One Quilt, Ten Unique Views of Bronson Park
Quilts probably remind you of the blankets in your grandmother’s house, but a group of ten quilters from Kalamazoo’s Log Cabin Quilters are shaking things up. The group has taken a big, panoramic photo of Bronson Park and divided it up into ten pieces. Over the past nine months, each member has quilted their own individual segment, all with totally unique styles. They’ll all be joined together for the first time tonight for the June Art Hop at Ninth Wave Studio.
Once a month, the quilters gather together in a room and devise up an experimental quilting challenge. The roughly twenty fiber artists in the group don’t want to spend their time just weaving together old floral patterns, over and over. They try to push each other and push their form.
Member Kathy Kerstetter explains that it can lead to some tough, sometimes ugly experiments. Like when they brought in a 64-pack of Crayola crayons. Everyone randomly picked three colors out of the pack. And with those, each member had to make a quilt.
"Which ended up being somewhat difficult at times because we drew colors none of us liked, some ugly colors!" she says. "But it really pushed us to use colors we wouldn’t use. So we use challenges like that. We’ve made things and traded, but we’ve never done a collaboration where we’ve had to depend on each other."
That changed about nine months ago. The quilters decided they really wanted to go big. Like, thirteen-and-a-half feet wide kind of big. Member Sheryl Drenth says the plan was this: they wanted to take a big, panoramic picture of a place that was iconically Kalamazoo – Bronson Park, with its fountain and old statues. Then turn it into a quilt.
"I’ve been in the arts community for a while," Drenth explains. "I’ve seen watercolors of Bronson Park and downtown. I've seen oil paintings. So why not have one made of wire and leather and net?"
To do it, the quilters took that panoramic photo and sliced it up like a loaf of bread into ten different pieces. Each artist grabbed a slice and used it as a kind of outline to create their piece of a quilt. At the June 5th Art Hop, the ten slices will finally be brought together, creating a giant, patchwork image of Bronson Park.
There’s some continuity through the giant quilt: each has trees, sidewalk and sky. But each segment is totally unique in its shapes, styles, and designs. Drenth says that’s the point of the whole thing.
"Whenever I got to a meeting, everyone has their own vision, their own style, their colors," she says. "And when we put it all together, I thought, shazam! This is what happens when you have this many different artists, and we just did it in our own way."
There are a few really intricate segments, with each tree and leaf precisely etched out. Others are way more abstract, showing the park as a jumble of geometric shapes.
But the quilters say this is more than just some fun project. With so many different visions and views of just one place, the quilters wanted to show off all the different perspectives and cultures in Kalamazoo. Quilters Mary Baggerman and Jackie Skarritt explain:
"Well, I would say as we came together as a small group into the community, it sort of represents the diversity of our larger community and how much the park means to us and all that diversity," Baggerman says.
Skarritt adds: "I’ve already taken away a lot from it, but seriously, I hope what people take away from it is simply more of an awareness of Bronson Park but that they see, though all of our eyes, the twenty pairs of eyes that put together, the different realities we came up with."
She continues: "And maybe to show people that in different times, different places, really take the time to look and take the time to see. Because it’s absolutely amazing out there. It really is. We just rush through things so fast. This not only made me look, but it made all of us look and really see and really absorb. And people will get that message."
The quilt will be shown with some of the guild’s other challenges at Ninth Wave Studio, June 5th from 5 to 8 p.m.