I made a short visit to the McFarlan Hall, Clarencefield, Dumfriesshire today, where the quilts of the late Pam Ducker were on display. Fabrics, second-hand books and magazines were also on sale. The event is run by Ann Hill, a quilter, teacher and quilting supplies shop owner. The exhibition runs from 20 – 28 May 2016.
[My notes appear in plain text, my thoughts are shown in blue italic font.]
“Quilts of the late Pam Ducker
Pam was an active member of Romsey Quilters for many years including two years as Chair and was fortunate to be inspired by many talented quilters and to attend many wonderful workshops. In a move to Singapore she discovered “Red Work” … Pam created many fine quilts and wall hangings in just over 25 years…“
Quote from The Quilters’ Guild of The British Isles website.
The first thing that struck me as I walked into the exhibition was the range of quilting styles that Pam Ducker had explored. There were traditional block pieced quilts, appliqué, Bargello quilts, pieces which reminded me of Hawaiian layered appliqué, and charmingly embroidered red work quilts. A mixture of hand and machine quilting was evident in the pieces.
I am a slow worker, so this often dictates the size and complexity of the piece that I am working on. I prefer the look of hand stitches and the process of hand stitching, but must consider that if I want to make larger pieces, machine quilting has the advantage of speed and producing effects that may be more appropriate for a particular piece. Tying quilt layers together is something that I would like to try, and it has the advantage of adding a different texture to the piece.
The yellowish light in The Hall and the height of the displayed quilts did not make for easy or accurate photography, but I took some reference photos. This beautiful yellow and white quilt (below left, with detail shown at right) was made and hand quilted by Pam. It features eight pointed stars set into a grid with squares divided into triangles, between. It was made to celebrate her Golden Wedding Anniversary in 1994. Another small quilt top in the traditional style with pin wheel blocks in red and white, with a blue border is shown as the featured image above the title of this article.
When I consider why this appeals to me, I think it is the combination of colour, pattern and shape that work so well. The star block is one that I have explored in my own work. (Please note that the piece shown was made before I started this course and is not part of my coursework). I made a small wall hanging (‘Harvest Stars’, shown below) featuring autumnal shades of scrap fabrics, combining my love of making something out of tiny ‘waste’ scraps of fabric, with the use of multiple colours and patterns. The aim in making this piece was to emulate the ‘doll quilts’ made by girls in the USA in the 19th/20th centuries as a first practice piece. I tried to evoke the past traditions and hand work of antique quilts, but giving it a contemporary twist with a ‘random’ border.
An interesting duo of wall hangings called “Design in a Circle – Black Hole” (April – May 2008) and “Design in a Circle – Nebula” (May – June 2008) showed a brightly coloured appliqué, with a narrow satin stitch attachment to the black background fabric, and surrounded and covered with dense machine quilting.
The use of a positive and a negative shape mean that the two art works have an instant ‘yin yang’ relationship between them. The repetition, with variations, is a good theme for a series of work which will be viewed together, and could be adapted to show change over time, for instance.
I purchased this small sample, or unfinished wall hanging, made by Pam.
The three-dimensional appearance of the stitching is very effective. A closer view of the stitches shows that a variety of green threads were used for the ‘recessed’ area of the shape, these have been over-stitched in places, and highlighted with pale coloured thread on the edge that appears to ‘advance’.
I was grateful to have had the chance to see this talented quilter’s work and it has encouraged me to practise machine quilting techniques in order to speed up my process and allow me to make more, and larger art works, or to experiment with tied pieces. The use of repetition with variation is another theme I would like to explore.
To put Pam Ducker’s work into context, it seems to span an exploration of the traditional, artistically pleasing and functional quilts of the 18th and 19th centuries (appliqué, ‘presentation’ quilts and pieced quilts) to more modern art quilts, primarily for artistic expression and decoration. This has prompted me to do some research into the history of quilts in the US and Britain which I will discuss in a separate blog post.