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Fiber Art is King in St. Charles

“Not your Grandmother’s Quilt”. It’s a phrase I’ve heard tossed around many times in reference to contemporary quilt making. Quilting as a medium has evolved greatly over the last century, thanks in part to a myriad of new processes and materials. There’s so many materials to use to add layers in applique, or new processes for printing and transferring images, new threads…not to mention fantastic advances in machine quilting.  These are all things to consider and take in when visiting the 20th Biennial Exhibition of Quilt National on display at the Foundry Art Centre.

Quilt National is an International Biennial Exhibit of Quilts that originated at the Dairy Barn in Athens, Ohio. Started in 1979 in an abandoned dairy barn, Quilt National continues to thrive as the premier exhibition opportunity for quilters across the globe. Luckily for those of us that live in the St. Louis area, we have had the honor of seeing this exhibit in our own hometown. After the exhibit closes at the Dairy Barn, it travels around the country to museums and galleries so as to expand its reach. This year, as in many past years, the full exhibition is on display at the Foundry Art Centre until December 1st.

When you enter the gallery at the Foundry Art Centre, you will be struck immediately by bursts of color and the sheer enormity of the sizes of the quilts. Now, not to say that size matters, but it is ultimately incredibly impressive to see the techniques, designs, and craftsmanship carried out in pieces that are as large as 100” x 100” (and YES,  there are quilts that large – over 8 feet!)

Just to mention a couple of the quilts you will see, pictured here on the title wall is one of the award-winning quilts, “Butterfly Garden” by Pamela Loewen from Michigan. The abstract design is created from hand dyed pieces of cotton fabrics that were pieced and then the artist used free-motion quilting for the final surface design. The movement created by the use of many small pieces of fabric that are slightly curved and the use of warm and cools tones moves the viewer’s eye throughout the piece. After seeing the exhibit a couple times, this was one of my favorites.

Be sure to examine “Line Study 17” by Margaret Black from Pennsylvania. Reminiscent of Mondrian’s work, Black uses bold colored blocks with striking black lines with white interspersed. This piece received the Best in Show award, and rightfully so. Both of these pieces are incredible both in their overall design, use of color, and gorgeous treatment of the surfaces with beautiful stitching.
I would recommend giving yourself a minimum of 30 minutes (preferably much more!) to view and appreciate this exhibit. After spending some quality time with Quilt National, I approached Melissa Whitwam, the Executive Director of the Foundry Art Centre about her impression of the work comprising the exhibit. She shared that her own “favorite thing about an Art Quilt collection is its accessibility. Everyone can appreciate the familiar medium of fibers, and Quilt National is the best example of this work. Artists will appreciate the excellent craftsmanship as well as the innovative use of media. Even guests that don’t ordinarily consider themselves art viewers will enjoy the beautiful and surprising collection.”


I would say when you catch your breath and leave the exhibit, cross the hall to enjoy a second fiber exhibit, Fiber Squared, in the Ameristar Gallery. Fiber Squared features work by members of the Missouri Fiber Artists (MoFA).  The exhibit is comprised of fiber works based on a 12” x 12” format, many of which are very dimensional. These 48 pieces include dyed, woven, felted and collaged textures, among many others.

In addition to this exhibit, the members of MoFA have yet another fiber exhibit mere blocks down the street at Framations Art Gallery. This exhibit, Darling! You Look Smashing features wearable art created by the members of MoFA with a vast array of styles and construction including woven, dyed, sewn, felted and deconstructed string items. Between the two exhibits, the members of MoFA are bringing a greater awareness of the accessibility and also functionality of fiber art. The two exhibits seem to explore the many facets and capabilities of fiber art. When you add the scope of Quilt National, these exhibits examine the reach of fiber art; from its roots in traditional functional quilting and sewing for bedding, garments, and other functional measures, to the contemporary designs and methods of creating with fiber, all avenues are touched on.  And right now, it is all rooted in St. Charles galleries to be enjoyed by all.

Both Fiber Squared and Quilt National are on display at the Foundry Art Centre through December 1, 2107. There is a $5 entry fee to view Quilt National, while The Ameristar Gallery is free to view. The Foundry Art Centre is located at 520 North Main Center, St. Charles, 63301. For questions, call 636-255-0720. Darling! You Look Smashing is on view at Framations Art Gallery through November 30, 2017. Framations is located at 218 North Main St., St. Charles, 63301.

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