A Day In Lowell - New England’s Quilt Capital
by Diane Powers Harris
Learning that the New England Quilt Museum (NEQM) was not planning their biennial quilt show, Images,
brought huge disappointment to many in the region. However, NEQM didn’t
leave us without a replacement destination as they planned and
implemented a city wide Summer Celebration of Quilts by providing a series of quilt/textile exhibits and lectures.
In a recent NEQM monthly newsletter, I read that Beatriz Grayson, an
art quilter whose work I greatly admire, was presenting a lecture about
working in series and creating a body of work through developing a
theme. My newfound friend Sarah Daniels and I decided to register and
attend. The lecture was wonderfully thought provoking with many
suggestions and ideas for artistic development and growth.
Beatriz brought numerous examples of her work showing how easy it is
to create a body of work from a simple motif. In this instance she used a
heart theme - all quilts presented to her husband over the years on
The second grouping were examples of her student’s work. Beatriz
provided her students with a line drawing of two birds sitting on a
branch. The only real requirement was a size definition. Other than
that, she encouraged her students to interpret the subject however they
saw fit. The results were amazingly creative and diverse.
Both sets of examples gave the audience a basis for understanding the
developmental process in creating a series of work while exploring a
specific subject to promote artistic growth. One hint that was a
"lightbulb ah ha" moment for me was Beatriz’ suggestion to create
"yardage" from leftovers of the current project. This provides the
artist with not only an immediate foundation for a future project, but
effectively uses up the scraps and strips.
During a series of emails with Janice Jones, I mentioned that Sarah
and I would be in Lowell for Beatriz’ lecture. Janice immediately wrote
back telling me about her group, Broad Strokes and their exhibit in the
Lowell Telecommunications Center as well as an afternoon lecture/demo at
the Brush Art Gallery and Studios. She also invited us to visit her
studio in the Brush Art Gallery. Since Lowell is a three hour drive each
way for us, we thought to take advantage of the invitation and make a
day of it.
After being inspired by Beatriz Grayson’s lecture, we ate our lunch
just outside the lecture venue on a tree shaded park bench enjoying the
beauty of the day along with the birds, squirrels and chipmunks. Once we
finished lunch, we had time to walk over to NEQM to see the Best of Show exhibit.
This amazing exhibit featured Best of Show quilts from various shows
across New England. Each quilt was a wonderful example of what
quiltmakers are creating in our region. I was absolutely blown away with
the intricacy, creativity, diversity of techniques and even humor
detailed in these masterpieces.
Also on display was a lovely selection of new quilts inspired and
recreated from vintage quilts. All were executed beautifully and
precisely followed the inspiration quilt.
Next we wandered back over to the Brush Art Gallery where we visited
the various artist studios showcasing assorted artistic disciplines. For
those of you who have never visited, the setup is delightful. The
spaces are reminiscent of an old European avenue of specialty boutiques.
Signage announcing each studio and exciting displays by the artists
enticed the strollee into the various studios. Also on display through
September 12 is the exhibit Book Illustration: Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys,
a compilation of cover art for these teenage super sleuths. All in all,
food for the eye and inspiration for the artistic process!
The lecture/demo was presided over by four of the seven members of
Broad Strokes. Each member discussed her area of expertise and how she
incorporates her technique(s) into her art. At the conclusion of the
lecture, the audience was invited to the Lowell Telecommunications
Center, located just across the courtyard, to view their exhibit Broad Strokes - Pushing Quilts to Art which will be on display until August 29, 2015.
As a group, these quilt makers explore artistic techniques and fabric
manipulation through original design work. Their exhibit was amazing as
it showcased many of the techniques they have discovered together while
keeping in touch with their own individual style. Comprised of art
pieces that are their interpretation and depiction of a specific
expressive word created an extremely unified, cohesive exhibit that
showcased each member’s "voice."
Alas, a truly incredible day filled with creativity, inspiration,
visual stimulation, and best of all, friendship must eventually come to a
close. But wait!, there’s more... Completely apropos to nothing, my
icing on the cake was stopping in Tilton, NH to get a new pair of
desperately needed sandals. The pair I purchased were not only on sale
and in my favorite color of coral, but I had enough punches on my reward
card to get an additional $30 off! Quilts, inspiration, friendship and a
bargain on shoes, what more could a girl desire?!
In closing, I just want to say this event was extremely well done. It
showed a great deal of thought, effort and planning by NEQM to make
this such a memorable day. An added benefit was discovering so many new
places (many just a short walk from NEQM) to see and visit in future
trips to Lowell. It’s not just New England Quilt Museum, it’s a
quilter’s dream destination. I sincerely hope the museum has plans to
again do something of this nature in the years to come.