This is a blog that I have longed to write as I have been an admirer of the work of Ms Bryer-Gentry for several years now having first come across this quilt in a quilting magazine – the immediate appeal was her incredible use of colour and exquisite quilting seen her to its greatest effect in its depiction of the stork or crane.
Last week I telephoned Ms Bryer-Gentry to ask her kind permission to use images of her work in this blog and probably came across slightly daft as I admitted to feeling somewhat star struck – she is one of my quilting heroes and she very kindly gave me the requested permission. Ms Bryer-Gentry also gave me an insight into her working practices and her use of sketchbooks as part of her design process but also that she takes her inspiration from both her local environment and the places she travels.
Ms Bryer-Gentry’s work focuses very much on the qualities of line, colour and texture to create the illusions of movement and depth and also luminosity according to her artist statement on her website and it is these qualities that signify her now instantly recognisable quilts. It seems that for over 20 years Ms Bryer-Gentry used only white fabric for her work which she then dyed, printed and painted to get her required colour palette – this is again something I find myself being drawn to increasingly in my own work although I have yet to really investigate dyeing in a fuller capacity.
What really strikes as interesting is the fact that the majority of the quilts made are not pictorial but instead are inspired by Ms Bryer-Gentry’s imagination or what she sees in both her everyday life and on her extensive travels – the quilts are impressions rather than realistic images which inspire the viewer to use their imagination and experience the positive energy that the artist wants to come through her work. I like the fact that these artistic quilts are emotional representations of positive energy and they are full of life and colour whilst also using the occasional recognisable object to evoke a flight of fantasy – the quilts become an escape from every day life whilst also being rooted within it.
Ms Bryer-Gentry traveled the world for many years as a teacher and lived for a time in Paducah, Kentucky which is universally known as Quilt City and is in fact the only 3-time winner of the American Quilters Society Best of Show, Purchase Award – the quilt to the left Corona #2 Solar Eclipse is the 1989 winner and was also voted one of the top 100 Quilts of the 20th Century!
I find the composition of this quilt is outstanding in that which ever side of the quilt you start from it draws you in in terms of diagonal lines and colour and you are focused on the eclipse itself – there is almost no escape! I like the narrow inner border which both frames the central image but also again draws your either further in and focuses your attention on the eclipse – I find the outer border creates an additional sense of depth through its majority use of diagonal lines – there are few curves to detract the eye and yet it does not totally contain the curves within. The colours it goes without saying are exquisite as they go from cool and calm colours to the firey warm colours emanating from the sun.
In total contrast to this quilt I discovered the seemingly straight lines of the quilted named High Tech Tucks – these lines create an illusion of curves and movement and have been created by the extensive use of three dimensional tucks combined with hand-dyed fabrics. The fabrics it seems were dyed in the 3 main primary colours and also the 3 secondary colour – each colour was also dyed in tints and shades that ranged from white to black …. I cannot begin to imagine the skill that this took. When completed the left hand side of the tucks uses the primary colours in those tints and shades whilst the righthand side shows off the full range of the rainbow spectrum which consists of 44 hues – this is one quilt I would seriously love to see in person as the internet I am certain does not do it full justice.
What is interesting with this quilt is to see the process from the sketching through to the quilt being completed before border was added and the photographs of the final finished quilt and these design concept details are added for all of the quilts and will be studied further as this gives me insight into the artist’s working practices and methodology – I feel there are many lessons which I can learn and in particular
I cannot finish this piece without including one of Ms Bryer-Gentry’s Fibonacci quilts. I particularly like this version of the Fibonacci series due to the use of circles that curve and lead the eye down or up the centre of the quilt and reading the information on the design process it transpires the circles are there to represent the spirit that occurs in a garden and also to centre the mind. The Fibonacci sequence is represented in the long horizontal lines and was designed with the aid of Corel Draw which is a computer design software. Using this software Ms Bryer-Gentry was also able to play with a series of colour palettes and also photographs of the fabrics she was considering using and consequentially able to choose the one she liked the best. The quilt itself is in a private collection and was done as a commission.
I find myself entranced by the use of colour and also intrigued by the mathematical sequence which although I understand it I also still admit to finding confusing – I would love to somehow use the Fibonacci sequence in my own work but more study is needed before I do so.
To conclude it is obvious that I am a keen fan of this artist on a personal level but also find myself now drawn to her work on a professional level through her use of colour and textures in particular as I start to understand how much these two elements are beginning to form part of my developing personal voice. I have noted that I want to do further study into the different design methods for the quilts as I feel I can take forward some lessons and tips – Ms Bryer-Gentry is a renowned teacher in her field and even through her website it is clear she continues to do so.