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Wednesday, 31 May 2006 00:00

Quilting art: The Shady Ladies bring a new spin to an ancient craft with upcoming show

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By Sarah Kucharski

The Shady Ladies, a diverse group of quilters based in Haywood County, are gearing up for their third annual show at Lake Logan Episcopal Center held June 2-4.

The show will feature approximately 100 quilts including those from the 2006 Challenge, “Seeing Orange.” To meet the challenge quilters must have created a wall hanging 24” square that contains at least a smidgen of the color orange.

The quilts range from whimsical to traditional. Jane Cole, a coordinator for the Shady Ladies, incorporated five orange balls into a quilt largely based on green, hand-dyed fabrics she already had. The quilt’s five orange balls run down its middle, giving way to the name “Balancing Act.”

Cole, who has been quilting for 28 years, draws her inspiration from the natural world.

“I think maybe that’s why I love the color green,” she said.

Her process she says is less than exact, playing with dye color solutions and how long fabric is soaked before adding soda ash — the agent that stops the dyeing process. As a result each piece of fabric is unique.

“I like to just see what I get,” Cole said.

That free-form method carries over into her quilts. For “Balancing Act,” Cole said she just sat down and started sewing.

This type of quilting generally is called art quilting. Art quilts most often do not follow set patterns, or adhere to the traditional circles and squares that many are accustomed to seeing.

Fellow Shady Lady coordinator Wendy Bowen also describes herself as more of an art quilter than a traditionalist. Drawing from nature, fabric itself, and ideas generated from other quilts, Bowen has developed what many consider a signature style.

“People tell me they can spot my quilts,” said Bowen, who has been quilting for 30 years.

Part of this style certainly comes from Bowen’s organic approach to quilting. She doesn’t plan things out, but instead simply heads up to her studio and begins cutting and stitching.

“If I’m in the middle of something, I’m up there a lot,” she said.

As art quilts play an interesting role in the world of quilting. They have taken a utilitarian art form and morphed it into something more apt to be found on gallery walls.

“There are some people who don’t appreciate an art quilt,” Bowen said. “They say ‘Oh, this isn’t a quilt.’”

The Shady Ladies tend to disagree.

“I think it helps people realize that quilts these days, in addition to being bedcovers and copying patterns that our grandmothers used to do, it’s become so that you will see that quilt as an art form in itself that just happens to use textiles,” Cole said.

Which isn’t to say they Shady Ladies shy away from traditional quilting altogether. Shady Ladies members are long-time residents, recent arrivals, part-time residents and even a few honorary members from around the globe. The group’s quilting interests are as diverse as its membership, ranging from traditional to contemporary, hand to machine quilting, fabric dying to painting.

“It’s an art that appeals to an incredible spectrum of artists,” Bowen said.

The Shady Ladies group formed six years ago as an outgrowth of workshops Bowen and Cole were teaching at Haywood Community College. The two women decided to bring their talents together and start classes that would be open to quilters in sessions. Quilters sign up for 10 classes, which are schedule flexible.

Classes aren’t formal. Rather they rely largely on the sharing of ideas, interests and abilities.

“Everybody is so generous about sharing whatever they’re working on,” Bowen said.

In addition to the 20 to 30 “Seeing Orange” challenge quilts in the Lake Logan show, the Shady Ladies will display several current projects. Many of the quilts are for sale and there will be a boutique selling quilts and quilt related items.

Show hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 2 and 3, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, June 4. Admission is $3; proceeds benefit the Lake. Lunch is available in the dining hall and there is also a picnic area.

To get to Lake Logan from Waynesville, take Pigeon St. (276 South) five miles to Lake Logan Road (N.C. 215). Take a right and travel another five miles to Lake Logan Episcopal Center. Signs will be in place along the way.

For more information contact Lake Logan at 828.646.0095 or Michelle Blatt at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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