Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Sweet afternoon

It was girls gone wild in Seminole County today. OK, maybe girls gone mild, but at least we went someplace. My dear friend and coworker, Lyn, and I headed to Sanford to check out a little quilt exhibit at the Museum of Seminole County. We stopped for lunch and then entered the museum with a full stomach and tired jaws -- not from chewing, but from talking. Lyn and I can't be together without talking our heads off. It was great.

The museum is a converted Old Folks Home and smells of old, musty things as well as a fireplace that hasn't been cleaned since its last use, which may have been recently -- but in Florida fireplaces don't see a lot of action.

Hanging on the wall were maps of the area before all of the housing developments and road construction. Flat little Central Florida makes for rather bland maps with lakes, rivers and a few incorporated areas serving as the only landmarks we recognized. We couldn't quite pinpoint where our own homes would be located in that desolate territory. Dr. French's family donated many photos and furniture, including a lamp that looked like it would fit in nicely with the Tiffany collection in Winter Park's Morse Museum. But this museum made no allusion or reference to Tiffany, so maybe not. We're still not sure of Dr. French's significance in the community other than he had a generous family willing to donate his stuff.

We saw a collection of firemen's hats, a book with neat handwriting that recorded who had been interred in the local prisons from 1924-44. Only one murderer, several drunks including driving drunk, a couple committed larceny, and a few were involved in disorderly conduct. Orlando probably wishes its docket looked so mild.

A sweet woman, Karen Jacobs, peeked her head out of her office when we entered the museum and pointed us to the building back behind where the quilts were hung. We crossed a pleasant grassy area with brick walkway and inviting wood and wrought iron benches and headed toward the quilts we saw hanging in the windows.

The quilts travel the United States in a collection titled Elements and the individual quilts were from the Front Range Contemporary Quilters. Exhibits USA provides the tours and is a national touring division of Mid-America Arts Alliance, a non-profit regional arts organization based in Kansas city, Missouri.

The art quilts were a pleasant array of quilting techniques -- applique, trapunto, pieced circles and squares, cording and machine quilting. The dozen or so quilts were embellished with organza, ink stamped, beaded and embroidered. The thread painting was remarkable as well as the hand dyed fabrics and hand painting. One, a redwork quilt, made us stop to delve into the subject matter. A basic A, B,C quilt of a period table of elements that not only featured the element but where it could be found. Radon in televisions, if I remember correctly. Some unpronounceable chemical in pesticides....

Another wall hanging was a seascape complete with seashells, and another was a remarkable portrait of a firefighter surrounded by flames of a beautifully hand dyed fabric embellished with thread painting and applique. A giant postcard featuring the Denver skyline, snowflakes and a guy all bundled up against the cold provided an interesting contrast to the sun and sea of some of the other quilted wall hangings as well as the Florida sunshine outside.

We picked our favorites and wrote them on the visitor's sign in book as requested. I went for the Watermelon summer for its use of piecing, applique and generally more quilt-related techniques, although I think my heart was truly with the stamped leaf and nine-patch wall hanging above the vintage Singer sewing machines. Lyn chose one named: Potted. It was a series of circles made to look like three-dimensional pots. Colorful and lavishly embroidered by machine, I thought she made a great choice. She kept saying that she knew nothing about quilts, but if that's true, she at least has an eye for fabric art.

Karen Jacobs hung a few of her own quilts. (We truly fell for the giraffe quilt!) And there were a couple antique quilts -- a crazy quilt that was used in Oviedo as a fundraiser back in the 1990s and an antique Ohio Star quilt. I'm still a sucker for my native state's quilt star.

It was a good day. We plan to return when the teapot exhibit hits town.

For anyone who enjoys a few minutes among antiques and small town history, the museum offers a glimpse at Florida in the 1920s. The museum is located at 300 Bush Blvd. in Sanford. Community pride is strong inside historical society museums and this was no exception.