Pieces of our culture: Centennial 'art quilts' celebrate Arizona
Women from across the state have stitched Arizona's varied, rich and colorful history into quilts that are part of the state's centennial year celebration.
A number of the quilters are from the Prescott area and with their own imaginations, they have recorded slices of history and won acceptance into the Arizona Centennial Quilt Project exhibit, "100 Years - 100 Quilts," on display through December at the Arizona History Museum in Tucson.
A relative newcomer to the craft, Prescott resident Kellogg Patton fashioned her two-sided commemorative quilt, "Arizona: Just Add Water," in the jagged shape of the 48th state. Her portrayal in fabric reflects the state's economic interests from agriculture to the cattle industry to copper mining and tourism.
"Just as the pioneers learned 100 years ago, if water is added to Arizona's harsh desert landscape, all sorts of things will grow and flourish," she says.
Patton will be on hand this weekend with a selection of her quilts in a booth at the 22nd annual Williamson Valley Fire District Arts and Crafts show on the courthouse plaza.
A photograph by Beverly Ann Markham's friend, professional photographer Len Salonsky of Antelope Canyon in northern Arizona, caught her eye one day, and she thought, "I would really like to do this in fabric." She put this desire on her "bucket list," and the result is her quilt "Slot Canyon at Page, Arizona," depicting rocks "that appear to live and to dance with the light and the reflection of light on the sandstone."
"I am thrilled," said Markham of her quilt's selection for the centennial exhibit.
Carol Miller of Prescott resurrected from oblivion a quilt her mother, Pauline, had begun when she was in college in Pennsylvania in the late 1930s. She had put together a star, but the edges were cut on the bias, so they were stretchy, leaving a big bubble in the middle, Miller said. Pauline stuck the quilt away, and it didn't see the light of day again until Miller was helping her mother move from the family homestead and found it under her bed. Her mom "pooh-poohed" the quilt and said, "Just throw it away." Miller admits she didn't like the star, either - "It makes your eyes dance around" - so she stuffed it in a box and put it out of sight, too.
But the story doesn't end here. Miller retrieved the star from its hiding place when fellow quilters in Thumb Butte Quilters put her to the test in an "unfinished project challenge," and gave her a year to complete the star. She did, softening the star's "Arizona colors" of yellow, peach, dark brown and orange with contemporary fabrics.
"Our whole house was decorated with Arizona colors while I was growing up - rust shag carpet on the floors, gold paint on the walls," Miller said. "By the time I finished the quilt, I loved it." The name of her quilt is, of course, "Arizona Colors."
Prescottonian Vera Burns has two quilts in the centennial exhibit - "Prescott - Everybody's Hometown" and "Prescott's Historical Buildings."
In the quilt portraying "Everybody's Hometown," Burns placed the courthouse in the center and encircled it with embroidered wildflowers. "I drew them myself from nature," she said, adding that she'd sit beside a creek, for example, draw the flowers, take the drawings home and turn them into an embroidery pattern.
For her quilt illustrating Prescott's historical edifices, Burns took photos of each of them - the Governor's Mansion at Sharlot Hall Museum, Hotel St. Michael, the courthouse, the Bashford house, the Santa Fe Depot, Carnegie Library, the old fire station and more - and made patterns from her drawings of them.
Lorraine Owen of Chino Valley created "Cowgirls Scrapbook," inspired by an Amy Bradley quilt pattern of feminine images.
"I've ridden all over the Northwest, Colorado and Arizona," Owen said, making many friendships among horsewomen. The cowgirls in Owen's quilt "took on a life of their own," she said, emulating the likenesses of the girls she has ridden with by putting hats on them, different earrings, cowboy scarves and different hairstyles.
"I am still on cloud nine," Owen said of her quilt being among 100 choices. "My feet haven't hit the ground yet."
"I love Arizona," Chino Valley resident Ann Novak said, and her "Greetings from Arizona, A to Z" is a quilted reminiscence of her travels around the state, the postcards she has collected and the slide photographs she amassed.
Her favorite cards featured balloon letters with the state or destinations' names filled with photo scenes. And that is what her quilt depicts, with each letter of the state's name dedicated to a different theme, such as scenic places, fun things to do outside and places to visit. "There are pictures for every single letter of the alphabet throughout the quilt," Novak said.
Laraine Daly Jones, museum collections manager for the southern division of the Arizona Historical Society in Tucson, was curator for the centennial quilts and said the exhibit "is not your granny's quilt show. This is a truly amazing collection of contemporary quilts that illustrate the status of quilting in the 21st century. These are 'art quilts,' which can be defined by the intent of the maker - to depict personal views or artistic expressions, rather than to be utilitarian bedcovers. The Prescott area is a hotbed of quilt-making, both in traditional fashion and in art quilting."
Another quilt from Prescott was created by the Heritage Quilt Study Group at Sharlot Hall Museum and represents the Territorial schoolhouse on the museum grounds.
A book with color photographs and descriptions of all the quilts is available for sale by visiting the Arizona Historical Society website and scrolling down to "Also of Interest."