Thursday, October 28, 2010

Louisa L. Smith, "stripper" quilter

Anyone who still harbors the notion that quilts are demure little old lady things should go to a quilt show today or look at the work of the many teaching art quilters. Louisa L. Smith spoke and did a trunk show at the Bayberry Quilters' meeting yesterday with her jaw dropping, brilliant quilts. As Louisa announced immediately, "I'm a stripper." And she is teaching others to be strippers too with several book and many teaching gigs, usually at big quilt shows.

To her "stripper" means she sews strips of fabric together and thus makes a "new" fabric from which she cuts the shapes, often curvy, that she then sews into these stunningly colorful and intricate quilts. She not only sews the basic quilt but then embellishes and appliques extensively to get even more complexity. We've all heard the comment from nonquilters [usually attributed to befuddled husbands] about buying perfectly good fabric, then cutting it into little pieces and sewing it together again -- which sounds to many people like the epitome of pointlessness. But we know that if you want to make art of that fabric [which may in its own right already be graphic art of a high degree], it has to be cut up and reassembled. Which is just what Louisa does. I loved seeing her quilts although I was distressed at her penchant for using [as she admitted] cheap plaid fabrics for the backs of many. I deeply understand using cheap fabric for the backs [I always do] but the plaid contrasted with the wonderful top work just didn't work for me.
Louisa is a practiced and good speaker with a slide show of reasonable length and a trunk show of some of her very many quilts which have been shown all over the US, some have traveled for years. I'm sorry this photo of Louisa speaking is dark, I was too far back in a big room with my inadequate camera. The quilt that is being held up as she speaks would have made anyone proud but it was one of the simplest that she showed, as can be seen by comparing it to the others here.
This picture with lighting bad because of my camera angle, nevertheless shows the brilliance of the color which here, as in some others of her quilts is attained by using dupioni silk, one of the most lustrous materials to be found, not easy to work with, but obviously, Louisa handles it expertly.

I have seen jackets made using this piecing technique, in fact the guild president wore a jacket she had make this way and it was lovely. That tempts me somewhat more than a full size quilt. I do like bright colors but I have seen so many quilts lately that virtually vibrate with color and design that I feel more like retreating to something a little less "in your face."

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