Barcelona! by Barbara Weeks, UK
Barcelona! by Barbara Weeks, UK

Just to hear the word ‘Mediterranean’ conjures up pictures of little white houses, yachts and blue sea and we were not disappointed by the quilts on show in the Mediterranean Odyssey exhibit at Quilt Expo, Spring 2002.

Quiltmakers from around the world had been invited to submit to a special exhibit of new art quilts inspired by the history, legends, architecture, landscapes, plants, food and people of the area. Shown here are some of the finalists accepted by the organisers.

Setting the scene

The first quilt on display in the Mediterranean Odyssey exhibition, in fact, set the tone for the whole of the Expo. It was of course Barcelona! by Barbara Weeks from Britain. The quilt was Barbara’s homage to the architect Antoni Gaudi. She interpreted his wonderful, exuberant use of mosaic by applying pieces of fabric instead of tiles to write the name of the host city, surrounding it with images of sea and sun.

Audition for Senor Gaudi by Charlotte Petera, USA (detail)
Audition for Senor Gaudi by Charlotte Petera, USA (detail)

Another quilter, Charlotte Petera from the USA, found the sometimes surreal decorations by Gaudi in Parque Gwell provided the inspiration for her to make Audition for Senor Gaudi. Using a photo transfer technique to print images of tiles, she then ‘smashed’ them and appliquéd the fragments by machine. Setting them slightly apart on the grey background gave the illusion of a cement base. A beautiful crazy snake-like line of red fabrics appeared to slither across the tiles.

Siestas and the sea

The Mediterranean Sea by Akiko Kawata, Japan
The Mediterranean Sea by
Akiko Kawata, Japan

Japanese quilter, Akiko Kawata combined both commercial and her own hand dyed fabric to show us the sun twinkling on the waves of The Mediterranean Sea. Machine pieced curved blocks of different sizes set on point, also bought to mind the heavy brush strokes of the painter Van Gogh. Circular hand quilting enhanced the feeling of a buoyant sea.

Pausa Meridiaus by Inge Mardal and Steen Hougs, Belgium
Pausa Meridiaus by Inge Mardal
and Steen Hougs, Belgium

Pausa Meridiaus is Italian for the mid-day break which shopkeepers have traditionally taken in European countries. Lunchtime closing is gradually becoming less observed, as time moves on and commercial concerns become more important. Inge Mardal and Steen Hougs from Belgium visited places where the custom is still stubbornly upheld. They painted, then machine quilted a grocer’s shopfront to represent that sleepy, quiet time when the neighbourhood is at rest.

By comparison and full of energy, Ludmila Uspenskaya’s piece, Archway, seems to show the normally placid Mediterranean with surf. Using a variety of exciting hand dyed techniques, including bleach, the columns for her arch seem to be built from various types of stone. In the detail it is possible to see a most interesting collection of textures all of which were achieved through paint techniques. The satin sea is densely hand quilted to suggest currents and finishes with a fringe, which might perhaps be sea-spray.

Archway by Ludmila Uspenskaya, USA
Archway by Ludmila Uspenskaya, USA

Fantasy and family holidays

A quilter who approached the subject with her tongue in her cheek, looked to the statue David for inspiration. Visiting Florence, Cindy Cooksey based the piece on her daughter’s frequent cry, ‘Where’s the David?’ as they took in all the tourist sights, whilst on holiday from the USA. David can be spotted on the right, painted and stencilled in positive and negative forms. Dominating the centre of the quilt is a hand applied portrait of Cindy’s red haired daughter.

‘Where’s the David?’ by Cindy Cooksey, USA
‘Where’s the David?’ by Cindy Cooksey, USA

Margie Garratt from the Republic of South Africa used her imagination and dreamed she was visiting the Mediterranean. She based the drawings for her design on her daughter’s photos after her return from Europe. Vivid blue skies, sunburnt landscapes and tiny cube shaped houses, some painted white, combined to recreate her memories of holidays spent in the sunny south of Europe. Created from hand dyed fabrics, it was machine pieced and quilted with many intriguing details of flowers and other plant forms.

Spirited Away - a Journey to Greece by Margie Garratt, RSA
Spirited Away - a Journey to Greece #
by Margie Garratt, RSA

Flotsam and jetsam

Walking on the beach, Christa Bialek from Germany found a piece of canvas that had been washed up by the sea. Liking the texture that the force of the ocean had produced she decided to paint it with acrylics in the remembered colours of the coast. The ‘sea-fabric’ fabric was then combined with others which all had some association for Christa. The colours were fresh and clear and the simplicity of the design was like a breath of sea air in Force of Water.

Force of Water by Christa Bialek, Germany
Force of Water by Christa Bialek, Germany

Another view of water, this time an oyster bed in the South of France spoke to Silvia Leuenberger from Switzerland. Her design, Mediterranean Reflections successfully moved the straight oyster poles into swirls and eddies with a combination of curved blocks and strips. She incorporated a wide range of commercial fabric patterns, cleverly blending them to produce movement and light.

This section of the Expo was really very uplifting. Quilters had applied themselves to the subject in a wide variety of imaginative ways, regardless of whether they had ever visited the countries that were featured. The jury had ensured that the quilts illustrated many design styles, and stitch, paint and quilt techniques were all shown. The colour blue appeared often. Always in a different mood, but never cold, instead, cooling, fresh and inviting. Some of the quilt themes were a long way from the sea, but others plunged right in making us all long for holidays and dreamy summer days. We were tourists, looking with longing at the subjects.

First published in Popular Patchwork Volume 10 Number 7 - July 2002