts curated by two different women provided a study in contrasts.

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One set of quilts, by collector Mary Koval, was exhibited on the ground floor of a beautifully restored old theater, which you can just see from around the edges of some of my photos.  This set of quilts were all American antique quilts.

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The other woman (from France) is Lea Stansal, who mounted a one-woman exhibit titled La Broderie d’embellissement, which can be roughly translated to The Embroidery of Embellishment.  Her biographical statement from her blog (which I used Google Translate to read) says:

Trained at Met Penningen’s Higher School of Decorative Arts and Interior Architecture. After twenty years in the world of fashion as a textile designer, Léa Stansal decides to explore and deepen more traditional aspects such as patchwork and embroidery.

“Since then, with a thread and a needle, she has created a poetic and original work, which is widely exhibited in the world and has given rise to the publication of half a dozen books of art.”

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Is this the artist? I don’t know, but I did love the quilt behind her head.

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Detail.

None of these are titled, and it flattens them out to put them on this digital medium; I wish you could have seen them in person.  They were wild and embroidered and free and filled with a happiness of creativity.  I think if I could spend 10 minutes in her studio, I’d break all those Rules of Quilting that I carry around inside me.

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Detail from the upper panel, above

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Detail.

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Detail.

I kept thinking about how the Pied Piper had charmed all the little tin soldiers.  Was this a statement about war?  About peace?  I’ll never know, but I’m still thinking about it.

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Detail from above.  The layers!  The collage!  The broderie perse!  I kept sighing.

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I love how the deer and its antlers are in this piece, but not in the static, overused version we see in America.  Shall we turn some quilts on their heads?

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My husband, who loves symmetry in all its forms kept sighing, too, as he admitted that this just wasn’t his type of quilting.  Mine, neither, but I kept admiring that freedom to create, a freedom that was a delicious anarchy of cloth and threads.

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We headed downstairs to Mary Koval’s antique quilts, in an exhibit titled “Piece by piece, our life with quilts.”

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I had carefully included the identifying titles in my photos, but back home, found I couldn’t read them most of them.  The quilts range from the late 1800s to the early 1900s.

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Pickle Dish quilt, from the 1920s.EPM Koval_2aEPM Koval_3

I liked the juxtaposition of these two–the orange-clad guard and the riotous early-American quilt.

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I liked the embroidery detail on this little Uncle Sam. a quilt from the 1920s.

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One of my favorites of the antiques because of its exuberance.  The name “Rev. and Mrs. (?) S. Harvey” is on the first line, with “Park Methodist Episcopal Church” on the second.  “Circle No. 5 1937” on the third line.

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Made from silks.

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Detail.

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We weren’t allowed to touch the quilts (of course!) so I held my hand up to show how tiny those triangles are.  This quilt is from Berks County, Pennsylvania, but I don’t have a date.

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I’m sure all these quilts are from their new book.  Info can be found on their website.EPM TheaterMeal_3

Now we were hungry, so we found this little “cafe” in the back of the theater, with fabulously dressed servers.

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Although the flowers were pretty tired, I loved the attempt at patchwork on the vase, with bits of cloth glued to the glass.

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And this, folks, was the traditional Alsace salad with bretzel (with a “b”).  My husband ordered this, but I went mainstream with the ham sandwich (below).  They were doing an active business, so we hurried and ate and went back out hunting quilts.

Note: this series about the European Patchwork Meeting has a main page, with a listing of posts.

Happy Fourth of July • 2017!!

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Washington Monument

Happy Fourth of July!

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A long time ago I lived in Washington, DC for a year, and our quilt guild (Mt. Vernon, a chapter of Quilts Unlimited of Virginia) was pretty active.  We met in the community center, next door to the Variety Store (which had great fabrics) and someone organized a tour to the Smithsonian quilt archives in the National History Museum.

They took us downstairs into a room with tons of these large, flat drawers, and a docent pulled them out one-by-one to show us these historical quilts.  This was in the days before our phone cameras, which take great photos effortlessly, so many of my photos are sub-standard.  But a few fun things stood out for me, from that tour.

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Gloriously colored applique, using ombre-shaded fabrics.

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The teensiest logs in this stellar Log Cabin quilt (the use of the plaids interspersed with solids and other plaids is brilliant, I think).

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Stars that are each their own character.

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And this quilt, which looked like it was English paper-pieced out of felt, but it was wool from Civil War uniforms, carefully cut and pieced, and made by a soldier.SmithsonianQlt_4SmithsonianQlt_4a

Celebrate!!

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Antique Crib Quilts and Karl Benjamin

triple irish chain crib quilt

Recently we went to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and viewed a small exhibition of crib quilts.  I thought I’d share them with you because while they look so old and antique they also are refreshingly current in some of their color choices and design.  Above is a Triple Irish Chain from the 1930s, one of the “younger” quilts in the exhibit.  I did find interesting that while no one really knows the origin of the label “Irish Chain” some suggest it came from the quilts fashioned “from bags of scraps sold to workers in the Irish shirt industry, who made quilts for sale in their spare time.”  No dimensions were given, but they are smaller quilts, roughly 2 feet across and 3 feet high.

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Detail of Triple Irish Chain crib quilt.

square in a square crib quilt

This “Square within a Square” quilt was made in Pennsylvania around 1880.  All of the crib quilts were protected behind a plexiglass box, and some quilts were really hard to photograph, given the glare of the lights (I never could get a decent photo of the “Bars” quilt).

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Detail, “Square within a Square.”

dutch windmill crib quilt

Another more contemporary quilt, made around 1920, is this quilt with two names: “Dutch Windmill” or “Hearts and Gizzards.”  This one is also from Pennsylvania and is machine quilted.

dutch windmill crib quilt detail

While you can’t really see it too well, on each larger black piece is a name embroidered in red, perhaps revealing the “creators of each separate block.”

churn dash

While this pattern is known as “Hole in the Barn Door” or “Monkey Wrench,”  we typically refer to it as “Churn Dash.”  This one is both hand and machine pieced and is from the 1880s.  The title card next to this had this tidbit: “From the beginning of the 1880s, the primary sources for patterns were magazines and newspapers with diagrams and instructions, and ultimately mail-order companies.”  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

mariner's compass crib quilt

“Mariner’s Compass,” from the 1880s.

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“Mariner’s Compass,” detail.

lemoyne star crib quilt

This little “Le Moyne Star” is hand pieced and quilted and is dated to 1840.  I love the on point setting of this little quilt, as well as the use of the red setting triangles in the borders, causing it to look like a shooting star effect.  The title card shared this info about the dye: “Before the synthetic production of alizarin crimson in 1869, printed patterns on textiles were colored by “Turkey Red” dyeing, named for an eastern Mediterranean method that required soaking cloth in oil and dyeing it with madder root.  The print on this quilt resembles chintz patterns from India that were popular in Europe in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century.”

lemoyne star crib quilt detail

The quilt was slightly pinkish; this is not an aberration of photography.

flying geese crib quilt

This “Flying Geese” quilt is hand pieced and hand quilted, by machine bound and dates from 1870.  This one was my favorite in the collections because of its very modern look and the fabulous fabrics.  LACMA’s curator wrote “This quilt exemplifies the reductive nature of quilt imagery, which distills and captures an enduring impression of an object. . . .[namely] the migrations of geese.”

flying geese crib quilt detail

Modern Art Painting random

We walked out through an adjoining gallery, where this painting caught my eye.  Since we were with my sister Christine and her daughter (and baby granddaughter), I didn’t linger, but did think it would make a great quilt.  And while we’re on the subject of fine-art-possibly-inspiring-a-quilt, take a look at these:

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA(found *here*)

This is the work of Karl Benjamin, known as the father of Hard Edge painting.  His ideas are perfect for inspiring quilters, as we work in hard edges, with our seams and our cloth.

Karl Benjamin log cabin(from *here*)

He died two years ago at the age of 86, but has left a legacy of  “vision, not logic” as the LATimes says.  As we quilters struggle with “naming” the different factions of the quilting world (art quilters, traditional quilters, modern quilters. etc.) I loved how he talked about the various labels given to his paintings, in an interview (click if you want to read more):

“Hard Edge got started the late 50s, and I hate that word. It doesn’t mean anything. What’s a soft edge? Monet? To write about something, you have to find a word, so unfortunately I don’t think that was a very good word.
“Abstract Classicism was another one. Someone had a show in London, and irrationally corporate called it Abstract Classicism. Well, it was good for your career, because you had a name now, but it didn’t mean anything. But you take it in context. In any art, there’s the romantic and the classical. It’s always kind of torn between those two poles. So there was Abstract Expressionism, which was accepted for wild painters, which were brand new then, and Abstract Classicism, which was opposed to expressionism. But it balanced out equally.”

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA) May 6, 2012 auction catalogue(from *here*)

You can find more of his paintings *here*  and *here* or just do a search on his name in Google Images.  (Have a great time.) Okay, back to our museum visit. . .

bojagiIt was Korean Day at LACMA and in the courtyard was this quilt-like display, titled “Community Bojagi.”  A bojagi is a “traditional Korean wrapping cloth,” and over 1700 people collaborated to make this riot of color and patches.

Boro(photo from *here*)

It reminded me of boro, the Japanese tradition of mending cloth to keep it viable and which, over time, becomes its own art piece. . . just like some of our quilts.  They, like the crib quilts shown above, are made for use but are often made for display.  Who knows how many of ours will end up in museums a hundred-plus years in the future?