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Artist of the Month - February 2003

Sandra Starley: Quilting, Sew It Is
by Sydney Francis

The idea of quilting conjures visions of old-fashioned bedspreads with pastel printed fabric arranged in repetitious geometric patterns. But quilting has come a long way in the last several years. A diversity of styles, ranging from the traditional to the painterly, are widely being practiced by quilters around the country. Quilting is not restricted any longer to the domestic sphere. And as it emerges as one of the hottest new forms of fine art, the styles are changing.

Sandra Starley is one of Moab’s ardent advocates of quilting and soft sculpture. She is the former, founding president of the Delicate Stitchers Quilt Guild formed in December of 1997. The Delicate Stitchers, affiliated with the Utah Quilt Guild, are committed to quilting and fellowship in the Moab area.

The Delicate Stitchers hold several annual fundraisers for local charities and those in need. In the spring, they will hold their second annual quilt show, which will exhibit a wide range of quilts from the guild members and the community.
When Starley became founding president of the Delicate Stitchers in 1998, she did not even own a sewing machine. In fact, she had not sewn since high school. But Starley, like other quilters, quickly fell in love with the art of quilting.

Starley expressed that she is "addicted to quilting". Perhaps, she was referring the social aspect of the guild and the workshops, where avid quilters seriously play with new designs and techniques. But I believe she was referring to the sensual aspect of quilting, the luscious array of fabric textures, colors and patterns. She has an obvious passion for using her hands and imagination to manifest brightly colored
designs, which combine traditional techniques with humor and whimsy.

For example, in African Sun-Rising to the Challenge Starley subverts the traditional "log cabin" pattern, which entails piecing together four strips of material around an interior square and then repeating this pattern outward. By cutting the successive piecings at odd angles she creates irregular quadrilaterals, which she combines into the overall quilt.

For African Sun she was given a fat quarter, 18 by 22 inches, of African fabric and challenged to make a quilt that harmoniously integrated the fabric into a final design. The colors of African Sun are warm and fall-like, combining oranges, golds and chocolate brown, with a cranberry red and a splash of turquoise. The resulting quilt is visually harmonious and balanced, while being wildly colorful and provocative.

African Sun challenged Starley’s sensibilities, in that she had to force herself to break away from her attraction to uniformity and her keen sense of perfection in order to cut the fabric at odd angles. The final "log cabin" blocks ultimately had to fit together into the right sizes to give the full quilt its rectangular shape. The art of quilting requires precise mathematics to ensure that the patchwork is uniform and that the sewn pieces turn out to be the exact sizes for the resulting whole.

I was under the misconception that quilting was the process of piecing fabric together in shapes or patterns called "patchwork", but the word "quilting" actually refers to the process of sewing two layers of fabric together around a center of padding in a decorative design. It is the quilting that creates decisive unity to the finished patchwork quilt. And it is also the subtle texture of the quilting, which makes the product exquisitely touchable and appealing. In Starley’s Home of the Brave quilt, there are hand-sewn stars inside the "flying geese," the triangles going around the border like pointing arrows. These intriguing little stars reiterate the theme of the quilt, while enhancing its design and composition.

A quilter is by necessity a detail oriented person, with a bent towards perfectionism. But that attention to detail necessitates lack of imagination and passion, is simply untrue for Starley. Her quilts exhibit boldness of design and color, playful challenge to tradition, and true zest for experimenting with techniques and materials. Although quilting may seem to be a fairly new craft for Starley, her passion for the medium has turned into a sincere and enduring creative endeavor.

Starley has just helped form a new guild in Moab called Creative Force. In the monthly meetings, Creative Force will focus on learning new techniques in a range of media. To learn more about Creative Force contact Susan at 259-0688. The guild is open to artists of all media.

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