Sunday, February 16, 2014

Dorothy Winter - The Art of Quilting

Dorothy Winter

 “These quilts, these time honoured traditions, certainly hold their place in history.”


The Seasons (Hildegard von Bingen)

The art of quilting holds more history, in particular that of women, than one might initially imagine. We traditionally view quilts as functional bedding, which are decorative and commemorative, even historical, however, the value in the artistic expression of the quilter is often overlooked. We know quilts to be a source of warm comfort, an heirloom perhaps, but most do not think of them as holding historic messages. In times and cultures where women held a quieter place within the family unit, quilts provided a clever medium for females to articulate ideas and to tell a story.

To Dorothy Winter, who, for over 20 years, has dedicated herself to producing meaningful works of art, quilts matter. She began making her quilts for practical purposes for her family when they lived in a farmhouse. These family treasures made way to future projects. Producing numerous quilts over the years, her scenes vary telling of the times, all holding memories and stories; historical really. There are scenes of farmland, and woodland, and Punch and Judy entertaining children on the beach. There are quilts made from the ties of men in her social network and quilts depicting the work of artists such as Kazimir Malevich, and then there is the piece shown on the cover titled The Seasons (Hildegard von Bingen). Dorothy was inspired and notes about Hildegard ‘She wrote down her thoughts, composed poems and music and corresponded with many of the rulers in Europe. Her influence was far-reaching. Some of her writings were very relevant to the problems we face today. Specifically women’s rights and environmental responsibility.’

Dorothy marvels that no two quilts are alike in their execution. Even where the same pattern is used, the fabric chosen, the colour placement and the stitching together, produce a completely different piece of art. Her works include different fabrics, even silk, which are placed to enhance the idea of the project with their texture and colour.
Winter Spruce

In this day and age where sewing machines can make an easier job of these big quilts, Dorothy prefers to hand stitch her work. ‘Hand stitching allows more flexibility, gives a softer finish, and, since I am in no hurry, it is a very tranquil activity during which I enjoy seeing the texture give life to the material’. Starting with ideas, and drawings, and listening to the fabric chosen for the quilt, these hand-stitched pieces can take between three months and up to a year for her to complete.

Challenging the idea ‘if it is useful, it is not art’, Dorothy began hanging her quilts on walls displaying them to be viewed as the works of art they are.  Her respect for the quilts is evident in the quality of her work, the images are beautiful and masterfully stitched, and truly must be scene to fully appreciate the craftsmanship. These quilts, this time honoured tradition, certainly hold their place in history.

Check out the Winter Solstice 2013 edition of The Link magazine which features Dorothy Winter as the cover artist.