Sacred Threads is a biennial quilt show featuring quilts submitted in the categories of Joy, Inspiration, Peace and Brotherhood, Spirituality, Healing and Grief. The quilts that make it into the show are incredibly varied in interpretation of the theme/category they’re entered in, as well as displaying great variety of execution, size, materials and backstory. Many of the stories behind the quilts are intensely personal, and it takes me multiple visits to the show to take them all in.
I am lucky enough to live nearby this show, which takes place in Herndon, Virginia, the next town over from me. I am not a huge attender of quilt shows, but I have been to my share of them, for sure, and Sacred Threads is one of my favorites because the stories are so heartfelt and moving.
Herein, some of what I was struck by this year. First off, I noticed so many quilts with human figures in them. I share with you a selection of them.
First is “Abundant Joy” by Mary Kerr – Mary is known for working in vintage fabrics. I love the juxtaposition of the black figure in outline, very bold and graphic and contemporary, on the faded, duller fabrics, and all the texture the vintage fabrics impart to the piece. I also love the ponytail on the girl.
Next is “Childhood Memory” by Joyce Daniels. The simplicity of the piece is appealing, as are the memories of my own that it evokes of doing just what the girl is doing, jumping rope – oh so long ago.
And here is “My Guardian Angel Rocks” by Kate Owens. It’s hard to see in my iPhone picture, but the whimsy of this piece is carried through to the background fabric which was almost like purple and pink tinsel, shiny and glittery. Very fun.
Here’s one of my favorites, called “Ruby Bridges, 6 Years Old, 1960” by Willa Downes who is a local quilter that I was fortunate enough to run into at the show. Ruby is exactly my age. That little figure, all those empty desks that symbolize the children who would not go to school with her – the image is worth a lot of words.
Some of the quilts had multiple figures. This one, “Pilgrimage/ The Genuine Heart of Sadness” by Barbara Leibhardt Wester, struck me for its abstracted and faceless figures. We know these are people even though they have no features or limbs. I like the artist’s statement, too:
“This piece explores the Buddhist concept of the Genuine Heart of Sadness, which is the tender part of our essential heart that is open to all that the world holds, and which sees both its inherent joy and sadness. Especially in this time on our planet when connections seem so tenuous and fragile, we can remember how all of us — no matter our race, gender, ethnicity, and a thousand other identifiers that mark and distinguish us — are on a common journey which, if we follow it with compassion, will allow us to connect with one another, past and future.”
And another serious piece, the first in a series: “Refugee Series: Frontier” by Judith Tomlinson Trager. A note about the photograph – it does not show the colors truly; the blue of the sky is terribly washed out here; it was a brilliant blue in the actual piece but my phone camera did not capture it well.
The artist’s statement: “They continue to come. Driven by violence and starvation, they reach the border only to find it impassable.”
Such a simple image, so heartbreaking. Again, the faceless people that we do not know, except that we do know them – they are our brothers and sisters, and they need help.
Let’s end on a happier note, another multiple-figures piece: “Marafiki” by Barbara Allen. Marafiki is Swahili for friends. The piece says it all.
I will return with some others that caught my attention. There were many favorites, many pieces that made a strong impression.