Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sisters: Jean Wells Keenan is the Toast of the Town

Jean Wells Keenan during the artist’s reception for her show at the High Desert Gallery in Sisters.

by Bill Volckening 

I should be sleeping right now. Big day (yikes!). It’s my first time attending the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show in Sisters, Oregon. Sisters is a small community in central Oregon with less than 2000 residents. But each summer in early July, the town transforms into a quilt mecca welcoming tens of thousands of visitors for Quilters Affair and the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show. 

Approximately 1200 quilts are displayed outdoors during the quilt show, now in its 35th year. Quilt show founder and quilt guru Jean Wells Keenan displayed just a handful of quilts in her first show, and she wanted it to have the feel of an arts festival. After many years and tremendous growth, the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show remarkably maintains the feeling of an arts festival. 

The Oregon Quilt Project is here, and we’re trying a mobile quilt documentation all over town - but the real story is Jean Wells Keenan, who is absolutely the toast of the town! Keenan has been present at most of the events throughout the week, including Thursday’s artist’s reception at the High Desert Gallery, where she is showing recent work; an exuberant presentation by Ricky Tims later Thursday evening, and Friday’s picnic and quilt retrospective with Alex Anderson. During the evening, Karen Alexander and Mary Bywater Cross payed tribute to Keenan with news and notes about her induction in the Quilters Hall of Fame. And what a lucky guy I am - I had a seat toward the front!

Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims brought enthusiasm and humor to the quilt presentation at Friday’s picnic.

I’ve only been here for the last couple days, but it’s been going on all week - and what a mind-blowing experience! It’s serendipitous to be here for the first time when the town is celebrating Keenan, who has had such a significant and far-reaching positive impact. Quilt Show Director Ann Richardson, who appeared at the picnic to thank the sponsors and pay tribute to Keenan, also deserves much credit for the success of this amazing community event. - as do the hundreds of volunteers, staff, and community partners. It takes an army!

So, I’m ready for the main event! The camera battery is charged, I’ve got a flip-cam for shooting some video footage, sunscreen and extra towels. We’re setting up the Oregon Quilt Project booth early, so I really should try to get some sleep. I’ll be dreaming of an entire town covered head-to-toe in quilts. Sounds like heaven!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Two Patriotic Quilts

OQP # 2010-01-002 - “My American Log Cabin” by Sally Powers Rogers 

Two patriotic quilts made a huge impression on me during our first documentation day on April 28th in Sisters, Oregon. Both quilts were made by Sally Powers Rogers of Redmond, and both took classic patterns to a whole new level. 

The first quilt was called “My American Log Cabin” (pictured above) and was machine pieced during “Desert Storm” in 1991 in Tacoma, Wash., and hand quilted in Redmond during the 2003 Iraqi War. I was immediately struck by how well made and sturdy the quilt was. It was perfectly square, had a nice weight, and included a wonderful selection of fabrics in patriotic red, white, and blue. Rogers’ artistry and sense of purpose made a well-known pattern something completely new.

OQP # 2010-01-003 - “Patriotic Nine-Patch” by Sally Powers Rogers

The second quilt (above) was called “Patriotic 9-Patch” and included birthday blocks from the Ridge Rippers Quilters. It was machine pieced, strippy, a la Kaye England, and hand quilted with wool batt. Rogers made the quilt for her father on his 100th birthday, June 21st, 2005, and the array of patriotic fabrics was simply unbelievable! This quilt transported me to the 19th century, and made me feel like I was looking at a very old quilt the day it was finished. It was fantastic! 

OQP # 2010-01-003 - “Patriotic Nine-Patch” by Sally Powers Rogers (detail)
We don’t always think of recently made quilts as historic objects, but these quilts truly captured history. Both arrived for documentation as cherished family objects in perfect condition, and both were eloquent, concise statements about the era. The last two decades were a time of incredible change - a time when people of the United States felt and expressed patriotism in the face of many great challenges. The two quilts from Sally Powers Rogers are strong visual and cultural statements. They celebrate freedom, paying tribute to the past, saluting the present, and looking optimistically toward the future.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Day Two Favorites

OQP # 2010-02-035 - rescued by owner, who pulled it from a trash dumpster.

By Lori DeJarnatt

I was so pleased when Bill and Martha asked me to be a guest blogger on the OQP site. They thought it would be beneficial to have a participants' perspective. I'm qualified only because I love quilts and believe in the importance of documenting Oregon's quilting heritage. (I think I'm getting better at hanging quilts too!)
Last Saturday was my second day spent volunteering with the Oregon Quilt Project!! I'm hoping for more opportunities to help in the future. It was a great day and we saw some awesome quilts and heard some terrific stories. So let's get to it!! Here are a few of my favorites.

OQP # 2010-02-030 - Ocean Waves with printed background fabric.

I thought this Ocean Waves was interesting with the use of a printed background. It was a traditional pattern done in an untraditional way. The variety of fabric was astounding!

The Double T quilt (pictured at top) was rescued from the trash.  Can you even begin to think about this beauty in the dumpster!!? I hope the quilt project raises awareness to non quilters about the historical value of quilts!!

Because I was helping with the photography I didn't hear the story about this signature quilt (below). Bill figured out it had about 800+ embroidered signatures!!  

OQP # 2010-02-036 - Signature quilt, made in Portland and written in German

This graphic postage stamp quilt (below) was one of my favorites. The patches finish at  7/8"! I'm pretty sure it was made before strip piecing!! Amazing!!

OQP # 2010-02-041 - postage stamp patchwork quilt with a multitude of fabrics

My favorite story of the day is from the maker of a yellow nine-patch strip quilt. A mom and daughter brought several quilts in to be documented. The "mom"  started this quilt when she was 11 years old!! She was the cutest lady (I think we all would have loved to have her as a grandma)  and really enjoyed telling us about her quilts. These are the stories we need preserved!!

Do these ladies look like they take their job seriously or what? They are very knowledgeable and actually record in writing all the pertinent information about the quilt.

I encourage you all to be a part of the Oregon Quilt Project. There are many opportunities to volunteer or bring in a quilt or two to be documented. Do you know someone who has a quilt that should be a part of this project? Check the calendar and participate in the Oregon Quilt Project.

Lori DeJarnatt started quilting around 1983, before her first child was born. She took her first quilt class with Jean Wells at the Stitchin' Post in 1993, and was inspired. After being exposed to quilts, Lori started noticing older quilts and all their fun, “make-do” quirks. She appreciates all kinds of quilts, but her favorites are the old ones. Lori blogs about quilts on her personal blog, called “Humble Quilts”. To visit Lori’s blog, click here.