Quilting as fine art: One might ordinarily think of quilting as a craft, a practical endeavor requiring skill that results in a useful handmade item: a nice, warm quilt. An additional practical angle of quiltmaking is that one can make use of bits and pieces of leftover fabric.
Increasingly, though, it seems, quilting straddles the line between craft and art, with shops such as Alewives Fabrics in Damariscotta Mills offering beautiful fabrics and patterns intended solely for the making of striking, often intricately designed quilts.
In the case of the current Clamshell Quilters show on the walls of the Pemaquid Watershed Association office-gallery in Damariscotta, quiltmaking has arguably crossed the line into fine art.
All the quilts in the show are intended as wall hangings. Some – as in the case of Boothbay quilter Dianne Zyskowski’s “Round Barn, Shelburne Museum, VT” and Judith Sala’s “Queen Anne’s Lace” – make no bones about it: they are called “thread paintings” because they are pieces “painted” with thread and fabric that depict a scene.
Sala’s lovely thread painting has features of a quilt – a stitched, quilted border – framing a delicately wrought image of a bouquet of Queen Anne’s lace. Zyskowski’s borderless piece nicely resembles a minimalist painting with its close-up focus on a window, a red barn wall, a rocky foundation, and some grass.
Other art quilts in the exhibit are no less eye-catching.
“Damariscotta Village” is a collaborative effort based on a photograph taken by the LCN’s Paula Roberts and made in sections by Clamshell Quilters members Vickery Cleaves, Rebecca Townsend, Shirley Raymond, Ruth Vietze, and Sala.
Equally impressive is “Damariscotta Mills,” also based on a Roberts photo, created in sections by Kathy Fagan, Diana Williams, Joanne Esancy, Katie Snow, and Diane Baldwin. Assigning each designated section of a photo to a different quilter makes for an intriguing final product, as each quilt artist interprets her section into fabric in a different way.
Another interesting approach is the “challenge” quilt, whereby quilters respond to a challenge, a set of parameters within which the quilter has to operate.
Damariscotta quilter Beth Ditkoff, for instance, has a fantastic challenge piece in the current show called “Home Is Where My Heart Is,” a black-and-white “Paint Chip Challenge” quilt with a bright-red border featuring the outline of the state of Maine and a small red heart where Damariscotta is.
“We have a challenge every year,” Ditkoff explained to me in a recent email. “Participation is not required, but it’s fun to think outside of the box. In the fall, the theme is announced, with as much or as little info provided at the discretion of the Challenge Chair. What you see in the show are some results of the last two challenges. In the Paint Chip Challenge, we were allowed to use black, white, and the one color that was on a paint chip that had been drawn from a bag with many chips in it.”
She added that “all of the challenge quilts are displayed in a special area at the Maine Quilt Show in July.” The 2019 Maine Quilt Show will take place July 25-27 at the Augusta Civic Center.
“Clamshell Quilters is a chapter of the statewide Pine Tree Quilters Guild,” Ditkoff added. “Our membership is Lincoln County-based. We meet monthly to share our love of quilting through fellowship, classes, and charity work. Our meetings are on the second Monday of the month at Faith Baptist Church in Newcastle.”
The Clamshell Quilters show runs through Wednesday, Nov. 21. In addition to the quilts on display, there are a number of very reasonably priced items for sale – “ditty bags,” “notion bags,” placemats, napkins – made by the Clamshell Quilters.
The PWA office-gallery is located at 584 Main St., Damariscotta.
Find Clamshell Quilters on Facebook at facebook.com/clamshellquilters.
(Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or write me a letter in care of The Lincoln County News, P.O. Box 36, Damariscotta, ME 04543. I love to hear from readers.)