Saturday, June 26, 2010

Everything old is new again in Mary Kerr's world

Vintage to some are those musty stained remnants of another era. A reminder of grandma's handiwork that is relegated to a cedar chest. We stand clueless as to how to rejuvenate them or integrate them into our current art, quilts or lives.

But for Mary Kerr vintage is the vision for something new and exciting. She challenged several friends and colleagues to use vintage and this lead photo shows Cyndi Souder's interpretation. Old certainly never looked so new! You will be surprised and amazed at what Mary can make out of something old....

Please welcome Mary Kerr in her own words. -- Dawn

I love all things old…. rustic furniture, old friends, driftwood at the beach and antique textiles.

Lots of antique textiles!

I have collected vintage quilts for years and have a large collection that travels with me to teach and lecture. In addition, I hoard fragments of quilts, orphan blocks, linens and sewing “stuff” ---- buttons, lace, sewing cards, etc. I have never been picky about condition and often find myself bringing home the runt of the litter --- that tattered piece that no one else can imagine as useful. My passion is to incorporate these cast-off pieces into contemporary quilts.

My work ranges from traditional to art.
I am not bound by a single genre as long I am able to incorporate my vintage pieces into each design. Stars for Grandma Kay (See Photo 2) was included in the IQA Quilts in the American Tradition exhibit that traveled in 2007-2008. The central appliqué unit was found in my Grandmother’s home and is circa 1940. I pieced the stars and saw tooth border using vintage fabrics and incorporated a fragment of a damaged Flower Garden top from the 1930’s. Only the black fabric was purchased new. It was hand quilted by Didi Salvatierra.

The art piece, I Would Dance (See Photo 3) was created for my local guild challenge. Each participant was given a fortune cookie and challenged to create a quilt inspired by the fortune. Mine asked, “What would you do if you had no fear?”

I created this piece using fragments of lace, linens, jewelry and buttons that had belonged to my grandmothers. The foundation is a scrap of a cutter quilt and the pieces are layered beside the image of me dancing.

This was my first vintage collage quilt and began a series of quilts that all incorporate those nontraditional pieces we find in our sewing baskets, jewelry boxes and dresser drawers. I love teaching this technique and watching as my students get excited about incorporating these treasured pieces into their quilts.

I will frequently work with orphan blocks and finish them in a variety of ways. This set of four small quilts was created during a beach retreat when I was playing with techniques and design. Each of the 11 inch quilts incorporated a vintage pink and white star block, circa 1940. Edisto (See Photo 4) features marbled fabric by Linda Cooper and found objects from my morning beach walk.
Happy Hour (Photo 6) plays with folded fabrics and button embellishment.
Tropical Smoothie (See Photo 5) showcases a woven technique with thread painting.

Pretty in Pink (Photo 7) is a cascade of buttons over a simple pieced background.

As I played with various sets of vintage blocks, I began to wonder what would happen if we divided a set of blocks among a larger group of artists?

Would anyone else want to work with the vintage pieces? In 2006, I sent out letters to a group of friends asking them to play with me. My invitees were an eclectic mix of friends and quilting acquaintances. Within the group we have art quilters, quilt historians, judges, appraisers, hand quilters, a textile artist and new quilters. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into as Vintage Revisited was born.

Over the course of two years, I distributed six sets of vintage blocks to these adventurous artists. The block was theirs to play with! Each artist received an identical block. They could add to it, cut it up, embellish it, recreate it, improve upon it, and more. The only requirements were that the finished quilt be their original design, that it measure 24 x 24 inches, and that the original block be included in the final project.

The second block in the challenge, shown here (Photo 8), is an Odd Fellows block from 1880. The color combination appealed to some of my artists and others were appalled. Here are a sample of their interpretations:

A Pennsylvania Sampler by Barb Garrett

It's About Time by Cyndi Souder

Two Roads Diverged by Pam Weeks

Not Odd Anymore by Karen Dever

There was a wide range on interpretations and every quilt was unique and exciting. I loved that we were able to create a challenge that allowed each artist to create in her own style. It is a project that allows everyone to participate at their individual pace, level and comfort zone.

When I started this project, my initial expectation was that we would display the quilts at a couple of shows. Today this collection of 117 has been exhibited all over the country and is currently scheduled to be traveling through 2014.
The single magazine article has blossomed into a wonderful book that captures the voices and talents of each of my artists. A Quilt Block Challenge: Vintage Revisited was published in May and is now available at my web site, through Schiffer publishing and hopefully at local quilt shops around the country.

Working with this group of women has been a joy and I am so very blessed to be a part of our amazing quilt community!

Check out Mary Kerr's website.


ann said...

Thanks for this post. I am another one who has 'treasures' from another era, actually most were done in the early part of the last century. Mine have lots of stains. However, I was able to use part of an old hanky for a collar on a portrait of my Mom. This has given me a wealth of ideas.

Jeanne Turner McBrayer said...

What a great post! Loved seeing the exciting quilts made from the vintage textile treasures.

Nellie's Needles said...

Wonderful! I'll have to come back to get acquainted with the other women armed with needles who are featured in this subversive blog.