Thursday, March 19, 2009

Maria Elkins 'Making Faces' for Quilting Arts TV

Faces. Portraits. Drawing people has been my passion ever since my art teacher taught about proportions in the seventh grade.

In the early 1990s, I saw the incredibly exciting work of Charlotte Warr Anderson, and I finally realized that quilting and portraits could be merged. For the last fifteen years, the majority of my own quilt making has focused on people and portraits.

In January 2009, Pokey Bolton of Quilting Arts Magazine contacted me about possibly filming a DVD workshop. I was in shock. Whatever could I talk about? Pokey laughed, and suggested a workshop on portrait quilts. Duh!

For the next couple of weeks, I was dazed and paralyzed, but then I panicked and started working in a frenzy to develop a curriculum and sew a series of samples. I fretted over what to teach and how to present it. I spent hours organizing each segment. I had to have a partially completed sample for each step of each project, and I had to have a spare for each step just in case something had to be re-filmed. Then it was time to practice, practice, practice so I knew what I was going to say.

When D-day finally arrived my husband, Dave, and I drove up to Cleveland, and I started to get really nervous. I’m an introvert. I don’t do public speaking. What was I thinking? Why did I ever say yes to this?

We arrived at the hotel and I decided to iron my shirts and some fabric. I had the steam iron going full blast for about thirty minutes when suddenly the smoke alarm went off and the entire hotel was evacuated. I was petrified! Did the steam from my iron set it off? Thankfully, no. It was an alarm at the far end of the building.

Monday, I reported to the studio at 9 a.m. for make-up. Yikes! I never wear make-up. I looked weird, but they assured me I'd look "right" on film. Then the waiting game began.

My 10-minute segment for the PBS Quilting Arts TV show was scheduled to film the very last spot that day. So I waited, and got nervous, and tried not to rub my make-up covered nose when I sniffled. And then I waited some more. While I waited, I met some terrific people: Pokey Bolton, Frieda Anderson, Yvonne Porcella, Laura Wasilowski, Malka Dubrawsky, Julie Balzer, Loralie Harris, Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero, Jay McCar

roll, Alisa Burke, and all the other wonderful folks (Kathie Stull, Katherine Lamanscu, Helen Gregory, etc.) who make this all possible.

I was in awe. Why was I there?

Throughout the day it was fascinating watching Pokey. The entire season of the Quilting Arts TV show is filmed during six consecutive days. All of the guests come at different times, so everything is filmed completely out of sequence and then reassembled later so it looks like it was filmed all at the same time. Pokey was continually changing outfits depending on which week that segment would eventually air. They had photos of each outfit so she would always put on the right clothes and the right accessories. She’d run into the studio and film for ten or fifteen minutes, run out, change clothes, run back in, and do it all again.

When it was finally my turn, I rushed into the studio and set up my stuff. Pokey came in. I must have said something, because suddenly it was over!

What did I say? I’ll have to wait to see the TV show!

Dave and I left for dinner. By the time we got back to the hotel, I was exhausted. How could filming for 10 minutes make me so tired? I slept for an hour, and then got up to start practicing what I would say the next day. He finally convinced me to go to bed around midnight, but at 3 AM I woke up

and my mind took off running. I never did get back to sleep.

The second day I arrived for make-up at 8:45. I was scheduled to film my DVD workshop, "Making Faces," at 4 pm. By then I had chewed off all the lipstick, and the conceale

r couldn't possibly hide the dark rings under my eyes, but I tried to pretend I was calm, and I tried hard to remember everything I wanted to say. It was a huge relief when my filming was done. By then it was getting late, so we packed everything up in a hurry and hit the road for home. I was sure I’d immediately fall asleep on the way home, but no, my mind was going faster than the car. All I could think of were the things I forgot to say!

Looking back, I realize what a huge gift Pokey offered me. I had to work incredibly hard to prepare in advance, but I loved the process: everything from working through the steps in my mind, to organizing the teaching materials and making the samples. Filming the workshop pushed me way outside my comfort zone, but if there is a “next time,” I think I’ll be a little less nervous.

It’s always scary to offer yourself up to the public since you don’t know how they’ll respond. Is there anyone who really wants to make faces other than me? Maybe no one will be interested. Nevertheless, I know that I’ve made the offer with the best that was in me, so I’m content to leave it at that. Now I can return to my quiet studio and try to figure out how to put everything away!

Click here to order her DVD: Making Faces.

Photos: 1. Violinist (Maria's eldest daughter Lydia); 2.

Pokey Bolton and Maria

on the set; 3. Bethany (youngest daughter) in Magenta; 4. Maria's Making Faces DVD with husband Dave on the cover; 5.Making Faces (Bethany on the left, Lydia, right.)

I first saw Maria Elkins' work while looking for extraordinary examples and unique uses of the Ohio Star pattern for an article for Quilters World. When I saw her

Ohio Dreaming, I fell in love. It said so much and was so beautifully made. (See blog dated August 22, 2008). Her quilts (along with several others' work) were featured in that article: Travel the Galaxy of Ohio Stars. The image of her quilt has stayed with me, maybe because I'm an Ohioan dreaming to get back home and she was a transplant to Ohio, dreaming of her roots. But, as you can see from this blog Maria Elkins is modest and humble -- and greatly talented. Thanks for accepting the invitation and for providing a fascinating guest blog. -- Dawn


Jackie Kirner said...

Thank you for that terrific tale of behind the scenes taping. I know I can relate to the fears of public speaking and trepidation over the process.

Well done - I'm looking forward to seeing the taped episode!

Barbara Strobel Lardon said...

Well I for one look forward to seeing you on Quilting Arts. I totally related to this story as I am like you, not a public speaker. You overcame your fears and that is something to be so proud of!

Anonymous said...

I loved your quilt Ohio dreaming. Cant wait for the video. Thank you

Anonymous said...

Dawn, this post really seemed to capture the authentic Maria Elkins. Her work is stunning, and her modesty endearing. I really enjoyed your links to other artists as well.

The post convinced me that I should purchase "Making Faces," so I am sure that Maria will be pleased with your efforts!

Dawn said...

Thanks for your comments. I enjoy writing the blog and inviting people in who have delights to share. It is icing on the cake when I get to see others finding the blog worthwhile. And Maria is a dear to share this experience with us.

I'm so glad that Maria's DVD will find a good home with you Carol! I look forward to seeing the faces you make!


Anonymous said...

I just read your blog and pre-ordered Maria's DVD. Can't wait to get it! Thanks for the link! xooxm