Hutterite Deckenstcklen – quilting – was the first exhibition of the new year at Portage and District Arts Centre (PDAC) and it attracted hundreds of visitors.
“This exhibit was the most fun of any we’ve done. We so enjoyed the crowds of Hutterites and others who came to see the quilts and learn a bit about Hutterite life,” said Jean Armstrong, PDAC manager. “We really appreciated all the complimentary remarks for the way we displayed them too!”
Co-ordinated by Andrea Maendel of Fairholme Colony, the exhibit featured 53 pieces of quilting from 13 different Manitoba Hutterite colonies and one from North Dakota. It included queen-size, double, single, lap and baby quilts, as well as wall hangings, table runners and table sets – a runner with six matching placemats.
It also featured a full-size quilt by MacGregor resident, Roberta Stone, fellow quilter and former music teacher at Fairholme School. Mrs. Stone had been instrumental in bringing Bonnie Lintott, a quilting teacher from Carberry to Fairholme for a two-day workshop during Christmas Holidays 2005.
AHEAD OF SCHEDULE
Initially scheduled for 2010, the exhibition was moved forward a year, due to a cancellation. This necessitated a tighter deadline and an earlier call for the artist’s statement each submitted piece required. Many visitors commented that they couldn’t decide which was more enjoyable, viewing the quilting work or reading the blurbs, which offered insights into the artist’s reasons for making a specific piece, choosing a given colour scheme and pattern.
Serena Maendel chose the pattern for “Pink and Green Beauty” because each block is different, so she could be certain not to tire of working on it. Featuring a variety of flying geese, appliqué and paper-piecing blocks as well as hand stitching, it offers a dynamic eyeful of intricate detail.
Love was a recurring theme, from the “highly addictive” love of quilting to quilts sewn as special occasion gifts: birthdays and babies, weddings and Christmas. The seamstress of a striking snowflake quilt with a midnight-blue background included the Christmas card note to her fiancé that had accompanied it. “Today, after several years of marriage, the two of us sometimes cuddle underneath it with our baby daughter,” her blurb concludes.
The blurb beside “My After-Quilt” explained that Helen Waldner had found a lovely quilt pattern she liked, and after assembling her materials, started making it, only to be surprised that red, white and blue dominated. Realizing that this rendered it particularly appropriate as a wedding gift for her best friend, whose groom was from a Hutterite colony near Dexter, Minnesota she completed it. After the wedding, the couple moved to his colony – but without Helen’s gift quilt.
“I’ll send it after my sisters in other colonies have seen it,” Helen explained. Next, she rationalized that it would be after all her friends had seen it, and finally it was “After the ‘Deckenstcklen’ exhibition!
“After this, I really am gift-wrapping it and sending it off to its rightful owner!”
Roberta Stone’s quilt was a wedding present for Tatiana, a Brazilian woman who spent a year with the Stones as an exchange student years ago. Since then, Roberta was invited to Tatiana’s wedding in late February. The quilt accompanied Roberta to Brazil immediately after the exhibition.
A quilt called simply “Garden Path,” featured verdant greens and pinks and was accompanied with a most poignant blurb, “My sister-in-law Jenny and I started this quilt right after Christmas 2008 … a blissful way to relax after a stressful holiday. It was particularly painful to try and celebrate ebrate our first Christmas without Dad who had passed away in early January. It was good to create a cheerful quilt, despite our pain and sadness and grief.”
Another salient theme was recycling, as in quilting with used fabric. Anna Maendel’s Bargello wall hanging, featured on the exhibition invitation, is a dizzying design containing brilliant magenta, lilac, green and red polyester satin, a difficult fabric for quilting. Discovering that spray starch makes it much easier to work with, Anna sent out a request to friends in
other colonies for their “old” satin dresses. The resulting wall hanging and the table set are from recycled dresses only, whose striking colours and great washable character make it ideal.
A quilt by Tracey Hofer of Bloomfield Colony near Westbourne, contains the explanation that it was made as a Christmas gift for her mother, “who is always encouraging us to use scraps for our quilting projects.” Tracey’s quilt contains only scraps – leftover pieces from shirts, dresses and bedding.
Some of the quilts were sold and three of the Bargello pieces were selected for the annual PDAC fundraiser auction in May.
An altruistic aspect to the art of quilting involves group quilting projects in several Manitoba colonies sponsored by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), where dozens of quilts are sewn for eventual distribution to needy people in other countries.
Hutterite hands continue to quilt, for practical and artistic purposes, raising hopes that this exhibition will be the first of many. As Jean Armstrong summarized, “My thanks to Andrea and all the quilters for all the hard work put into this exhibit and for making the Arts Centre such a busy place! The gallery has become very quiet in contrast and we miss the quilts!”