Quilts On Display At Union County College Art Gallery

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"Walkabout."  Size: 70" x 80". Date: 1998.

“Walkabout.” Size: 70″ x 80″. Date: 1998.

CRANFORD – “Sisters of the Cloth: Honoring Our Tradition,” is an exhibition of quilting works by six women. It is currently on display in the Tomasulo Gallery in the MacKay Library on Union County College’s Cranford campus. The Artists’ Reception for the exhibition will be held from 7-9 p.m. on Thursday, March 7. The exhibition can be seen through to March 28.

The following women have their work displayed in the exhibit: Francine Koon, Josaine Royster, Wannetta Phillips, Ruby L. Simmons, Ellaree Pray, and Rae Ballou Wong. The women explain in their artist statement that as “Sisters of the Cloth,” they belong to different guilds and organizations, but are united in their desire to create beautiful quilts from different fabric combinations using inexpensive sources. They have each illustrated designs, elucidated mathematical equations, and deliberated over color choices. The tradition of quilting has always been a form of transmuting fabric from disparate threads and weaving them into a story.

The quilts are donated to causes that they believe in, given to charities supported by the artists; and yet in some cases, the quilts hang on walls as decoration or simply drape on beds for comfort. The sisterhood of quilting encompasses community, creativity, and a love for fabric with a shared aspiration to display this tradition as art.

Francine Koon explains that her family roots came from super women who were seamstresses that worked in the garment industry. As a child she learned to sew and made her own clothes. She went on to graduate from Fashion Industries High School in New York. She now understands why they learned the things they did as children. One never knows when they will use such skills: math – fractions and measurements; and geometry for shapes. Quilting is an additional extension of using her sewing skills.

Wannetta Phillips began quilting in 2005 after being inspired by the work of a dear friend who was a professional quilter. Her friend Dottie, who was terminally ill, influenced her to learn how to quilt. She gave Wannetta all the tools needed to master the craft, such as a sewing machine and fabric. She also insisted that Wannetta join a quilting guild. Dottie died on September 30, 2005. Wannetta is now a member of several quilting and sewing guilds where the members meet to share techniques in quilting and sewing.Her quilts are used by relatives and friends throughout the country and overseas. They are also displayed and sold at quilt shows and auctioned for charity in New York. She loves to quilt and tries to share her quilting knowledge with family and friends everywhere.

Ellaree Pray gave into her deep-rooted desire to quilt four years ago, after many years of sewing for herself and for friends and family, and joined a quilting guild where she met many friends who share her same passion. She vividly recalls, as a very young child, the time she spent marveling over one of her grandmother’s handmade quilts. That fascination, along with her innate sewing ability, introduced her to this wonderful medium of expression. Together quilters yearn for more time to create, keeping this tradition alive. She also enjoys being an empty nester with her retired husband, Lamont.

Josaine Royster began quilting in 1995 by taking a class at a local quilting store. She has honed her skills by joining guilds and taking continued classes throughout New Jersey. Quilting has become a passion for her, and a way to maintain an existential view on life; it keeps her focused and calm. She has made many friends through this art form, and enjoys the challenges that come with creating new designs. One of the benefits of quilting, other than creating beautiful work to sell, is to give to family and friends, or just to donate to a cause, is a newfound appreciation for mathematics.

Ruby L. Simmons began quilting after her mother’s death in 2001. She had not quilted prior to her mother’s death, but she was left with an unfinished quilt and believed it was her duty and responsibility to continue the family craft. To her surprise, she had an uncanny knack for color, patterns, and selecting materials that blended well together. Her collection of quilts is called “Heritage,” using a blend of many African prints and patterns, as well as pieces of cloth that are dear to her that are sprinkled within the quilt design. Ruby enjoys writing short fiction and poetry and has combined both crafts as a tribute to the history and heritage of quilting.

Rae Ballou Wong’s paternal grandmother was a quilter, and while she did not teach Rae to quilt, Rae definitely inherited her love of fabric and quilt designs. Rae has been quilting for over 35 years. She started her career as a librarian at Temple University, she then worked as an information specialist at AT&T Information Research Center for many years, and ended her professional career at Union County College as a librarian. She devotes her time now to exploring the use of contemporary fabrics in traditional quilt patterns. She is most happy when she is able to incorporate one hundred different fabrics into a single quilt. The strong friendship she has developed with her fellow quilters is now an integral part of her life.

The College’s Cranford campus is located at 1033 Springfield Avenue. Gallery hours are from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Monday through Thursday and from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturday. Evening hours are from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday through Thursday.

From March 25 to March 28 the gallery will only be open from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. each day. For more information, call 1-908- 709-7155 or visit the college’s website at http://www.ucc.edu/go/TomArt.


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