Stitching Stories

Twenty years of fiber art

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The classy Gaches Mansion atop the hill in La Conner has a new name, but it’s the same institution. Now known as the Pacific Northwest Quilt and Fiber Arts Museum, it continues to host exhibitions of the best fiber art in the northwest—and Oct. 6-8, will celebrate two decades of operations with a 20th Anniversary Festival.

Among several fine shows right now is “The State of WA(ter).” The Studio Art Quilt Association challenged its Washington members to interpret extremes of moisture—rainforest in the west and near-desert east of the Cascades. The winning submissions show off embroidery, stitching, quilting, dyeing and even digital photo printing on fabric.

You’ll enjoy brilliant tapestries of spawning salmon, a whirlpool, docks, boats, canals—and a menacing abstract by Barbara O’Steen, who foresees a desiccated Earth where only insects survive.

In “Reflections of Eldean,” Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry recalls a cruise through the San Juan Islands with an image of her boat’s reflection. It’s a striking composition with strong light and dark contrasts, enhanced by painstakingly quilted ripples and shadows.

Small waves are also the inspiration for the bold, abstract tapestry, “Ripple Effect,” by Bonnie Bucknam. 

Deborah Ann combines “Rights” with “Rites” in a portrait of an irrigation canal, water just beginning to flow, framed at top by snowy peaks and below, a lush river. Ann has lived in the Yakima valley since 1995, where she’s part of “a vibrant community of fabric artists who have helped…push my work into a more painterly style.”

Fine landscapes, moon-glow anemones, oysters, a jellyfish ballet (by Mary Berdan), and nudibranchs (Carla Stehr) fill out the exhibit.
Another floor hosts “One by Two,” an exhibit dreamed up by the new curator, Katrine A. Eagling. She gave a different photograph to each of eight fabric artists and challenged them to design small “wall quilts” inspired by the image. Meanwhile, Eagling created eight of her own to compare with them. 

Some are realistic, and some abstract. Improbably, Eagling incorporated a row of zippers into a hanging tapestry. Laura Smith bent the rules and gave Eagling a challenge—a photo of desert boulders. Eagling responded with a literal rendition, “Geology,” while Smith herself mischievously put up a cubistic nude, “Canyon Woman.”

History buffs and quilt experts will enjoy a display from the permanent collection, most of which is not usually on view. All are important cultural documents, many from the mid-19th century. I marveled at a table cover pieced together from several hundred silk cigar wrappers (of all things), including “Seal of Havana” and “Cuban Beauty.”

After the 1840s, mass-produced textiles freed women from weaving cloth for everyday wear and quilting became a satisfying creative activity. Neighbors quilted together and shared patterns. The new mail-order catalogs offered hundreds more.

“Crazy Quilts” became a big fad. Two on display come with touching stories—one was the work of a beautiful young woman who died at age 31; another, adorned with Disney cartoons, was completed in 1976 by a 75-year-old woman who had been quilting since age 9.

West Coast
More Visual...
Island Insights
Separated From Normal

After viewing many of the paintings in “Separated From Normal,” I’m now convinced Trish Harding is is my artistic spirit animal. 

That’s because the exhibit currently on display at Peace Health St. Joseph Medical Center as part of the “Healing Through Art” series documents Harding’s…

more »
Skagit Abstraction
The shape of things

The Skagit Valley, with its wildlife and stunning vistas, is a refuge of traditional landscape and nature painting—sometimes to the neglect of modern trends in art.  For March, Smith & Vallee Gallery in Edison has put up a show of work entirely by local abstract artists. It’s beautiful,…

more »
Art in Nature
Securing Sculpture Woods

Whenever people ask what shouldn’t be missed on a trip to Lummi Island, I make sure and include lauded artist Ann Morris’ Sculpture Woods on the suggested itinerary.

Words like “magical,” “mystical” and “memorable” are apt to come up during attempts to describe what it’s like to come…

more »
Boynton Poetry Contest

8:00am|Whatcom County

Daffodil Festival

10:00am|La Conner and the Skagit Valley

Women's Conference Registration Deadline

9:00am|Bellwether Ballroom

Wild Things

9:30am|Whatcom Falls Park

Coffee Tasting

3:00pm|Camber Cafe

Food Not Bombs

4:00pm|Downtown Bellingham

Fourth Friday Art Walk

5:00pm|Historic Fairhaven

Bingo Night

6:00pm|The Majestic

From Auschwitz to America

7:00pm|Village Books

The Book of Moron

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Adventures and Brawls

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Daffodil Festival

10:00am|La Conner and the Skagit Valley

The Book of Moron

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Adventures and Brawls

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Hall

NSEA Work Party

9:00am|Squalicum Creek Park

Native Plant Sale & Expo

9:00am|Whatcom Community College

Whatcom County Democrats Convention

10:00am|Bellingham High School

Rock & Gem Club Show

10:00am|Bloedel Donovan Community Center

Starting Your Vegetable Garden

10:00am|Blaine Library

March for Our Lives

10:00am|Bellingham City Hall

Walk for Water

10:00am|Fairhaven Village Green

Tax Help Available

12:30pm| First Congregational Church


1:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

Spring Show Opening Reception

2:00pm|River Gallery

Native Plants & Birds

2:00pm|Ferndale Library

A Conversation with Alan Friedlob

3:00pm|Deming Library

The Passage Home to Meuse

4:00pm|Lynden Village Books

Memory's Blade

7:00pm|Village Books

Contra Dance

7:00pm| Fairhaven Library

Shantala and Friends

7:00pm|Presence Studio

Ballroom Dance

7:30pm|Bellingham Senior Activity Center

Trove Web Village Books
Daffodil Festival

10:00am|La Conner and the Skagit Valley

Rock & Gem Club Show

10:00am|Bloedel Donovan Community Center

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Audubon at the Museum

1:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Local Bird and Plant Walk

2:00pm|Chuckanut Center

An Afternoon with Jack Gunter

2:00pm| Maple Hall

Whatcom Symphony Orchestra

3:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

The Story of Big Ole

3:00pm|Everson Library

Art of Jazz

4:00pm|The Majestic


4:00pm|Village Books

Take Me to Church

8:00pm|Rumors Cabaret

see our complete calendar »

Village Books Trove Web Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Best Of Skagit