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Who is Ann Shaw?

Quilts have long been a part of my life. Fascinated by patchwork bed quilts when I was young, I came to discover the grace and elegance of Amish quilts, and grew to admire the women who created America’s quilt traditions. Quilting represents community. It represents the creation of remarkable works in fabric from the most humble of resources, embedded in the everyday lives of women.

Despite no sewing skills to speak of, I began making Cathedral Window quilts in the 1980s. I loved the idea that with folded muslin, bits of colorful patterned fabric and a basic whip stitch one could create wonderful, elegant quilts. Eventually I began taking quilting classes at a local shop and was transformed by rotary cutting techniques and the varieties of patterned cottons that were starting to appear in fabric stores. As my skill and passion for quilting grew, I found I enjoyed the playfulness of seeing traditional block forms and quilting techniques in different ways. And like most quilters, I found ways to fit my passion for quilting around family and career obligations.

I am most intrigued by quilting that derives from traditional piecing techniques. When making bed quilts for family and friends, I’d experiment with variations on blocks, wondering what would happen if I varied the fabric choices. I soon began “breaking blocks”, finding ways to stretch traditional blocks in ways that made them read as completely different patterns when combined a quilt. I’ve since learned a great deal about abstracting block forms in new ways from the work of Rhoda Cohen, Gwen Marston, Freddy Moran, Sylvia Einstein and others.

I was also attracted to pictorial quilts, particularly those based on piecing techniques. The work of Katie Pasquini Masopust, Cynthia England, Ruth McDowell and others offered me insights and ways to translate and abstract photos, buildings, animals, flowers and other forms into quilts.

My quilts pictured here represent these two interests. “Breaking Blocks” through “Ghost Experiment” are quilts that begin with some traditional block form and experiment with shape and color. Most recently I have worked with straight-line shapes, particularly triangles, to create streaks, curves and asymmetrical forms. Adapting various techniques allow me to sew and recut simple blocks in an improvisational fashion. The abstract forms that result are fun to play with, simple to teach and create unique quilts from standard sized blocks.

My pictorial quilts are inspired by favorite photographs, family events and various professional collaborations (e.g. the primate quilts). All of these quilts use piecing techniques to create an abstract interpretation of the photo or object — be it car, plant or animal. “VW Beetle” is the first in a series of close-up views. I’ve taken VW photographs with each image focused on just one small element of these cars. Based on these photos, I’ve designed small blocks. When combined in a quilt, these blocks present views of the VW Beetle without ever showing the whole car.

Similar “close-up” design projects include the Dogwood trees that bloom in my front yard. A series of close-up photos of these flowers (front, side, underside, branch, etc.) form a series of related blocks. The resulting quilt will combine these blocks to capture the essence of Dogwood. Combining piecing techniques with close-up abstractions (similarly done by photographers and painters, such as O’Keefe).

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Ann Shaw Resources