By Brian Curry
No, I haven’t taken up quilting, but I do admire it for the work of art that it is. That’s right, it’s a true piece of Americana, uniquely “ours” as much as folk art painting or country music.
But I don’t want to make light of it, because it truly is an art form now, but it was born out of necessity in America’s past. Nothing was wasted in our pioneer days and quilting was a big part of that.
Though I had always admired the handiwork of quilting in the past, I grew to appreciate its nuances when Debra and I spent a lot of time traveling the back roads of the Amish country in Pennsylvania. While Debra has not quilted in a long time she is knowledgble in the techniques and craft and this was a rare chance to see quilting in its pure and raw form.
Shown the real thing and up close with time to admire the art involved as well as hear the women describe how they made it was fascinating. When we settled on a purchase it hung in our house like it was a Picasso or Van Gogh.
A friend of mine Diana Berthold is a long time quilter herself and I visited with her as she described what she looks for and the work that goes into a quilt. Diana comes from an extensive fashion and art background and quilting allows her to explore both of those creative facets of her personality.
Berthold also hangs her completed quilts like artwork throughout her beautiful East Patchogue home except for another touch, that of the ribbons and awards that her quilts have garnered through the years. Her quilts are a mosaic of colors and textures that look like they were put together on an artist’s palette.
Berthold believes that the resurgence of quilting perfectly dovetails with women seeking to revive homemade crafts like sewing, knitting and macramé. “For so long young women did not do these things, we were simply competing in the work world, but I think there was a collective feeling that we didn’t want to see it become a lost art.”
Diana, who leans toward to practical useful quilts like bed quilts has literally woven her family’s history into many of hers. With pictures of her, her family, their horses, pets and milestones in her husband, son and daughters life they are tapestries of memories for the Berthold’s.
I asked her how she decides on her subject matter and how long it takes. “I’m a binge quilter,” she laughed. “It usually takes about or month or two from start to finish. If it’s a real person or thing, I start with a picture. I take a long time to search for the colors and fabrics that I will use to blend on the quilt. You have to see the subject, not the fabrics that make it up.”
“The quilts of our horses are the toughest, there are so many shades of the same color to use to accurately portray them. I did a patriotic theme for my son’s Eagle Scout award and I concentrated on patriotic colors and themes”.
Berthold belongs to the Eastern Long Island Quilters Guild, which is based out of the Southold Community Center and finds that experience to be enjoyable as well as educational. “ They promote and teach the craft of quilt making, it’s a wonderful group.
I had spent almost two hours looking at and being shown the nuances of quilt making by Diana and though I know it wouldn’t be considered “macho” to admit it, but it was very interesting and informative. I don’t think I’ll ever pick up a needle myself, but I can appreciate art in any form and the American tradition of quilting certainly qualifies.
You can visit the Eastern Long Island Quilters Guild website at www.ELIQG.org .
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