Shared from the 12/6/2018 Centre County Gazette eEdition

Quilts and Prints: People respond to Gee’s Bend art


CONNIE COUSINS/For the Gazette

SEVERAL YOUNG students have made quilts to display at Schlow Centre Region Library through December. Pictured, from left, are Elaine Elledge, printmaking teacher and her son, Peter; Lorelei Hilling Keil; Bennu Dukel; Ruth Anstrom; Katie Loomis-Adams; Faith Kingsley; and Anne Burgevin, quilting teacher.

STATE COLLEGE — A group of 11 young people from ages 10 to 16 recently combined art, creative writing, reduction block making and quilting to create a show to be featured at Schlow Library through December.

Most of the students are home-schooled and most had never sewn before. The opening reception will be held on Dec. 8 from 2 to 4 p.m.

One of the two co-teachers for the project, Anne Burgevin, was given a book by a friend that featured the Gee’s Bend quilters. These women are a close-knit group of rural African-Americans living in Gee’s Bend, Ala. They have perfected the art of quilting through many generations.

They see the quilts as being necessary, and the sewing as something to pass the time and socialize. As the book showed, the quilts are a true art form. Burgevin shared the book with the students so that they could be inspired to design wood reduction blocks and quilts of their own. The artists of Gee’s Bend were featured in a piece on the front page of The New York Times recently.

A longtime creative writing teacher, Burgevin said, “I serve many students in the community as a creative writing teacher, tutor and part-time fabric art teacher. The show will feature my students’ quilts, block prints and creative writing samples about the artistic process.”

Elaine Elledge is the co-teacher on this project, which covered over eight months of work. Elledge taught the printmaking part of the endeavor.

“I had the students study professional artists’ work and decide what colors repeated, what shapes and patterns were most employed in a picture. I wanted to encourage them to think through — reflect on the process,” said Elledge.

Several quilting bees were held during the summer where the students worked on their quilts. As the students studied the work of the Gee’s Bend women, they noted that many shapes were taken from the scenery and buildings near them. There was inspiration taken from rooftops, and from the path of the river. The students drew from these ideas in planning their own work.

Burgevin said that the kids also wrote about their quilts. Their thoughts will also be a part of the show at Schlow.

The following represent portions of their thoughts:

Grayson Ruble said, “When I made my block, I noticed how the colors blended and overlapped. The only thing I knew for sure when I started my quilt was that I wanted a pinwheel on it.” Her quilt is titled “Pinwheel.”

Hannah Grossman, age 12, wrote, “The Gee’s Bend quilts aren’t only quilts. They are art — each with their own personal touch. My quilt and print have bright colors because I wanted a happy quilt and print.” Quilt title: “Jubilant.”

Maia Lindsay, age 13, said, “I can now say I have made a quilt that I tried to make like a Gee’s Bend quilt. At first, I panicked when I realized what I was going to have to do — make a quilt without a pattern. I managed it. Somehow.” Quilt title: “Gee’s Garden.” A curved line embroidered on Maia’s quilt represents the Alabama River.

Gus Tritsch, age 15, said, “It was a wonderful opportunity to go outside my comfort zone to expand my knowledge. My eyes were opened to the wonder of Gee’s Bend and its quilts.” Quilt title: “Earthset.”

Katie Loomis-Adams, age 15, said, “Learning about the stories of the people from Gee’s Bend, Alabama, through printmaking, quilting, reading books, watching films and having conversations truly inspired me. “She said also that learning about their history — which they were descendants of slaves, and about their brutal history, helped her appreciate that their quilts helped them persist through the struggles.” Quilt Title: “Solstice.”

Huck Tritsch, age 12, in his remarks said, “Gee’s bend quilts intrigue me because of their abstract, colorful designs. I made several block prints inspired by the quilts.” Quilt Title: “Summer Fields.”

Lorelei Hilling Keil, age 11, shared, “I was surprised at each step I took as I started creating my real quilt. It was even prettier than the picture I had made.” Of the Gee’s Bend quiltmakers she said, “They made something beautiful out of nothing. They were women doing something for joy and ended up making art that was as beautiful as the art of artists in famous museums.” Quilt Title: “Jade River.”

Ruth Anstrom, age 12 said, “Many of the ingenious seamstresses of Gee’s Bend did not use a pattern, tape measure or have an end result for their quilts. Neither did I. I just started out sewing squares together and, gradually, my quilt came together.” Quilt Title: “Indian Summer.”

There are block prints to accompany each of the quilts described. The public will see all the forms and how they fit together and complement each other at the show.

“I love the way Gee’s Bend artists gathered inspiration from ordinary objects such as rooftops, doors and fences and used this inspiration in their quilts to make something totally unique and marvelous,” said Faith Kingsley, age 16, in her creative writing piece. She said, “The Gee’s Bend quilters’ work is far from perfect, yet it isn’t lacking anything. In fact, it is perfectly imperfect.” Quilt Title: “Spring Garden.”

Another student, Amila Dukel, age 13, wrote, “ I have always loved matching colors and creating patterns, and quilting allowed me to exercise this small skill. At first, the task seemed enormous when looking at it as a whole, but by breaking it into bits and pieces, it became an exciting activity.”

The only dull part, according to Dukel, was ironing. But in time, she even began to appreciate that as folds and wrinkles vanished. Quilt Title: “Windows to Other Worlds.”

Bennu Dukel, age 10, said, “After I arranged the colors side by side and caught a glimpse of my final quilt, I motivated myself to continue. Then I sewed, cut and re-sewed my pieces. I arranged them in a way that pleased me. Once finished, I looked at my quilt and I felt very proud.” Quilt Title: “The Crooked Maze.”

The students gained much more than manual dexterity with a needle and thread in this project. The learned the joy of working in a group with common goals, yet with different visions for their work. They learned the value of following through with a project and the self-satisfaction of jobs well done.

Stop into Schlow and enjoy the fruits of their work throughout December.

See this article in the e-Edition Here