Seasonal Adjustment by Jennie Lewis
Seasonal Adjustment by Jennie Lewis

The Greenstede Gallery in East Grinstead was a fine venue for the 2006 exhibition from the Hanging Together Group. The eight members meet regularly to share their quiltmaking experiences and every two years they hold an exhibition. Although the different quilts showed a diverse range of styles and techniques, there seemed to be one feature which was common to many of the exhibits. This was the way that each of the artists worked with the properties of the fabric, using embellishment to enhance the colour, pattern and texture of the fabric. These are artists who understand that fabric can tell you what to do with it and work with it rather than against it. It is equally obvious that many of the fabrics in this exhibition were dyed

Treeform Sunrise by Sandra Grusd
Treeform Sunrise by Sandra Grusd

 

Flower Time

Hazy Daisies and Hazy Daisy 6 by Ingrid Press were both wonderful studies of restrained colour. Consisting almost entirely of rich red fabrics, the presence of an occasional tiny strip of gold fabric created a sparkle which made the red fabrics sing all the more. Another quilt by Ingrid was again a study in restraint. Joy consisted of small squares of fabric surround by a thin frame of another fabric, all surrounded by a wider frame of white. This gave a largely white quilt with regularly spaced blocks of colour. However, the whole quilt is given movement by the fact that the coloured blocks are not the same size and are not completely regular. Furthermore, scattered across the quilt were small scraps of coloured fabric tacked to the surface almost like tiny leaves. Close up you can see that all the white areas are densely quilted in tiny interlocking squares and rectangles, giving a textural feel to the white spaces.

One of the most classic quilts in the exhibition was Japanese Wisteria. This quilt by Jennie Lewis consisted of four panels. Each of the panels had all the delicacy that you associate with an oriental watercolour painting. Twisting across the surface are both a gentle stream and an ancient tree. Hanging from all the branches are clusters of pure white wisteria flowers. Each flower is sparkling because of the mother of pearl buttons catching the light. By the stream sits a clump of pale narcissi with their centres embellished with golden beads.

The Sentinels by Irene Dunlop
The Sentinels by Irene Dunlop

Jennie Lewis also celebrated the beauties of nature with Seasonal Adjustment. In a very different style to Japanese Wisteria, this was a superb combination of photo-transfer and wonderful fabrics all beautifully enhanced by machine quilting. Each of the four strips represented one of the seasons: glorious bulbs for spring; bright red poppies and trumpet vines for summer; golden leaves for autumn and frosted leaves and berries for winter. Many of the batik fabrics just hinted at the leaves and flowers but these were brought out by the careful quilting which exploited the subtle background patterns.

Dominating one end of gallery was a large quilt by C. June Barnes called Spread your Wings. The motif was taken from a Buddhist priests mantle in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The shape of the quilt not only resembled a kimono with long sleeves, but also the large bed quilts with sections to hang over the sides and bottom of the bed. The combination of hand dying and dense quilting gave a rich velvety surface.

Two quilts hung side by side both featured the sea. The Sentinels by Irene Dunlop featured four panels each showing the worn and battered posts of sea breaks standing along the shore. Each panel had hand-painted fabrics with machine quilting to bring out the shapes. They looked like massive rows of ancient standing stones marching seawards.

Blue Circle (detail) by Inger Milburn
Blue Circle (detail) by Inger Milburn

Julie Senningtons very painterly style was shown clearly in her sea view, Camber. The tall thin view across the dunes to the distant sea was embellished with all sorts of threads and paint. The long vertical format gave a great sense of depth and distance.

On Fire

Treeform Sunrise by Sandra Grusd showed how if you have an artists eye and confidence, you can portray a detailed subject with just a few lines. Each of the many sections contain just thin slivers of fabric which represented the trunk and branches of the trees. The colours of the trees was not naturalistic and the backgrounds range from black and grey to oranges and purples. However, while each panel was interesting in its own right, the whole is very much greater than the sum of the parts. The forest is brightly lit at first light. In fact, an alternative title could be Forest Fire from the way that the trees are silhouetted by the incandescent dawn. The quilting which could be leaves or flames covers the whole surface.

In Barriers and Boundaries, Leslie Morgan continues her recent theme of a neutral palette. The fabric is dyed, over-dyed, printed, painted and repainted. The curves and lines are then enhanced by couched cords and thick threads which appear like lines of thick paint across the surface. The whole looks very modernist and slightly industrial. It will be interesting to see where this line of experimentation leads. Many of the visitors had the opportunity to purchase some of the wonderful hand dyed fabrics produced by Leslie Morgan. If they are like me, they dont use them, but just get them out and look at them occasionally.

All of the quilts by Inger Milburn showed intricate quilting and a use of textural fabrics to give a surface rich in texture. Grown in the Shade with its subtle colour palette and repeated motifs has both a Japanese and an Art Deco feel to it. The flowers float on the surface which looks very three dimensional. Both of her other pieces, Blue Circle and Square Red, had the juxtaposition of an area of plain fabric with dense patterns of machine quilting contrasted against areas of geometrically patterned cloth. This resulted in the quilted areas appeared very smooth and flat and the patterned fabrics looked very dimensional.

Arboretum (detail) by Irene Dunlop
Arboretum (detail) by Irene Dunlop

Group Work

Not all the exhibits were on the walls. Near the entrance were a series of connected cubes each face of which had a different tiny quilt by the group members. All of these Collaborative cubes were for sale in aid of Cancer Research for the modest sum of £25 for each quiltlet.

The other freestanding objects were as a result of a challenge with the title of Looking Through. Irene Dunlops contribution was a mask which could easily grace the Venice carnival. Inger Milburns twisted tubes had a slanted eye which reminded me of Picassos strange faces while Sandra Grusds multi-coloured panels formed a twisting maze. Julie Sennington obviously warmed to the theme as she produced not one but three versions of interconnected pentagons and hexagons. Walking round the geometric spheres was fascinating as different angles produced different views with glimpses of other objects and the quilts through the gaps.

Inevitably, in any review it is impossible to do justice to all the quilts, but Ive tried to give a flavour of some of the exhibits so you can decide if you would like to visit their next exhibition. I would strongly recommend it. Hanging Together have a web site giving details of all their exhibitions and members.

First published in Popular Patchwork Volume 14 Number 7 - July 2006