Not long ago, I paged through this book, Nature's Patterns: Inspiration and Techniques for Quilt Makers, by Joyce R. Becker, for the first time in a long time. Those of you familiar with my current work would not be surprised to find such a title on my shelves. But when I bought this, back when it was first published in 1996, I was just getting my quilting feet under me, doing very traditional work and not incorporating nature themes to speak of in my work. Enamored with nature in general, yes, but working it into my quilts, no.
We were on a trip, I'm thinking it was our first one back to Washington since moving to Wisconsin. Whenever we traveled, we'd find ourselves in bookstores perusing titles in our separate favorite sections. I remember I was kneeling down when I pulled this book out and started turning pages. I don't know if I audibly gasped or not, but I do remember I'd seen nothing like the quilts on these pages, plus there were beautiful nature photographs as well. It included patterns (I'd forgotten that), and I think they impressed me as being too complicated for my current skills. In any case, as much as I found myself wanting that book, I didn't feel I could justify buying it - we were always on a bit of a tight budget.
Well, the old husband must have been watching for awhile. I realized he was looming behind me and I just thought he was ready to go. I quickly showed him the book - look at this, these beautiful pictures, I must have said. "Do you want it?" he asked. "Well," I hesitated, "yes, but I don't really need it, and it's kind of expensive." "Well," he countered, "if you want it, get it." I stood there like a child, not believing he meant it, that I could take this home with me. What a loving gesture, so indicative of our relationship. I swear I must have caressed it all the way back home. I remember it went on my carry-on so I could spend time with it on the plane trip back. It lit up my imagination; it cause me to dream...
So imagine my surprise as I paged through it again and found I hardly recognized a single quilt in it. Worse yet, imagine my puzzlement that so few of the quilts caught my imagination as they had all those years ago, so few of them even appealed to me anymore. Frankly, the only quilt artist represented in this book who's work still sings to me is Karen Perrine. I'm not sure if this is where I was introduced to her, but I do know I've followed her work all these years and she never disappoints me. It is her quilt "River Rocks" that is shown in a close-up on the cover of this book.
I think what's surprising me here is how very traditional many of these quilts are. It would figure that quilts based on traditional blocks and tweaked with an artistic flair would have very much appealed to me at that point in my creative journey. Karen's work made me think beyond that, though. There are a couple other quilts in the collection that still do that, by makers I can find no reference for on the web: "Dreaming Pool" by Rosy Carolan, and "Goldfinches at the Feeder" by Heather W. Tewell. A few names are familiar to me now, still active in the quilt world like Heather: Melody Crust and Barbara Olson. It's interesting to note how their work has evolved, what bit of these older quilts have carried forward.
If I were back in that bookstore today, and picked up this book, I'm not sure I'd even entertain the idea of adding it to my collection. However, there's enough beauty in it still that I will not be getting rid of it any time soon. And it is a graphic reminder of how much I've learned, how I've grown, how my tastes have changed over the years.