Tuesday, February 26, 2013
QuiltCon: Denyse Schmidt
My friend, Deborah, who came up from Houston to see the quilts said, “I’m surprised you came.” She said that because I was just in Texas a few months ago for Fall Quilt Market. Even though I had just made a trip, how could I resist an event put on by the Modern Quilt Guild?
I’ve said before that I became a modern quilter once I picked up the Modern Quilt Workshop by Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr. That was in 2005. I was so moved by what I saw in their book that I looked them up and took their class on quilt design. (Sorry, I don’t remember the name!) Seeing the work of Weeks and Bill, the work of Denyse Schmidt and seeing the exhibit, The Quilts of Gee’s Bend, made me feel as though I’d found my quilting home. My journey as a quilter started around the same time the modern movement started. That’s why I had to go to QuiltCon. And I’m so glad I did.
Many bloggers and tweeters have shared the pictures they took of the quilts. I will share mine later. But first, I want to talk about Denyse Schmidt and her class I took: String Pieced Zippy Purse. Yup. I got to take a class with one of my heroes. I was in awe. But I was also a bit frazzled as I had just flown into Austin and entered the class a bit late. She didn’t mind though. She just had me jump right in. Denyse is a great teacher. She is easy going and helpful. It felt as if I’d already known her!
If you are a fan of Denyse you know that she is known for her improvisational quilts. She had us use improvisational piecing to create a small purse with a zipper. We sewed strips of fabric of different sizes onto an oilcloth rectangle. We then put in a zipper, folded the rectangle and sewed up the sides. I have never tried improvisational piecing on my own, but I will certainly try it now. And the zippy purse is something you can whip up in no time and makes a great gift.
Denyse was also the keynote speaker for QuiltCon. She talked about her influences: her parents, who grew up during the depression, saved everything and made everything; her work at RISD, namely a stone cutting class; graphic design and eventually quilting. A few points really resonated with me. Denyse spoke of an assignment in one of her early classes.
She created a small book based on personality traits. The things we wanted people to think about us were on light pages. The things we really feel were on dark pages. The design came from the content.
She was introduced to Appalachian music and from it she learned the importance of cultivating your own style.
She spoke of Anna Williams, a woman who made beautiful improvisational quilts in a tiny room, not in a spacious studio. Work with what you’ve got.
Finally, Denyse peppered the slides that accompanied her talk with sayings from famous people. My favorites:
Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken. -- Oscar Wilde
You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. -- Jack London
After all the eloquent words from Denyse, I feel bad subjecting you to my zippy purse, but here it is in all its glory. I accidentally sliced through my bag with my rotary cutter. Not to worry, a nice stitch on one of the Janome machines provided for the class fixed it right up!