Maria Shell, Alaskan Quilter

Faculty Profiles: Maria Shell
 
For more than 35 years, QBL has brought world-class faculty to Central NY for 2 weeks each summer. This year, we’ve invited Maria Shell to teach two signature workshops  Abstraction through Color, Pattern, and Repetition (2-days) and Making Prints out of Solids (3-days). Maria Shell’s work is grounded in the tradition and craft of American quilt making. She strives to take the classical components of a traditional bedquilt and manipulate them with the hope of creating surprising combinations of pattern, repetition, and color for the viewer.
 

An interview with Maria
All of your quilts have such bold graphic colors- have you always worked this way? If not, how have your quilts changed?
This is my very first quilt. (right)
So, I would say that from the beginning I have loved bold graphic colors and compositions. I remember studying for hours and hours quilts that I liked. I wanted to figure out what I liked about them and how I could duplicate that. It really is about creating contrast through pattern, color, or value.
You also have worked on many community quilt projects. Can you tell us some more about that and the people you worked with?
 
I started making community quilts as a way to justify my quilt making obsession. I tried to make a community quilt for every baby that I knew in Valdez, Alaska. I would collect the blocks from other moms and then stitch them together. Lots of quilters helped me make those quilts happen. I have written about these quilts in several blog posts listed below.
In the fall of 2014, I was an Artist in Residence at the McColl Center for Art & Innovation in Charlotte, North Carolina. A big part of that residency program is community engagement. I worked with a formerly chronically homeless population to build a community quilt to be installed at Moore Place, their new home. That was an amazing experience and a spectacular quilt. If you would like to know more about my residency, Moore Place, and HOME the community quilt we built, you can by following these links.
I love the deep meaning of community quilts-we are literally stitched together.
The underlying structure of many of your quilts is actually a simple grid, can you tell us more about how you get so much complexity and variety out of grids?
 
For six years, I have been working in series called Color Grids. They are based on a traditional quilt block that goes by several names including The Red Cross Quilt, Stone Mason’s Puzzle, City Streets, Crossed Square, and my favorite, Squares and Square. It is essentially an uneven nine patch. One of my missions as an artist is to claim the traditional quilt block as a legitimate art form.
I have challenged myself to use this same grid over and over again-just like a gridded traditional quilt. But instead of things remaining static, I expand and contract the grid while also filling the space with different information-color, print, shape, and line are always changing within the constraints of the grid.
Funky Monkey has a slightly different format. If you look closely you will see that Funky Monkey is really sixteen blocks placed in a grid with sashing. The direction of the lines within the blocks creates interesting figure ground work. The eye moves back and forth trying to decide exactly what is ground and what is figure.
With Solstice, I introduced print into the mix. I am still exploring how to successfully do this.  Adding print to the mixture definitely opens up some new possibilities, but it also complicates things because it is one more variable to contend with.
What do you like most about teaching Abstraction through Color, Pattern, and Repetition?
  I love this class because it really is the sum of what I have been working on since I began making quilts. The students start with an image of their own and, with my help, figure out how to abstract it. The compositions that have come out of this workshop are amazing! Here is Wendy Hoag’s quilt that she started in this workshop.
What do students take away from this workshop?
 
 Students get the opportunity learn about how I use color, pattern, and repetition to create abstract work, and they discover that creating original work is exciting and do-able.
What do you like most about teaching Making Prints out of Solids?
 
Making Prints out of Solids is a simple concept with mind boggling opportunities. We all recognize prints in our every day lives-stripes, polka dots, herringbones, chevrons, and even plaids. In this class, we recreate and piece our own prints. It is super exciting. This is sample of what the students learn how to make in this class.
What do students take away from this workshop?
 
Students will learn a lot about color and how pattern and repetition can be used to create dynamic compositions. They will also get a clear handle on how to cut and piece improvisation-ally  while also learning some slick technical tricks to help all those pieces fit together in the end. Kate Yates made these two quilts after taking this workshop. I think they are incredible!
 

More Classes & Information on QBL 2017

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Questions? Call the Schweinfurth Art Center at (315)255-1553 or email qbl@schweinfurthartcenter.org today!
 

New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
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