Gift #1001: A thing of beauty

We’ve been experiencing quite unseasonably cool and rainy weather. The past few days when I’ve walked out to my car, my subconscious thinks “How lovely it would be to have a bowl of pumpkin soup for dinner and then curl up next to the fire with some cozy knitting…oh, and maybe I’ll see leaves turning on the way home!” (Fall is never far from my mind). It takes a few minutes to reorient myself to the fact that it’s actually May, not October and none of the aforementioned activities are really appropriate. But that hasn’t stopped me from running the heater!! This past weekend was really cold and windy and it found my mom and I planted at the art museum for the day. One of the new exhibits that I’ve wanted to see is called “A Joy Forever” and showcases quilts made by Mrs. Marie Webster (1859-1956).
In honor of our bicentennial, many museums are showcasing remarkable Hoosiers. Mrs. Webster lived in Marion Indiana, where she quilted and ran her mail-order pattern business with her sister. I was surprised to learn that she didn’t take up quilt-making until she was in her 50s – she’s an excellent example of the adage that you’re never too old to do…anything! Her many original patterns were featured in popular periodicals, she wrote a best-seller book on the history of quilting, traveled all over the country lecturing about quilting, and ran a wildly successful business, all the while re-igniting the popularity of quilts as objects of beauty and utility. In a sweet touch of gratitude, her home is now a National Landmark and quilting museum.

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I’d never heard of her before, but I was delighted to learn about her and see some of her personality displayed in her enduring art form. The piece above is a lovely example of her quilting style. She added fresh life to quilting by drawing inspiration from floral motifs in her garden and creating more free-form designs. I learned from a conversation with an employee that she was one of the first to pioneer the use of pastels and subtle colors in quilts. Up till that time, most quilts were made in bright, bold colors. Her creative use of pastels was wildly popular and created enduring trends.

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Sunflowers was a unique piece because of the warm tones and the strong, deep border. I was impressed with her eye for balanced design and admire the way the sunflowers achieve a balance of being visually interesting but not overwhelming. The design is quite unified. I also liked the wavy border which is made of several ombre colors from light to dark. She had very creative edgings – I had no idea quilts could have anything but straight edges! Another motif that Mrs. Webster introduced to quiltmaking was to sew decorative images in the background as a subtle nod to the main pattern. She achieved brilliant results – in the sunflower quilt, she sewed spiderwebs and flower buds in the center. Here’s a closeup so you can see better. Spiderwebs on a quilt!! Wow!!

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Dogwoods was one of my favorite. It’s a beautiful, graceful design with the wavy edges and diamond pattern of blossoms. I loved how each set of blossoms is anchored with a tree trunk into the border and the extra green leaf motif in the center provides a strong visual and pulls green across the design while keeping it simple and calming. Like in Sunflowers, she stitched shadow dogwoods in the background – it really adds a layer of interest that doesn’t overwhelm the overall effect. You probably can’t see in the photo, but each blossom has a tiny nick cut out of it and deeper pink fabric sewn behind so that the blossoms are two-toned and very realistic.

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Grapes and Vines is widely considered her magnum opus. It’s made of over 1240 grapes – each cut out by hand, along with leaves and tendrils and all hand-sewn into place. The signage informed visitors that this quilt was inspired by a popular nineteenth century “four-block” design. Ever one for putting her own mark on a pattern, Mrs. Webster added appliqued motifs to divide the blocks up. She had a marked eye for design and color and I will be spending more time studying her design to learn from her.
I hope you enjoyed a brief look at some of her quilts… you might see more in the future. Because, as the name of the exhibit reminds us, a thing of beauty is a joy forever.
Blessings to you,
Sarah

magnum opus.  It’s made of over 1240 grapes – each cut out by hand, along with leaves and tendrils and all hand-sewn into place.  The signage informed visitors that this quilt was inspired by a popular nineteenth century “four-block” design. Ever one for putting her own mark on a pattern, Mrs. Webster added appliqued motifs to divide the blocks up.  She had a marked eye for design and color and I will be spending more time studying her design to learn from her.

I hope you enjoyed a brief look at some of her quilts… you might see more in the future.  Because, as the name of the exhibit reminds us, a thing of beauty is a joy forever.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

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One Response to Gift #1001: A thing of beauty

  1. Eliza Waters says:

    Wow, these quilts are phenomenal. So glad you shared them – thank you, Sarah. Blessings!

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