Some time ago (can’t find it!) I reviewed the first book in this series of Art Quilt Portfolios by Martha Sielman and had a number of criticisms. As I recall, these were focused on the fussy design – floating flotsam, odd lines that appeared, and unnecessary borders. I also queried overly lengthy fulsome introductions and stated that more information from the artist would be of greater interest and should not be in a “filled out a form answering specific questions” format. I’m happy to say that in the new book, People and Portraits, these changes have been made. It’s a lovely, cleanly designed, hefty book with a good smell! (D’you smell books? I do hope I’m not the only one!) The book feels solid in your hand instead of the increasingly flimsy efforts produced by many quilt publishing companies.
People and Portraits has 192 pages and features 21 quilt artists in depth and has seven special gallery sections. The 21 artists are: Sowada, Gardner, Elkins, Berends, Kumicich, Kleinman, Ferrin, Kurihara, Rocke, Lovinger, Ugerup, Leak, May, Pelish, Bardella, Wiener, Pal, Bowker, Nida, RuBert, and Goddu. Eight artists are from outside the USA. For me, there were many new names and fresh work as well as a few old favorites. The book, therefore, is a great survey of quilts which feature figurative work. There are some obvious omissions, e.g. Nancy Erickson, Wendy Huhn. These choices are always at the discretion of the curator/editor and there may be many reasons why a particular artist’s work isn’t shown. However, if the reason is that they are featured in another volume, there could at least be an example of their work in the gallery section, so as to make the survey more complete, with a notation as to the volume in which they have more pages. Many people might buy just one book in the series and not know of their work.
The gallery sections are: happiness, contemplation, community, icons, family and friends, work, play with approximately a dozen quilts by different people. The titles of the section are an odd collection, it’s hard to see the logic in such divisions and I wonder if dividing up the “other” pieces into these galleries has any real point or usefulness. Why not just have the 21 featured artists and then one big gallery?
Each artist has about 6 pages showing at least that many quilts. This is a generous amount and gives you a real impression of the person and the scope of their work. There is a short paragraph by the editor which is more of a glowing back cover review of the artist’s work than a real introduction to the artist. I would have liked specific details about the artist, education, location, website etc. These could also have been included at the end of each section. About half the artists I hadn’t heard of previously and it would have been most helpful to know which country they’re from and a little of their background. Yes, poking around in the index, I did eventually find their countries of origin, but that’s a bit awkward. While some of the artists ramble on a bit philosophically most do address process issues and, even though I do tend (like many of us!) to skip the words and look at the pictures, I did find what they had to say revealing and well worth reading. Each person wrote a little differently about themselves, more refreshing and readable than an organized interview format. This encourages them to be so much more intimate and straight from the heart in their comments: “I am a very small fish. I’ve always seen myself as an insecure person, but not when I’m creating.”
A small quibble: I would much rather have had a stitched, appliquéd or pieced quilt on the cover, rather than a painted one…but I can see that the piece chosen is a strong clear image. Overall, the photographs are clear, well focused and the color printing (in as much as I know the work) appears true. If People and Portraits is that much stronger than The Natural World, start saving now for the next one in the series!!
Art Quilt Portfolio: People and Portraits by Martha Sielman is reasonably priced at $(US)24.95 – and, of course, is significantly discounted to $8.60 (how do they do that??!!) at “that” online store!
And, while you're there, don't forget to take a look at my book Inspired to Design, Seven Steps to Successful Quilts which is due out next month!
As always...if you have been, thanks for reading!! Elizabeth