Arts and Entertainment

Contemporary quilt show opens at Penn Cove Pottery

Elin Noble
Elin Noble's 'Fugitive Pieces' quilt is part of the 'Elin Noble and Other Strong Women' contemporary quilt show at Penn Cove Pottery starting Saturday, Oct. 10.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Elin Noble

One does not usually associate the craft of sewing with strength.

But if you consider the pioneering women of America who endured the travails of homesteading in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, and the archive of hand-made quilts made by them that provide a social history of that period, strong is exactly what they were.

Today, there is one group of women who sew and call themselves “Pat LaFon and Other Strong Women.” LaFon is the organizer, and they come from the United States and Canada, meeting once every year at the Fort Worden barracks in Port Townsend to sew, discuss quilting techniques and hanker for beautiful fabric, as quilters often do.

Certain members of the group will join internationally known author, teacher and textile artist Elin Noble in their first group show at Penn Cove Pottery in Coupeville.

“Elin Noble and Other Strong Women,” a show of contemporary art quilts, opens Saturday, Oct. 10 with an artists’ reception from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The show will run through Nov. 28.

The show features the distinctive fabrics which Noble has created, not only in her own quilts but also in the quilts of the 11 “strong women” who join her.

Truly an international exhibit, the show was juried by Canadian artist Barbara Shelly, and includes work by three Canadian artists and eight American artists, including two Whidbey Island quilters, Jo Van Patten and Judie Hoyman.

Van Patten said it was Canadian quilt artist Kristin Rohr who deserves credit for creating the idea for the show.

Noble, a member of the group and a master dyer, brings her fellow artists a treat when they meet.

“Every year she arrives with suitcases of gorgeous fabric, and every year we buy yards and yards,” Rohr said.

“I wanted to see what had been made using these fabrics and motivate some to actually use the fabric that looks too good to cut. So

I organized the show.”

Juror Shelly chose the quilts for the show. Her criteria included good design, the basic principles that apply to creating a fine quilt and, in particular, an appropriate use of the cloth.

Noble’s pieces showcase her expertise with dyes.

Noble is the author of “Dyes & Paints: A Hands-On Guide to Coloring Fabric,” winner of the 1999 Independent Publisher book award for the best how-to book.

Her experience with fabric is not to be beaten. Not only does she hold a bachelor of fine arts in fiber arts from the University of Washington, she was also a lab manager at PRO Chem, which gave her a vast understanding of and experience with dyes. She has appeared on PBS, lectured and conducted dye and paint workshops across North America as well as internationally. Her work has been reviewed in Fiberarts Magazine, is on the cover of Fine Wood-working Design Book Six, and was included in the traveling exhibition of Fiberart International 2004. She was nominated for “the teacher of the year” award for 2005 by Professional Quilter magazine.

“This exhibition is very exciting for me to be a part of,” Noble said. “I feel honored by all the women at this retreat, and I am so impressed by their imagination and inventiveness. It is quite a rush to feel all this energy.”

Van Patten took the challenge and used mainly Noble’s fabric in her quilt for the show, along with some of her own hand-dyed fabric. She is inspired by Noble and by the idea that anything is possible with color.

“She is such a down-to-earth person, friend, more than an artistic inspiration,” Van Patten said.

In fact, Van Patten said she considers all the women in the group friends, and they inspire each other equally.

“I love the colors,” she said. “I love working with fabric, not only in two-dimensional quilts, but also in three-dimensional vessels. I am continually learning, and am now on to digital printing on fabric. It is never-ending.”

“Elin Noble and Other Strong Women” promises to be one quilt show that challenges its artists to think outside the box.

“All of these quilts are original designs,” said Rohr. “To create something new in a time-honored medium, in an era of speed and mass production, requires a certain strength. Finding the time to complete the vision also requires strength. The show displays a variety of strong voices: some quietly firm, and some energized and active.”

The show includes the work of Elin Noble, Jo Van Patten, Judie Hoyman, Melisse Lang, Lucinda Langjahr, Carol Olsen, Charlie Petersen, Ann Sanderson, Carol Webb, Kristin Rohr, Susan Duffield and Myrna Giesbrecht.

Look for Noble’s workshops at the Pacific Northwest Arts School in Coupeville on resist and clamp dyeing of fabrics.

Penn Cove Pottery is on Highway 20, north of Coupeville. Call 360-678-6464 for details.

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