Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Inspiration struck Ellen Guerrant like a hurricane!

Dawn asked me to write a guest column after seeing a photo of my quilt Hurricane Warning on my blog. Thank you, Dawn. -- Ellen Guerrant

Living in Florida has brought hurricanes into my life with a new uncomfortable reality. When I saw Ellen's quilt, somehow it was soothing and put things back into perspective. I thoroughly enjoyed her creative use of a weather map and warning flags and the tiny bird in the center of the storm (that's me!). As a journalist and a creative soul I am always interested in the story behind the story and this quilt piqued my curiosity. Thanks Ellen for sharing your art and your inspiration. -- Dawn

Please welcome Ellen Guerrant in her own words! And note the photo of the quilt that inspired this blog: Hurricane Warning, 42x55” Fused appliqué.

My quilting began with a class at the YWCA. I jokingly tell everyone I only chose quilting because the aerobics class was full. I was so hooked after the first class that I went looking for an all-night fabric store!

My quilts were traditional at first, but quickly began to reflect my own design ideas and more personal themes. I joined guilds and professional organizations and was soon teaching and lecturing on what had become my life’s work.

I’m from the tall grass prairie – one of four sisters born in the Land of Lincoln. I was familiar with tornadoes and storm cellars but knew nothing about hurricanes until I moved to North Carolina.

When the Professional Art Quilt Association (PAQA–South) issued a call for entries for Vantage Point–South: Art Quilts, the rules stated, “Each quilt must illuminate the vantage point of the Southern artist.” Oh my. Ideas came and went until it was almost too late. With the deadline looming large, I suddenly remembered an image seen years before.

We’d been watching news of evacuations from Charleston just prior to hurricane Hugo when I’d
been struck by the graphic beauty of the red and black flags seen whipping in the strong winds. I later learned these were hurricane warning flags.

Hurricane warning flags! Of course! I would use them in my entry. As many good ideas do, this one struck in the middle of the night. With no time to waste and no time to go to a quilt shop for the perfect fabrics, I was forced to go shopping in my stash.

My color scheme began with the red and black of the flags themselves. A white fabric with black abstract scattered lines reminiscent of flying debris made a perfect background. Then I chose two border fabrics. Strong graphically, they began as black on white and gradated to white on black.

As I pinned the first fabrics to my design wall, I suddenly knew this quilt would be larger than the 20x24” I had originally planned. This quilt had to have impact! It had to be BIG, by my standards.

For the hurricane image itself. I needed a swirling motion – but had to think a bit about how to place concentric circles on the white background fabric without having to mark it. As placement guides, I cut a huge circle from freezer paper and then smaller and smaller ones which were ironed onto the background fabric one at a time.

I literally composed Hurricane Warning by ironing fused fabric shapes of red, black and gray directly to the background fabric on my design wall. A fabric printed like a newspaper, with a weather forecast, became part of one circle along with the word No! In the very center I placed a cutout of a bird - a virtual bird’s eye view.

This quilt had to come together very quickly, as I had just one week to deadline. I finished just in time to get slides in the mail.

I later learned jurors Susan Brandeis, artist and professor at NC State University College of Design and Jane Shuping Tyndall, owner of Tyndall Galleries in Chapel Hill, had chosen 45 quilts from 30 artists from eight southeastern states for Vantage Point-South. I was so pleased that Hurricane Warning was among them, and totally thrilled when it was chosen for the show’s poster and postcard image!

The quilt was later shown in Explorations in Fiber: New Works (by members of the Art Quilt Network) at The Concourse Gallery, Upper Arlington, OH, and subsequently purchased for its permanent collection.

Hurricane Warning was one of those magical quilts that “just happened.” I had a very limited amount of time and a limited number of fabric choices. These both worked to my advantage. We sometimes tell ourselves we have to have every fabric available, every new gadget. I didn’t, and I know quilters before us didn’t. They used what they had; I used what I had.

This quilt is very unlike my other work, some of which is shown here. I create bright contemporary quilts, frequently inspired by the humble log cabin, as well as those with more personal themes.

2. Hold on My Heart....Throw Me a Lifeline 52” square. Commercial cottons and silk, hand painted and beaded. Created as a healing quilt for my family following the heart transplant of our son.
3. His Eye is on the Sparrow, 20x24” Commercial cotton, hand-dyed and painted fabrics, my son Matthew’s shirt from 3rd grade.
4. Toast with Jam 26x31” Commercial, hand-dyed and repurposed cottons. Hand-dyed chenille cording.
5. We Fix Broken Hearts, 51x63” Collage and pieced cottons and hand-dyed fabrics. Painted and beaded. Created to honor those who heal.

Ellen teaches and lectures nationally. Please visit her website and blog for information on her workshops and patterns.

Bio: With a teaching style described as relaxed and enabling Ellen loves sharing her passion for innovative design. She encourages students to find their own creative voice by veering off the paths labeled safe and correct.

A free-spirited quilt artist, Ellen has conducted workshops for conferences such as AQS, NQA, NCQSI (North Carolina Quilt Symposium), VCQ (Virginia Consortium of Quilters), Gulf Coast, Tampa Bay and dozens of guilds across the country.

Ellen was the featured artist in American Quilter magazine, spring 2007. Her work has been published in Focus on Batiks, Great American Quilts 2004, Quilter’s Newsletter magazine, IQA Journal fall 2002, spring and summer 2003 and summer 2004, Quilting Today and American Quilter (article) 1992.

Her work has been exhibited internationally and is in many collections. She has received over 70 awards.

Ellen attended Northern Illinois University as an education major. She lives in Charlotte NC with her husband Bill and their grand-dog, Numa. Their son Matthew and his wife Suzie will soon make their home in Asheville NC. In addition to her quilting interests, Ellen owns a small antiques business and collects vintage textiles and buttons. But most of all, she loves to make people laugh.


Anonymous said...

Wow.. beautiful quilts.. love the We Fix Broken Hearts and the log cabins are fun!!

Kimberly Mason said...

Very inspiring work! I especially love the red, black and white, but they are all so wonderful and wonderfully different!

Linda Laird said...

Ellen, you put your life fully into your quilts. You make the invisible visible, which is my favorite definition of art.

Dawn, thank you so much for this blog.

Linda Laird
qUiltLadY aT sAn dOt rR doT cOm