Iowa Art Quilters display in Drake

From now until the end of November, the Iowa Art Quilters will be exhibiting their “Portals and Pathways” quilting collection in the lobby of Drake Community Library, located at 930 Park St. The exhibition features a wide range of layered fabrics, repurposed fabrics and three-dimensional protuberances which challenge the boundaries of quilt-making.

Every month, members of the Iowa Art Quilters assemble in Grinnell to share and develop their quilting skills. Quilting can refer to the art of making a quilt, or to the process of sewing multiple layers of fabric together to create a thicker material.

The show is the latest in a number of annual exhibitions made up of group members’ work, which is displayed in local venues. But their influence isn’t limited to Iowa. A spotlight which was submitted to and published in the nationally-recognized “Quilting Arts Magazine” featured one of the group’s challenging projects in which they collaborated on a single piece. The result was a quilt featuring an image of a barn partitioned into sections, each completed by a different member. The final product presented a collage of different techniques that showcases the diverse talents and aesthetic sensibilities possessed by members of the Iowa Art Quilters.

One of the quilts on display, “Pathway to Nature,” featuring turkeys, squirrels and trees. Photo by Sydney Steinle.

One of the quilts on display, “Pathway to Nature,” featuring turkeys, squirrels and trees. Photo by Sydney Steinle.

The group’s monthly meetings draw members from all around Iowa who want to learn new techniques for stitching and dyeing fabric and be involved in exhibitions. The pieces currently hosted in the Drake Community Library are united by the theme “Portals and Pathways” and include quilts featuring subjects as disparate as landscapes, ladders and eyes, as well as more abstract works.

Group member Ann Igoe, whose work is among the quilts featured in the library exhibition, said that the theme developed around a desire to represent the various creative processes of group members.

“I’m always thinking about my art as a path, and when we were struggling for a theme to come up with someone else talked about portals as a way to look into things or look out of things, how that can change your vision,” Igoe said. “My art tends to be a little more linear and that led me into pathway thinking, and other people are more organic and portal-oriented.”

The quilts are bound by the requirements that their pieces must feature three layers of fabric and fit within a 16-square-inch area, but the works of art on display are extremely diverse. Many feature beadwork, cutouts and richly hued fabrics. Igoe’s own work, entitled “Straight and Narrow Path,” features a variety of different textiles stitched together in a disjointed line which she says represent the potholes that appear along any journey.

“Even if we try hard to follow our straight and narrow path, there’s always something gets in our way and it’s usually pretty interesting. That was my inspiration,” Igoe said. “It was really fun to stitch with a different type of fabric. Most traditional quilters use cotton fabric and really just meticulously pieced pieces that are all alike … so this was a really free form, just more like an art quilter, you take the technique of quilting and do more of an art approach to it.”

Longtime group member Rebecca Loew said that for her, what distinguishes true quilt art is not skill level but personal investment.

“For me, it’s always been very important for it to be all mine with all its flaws. It hasn’t been important that it be perfect but that it’s been mine for better or for worse, that it’s all mine. And what I see when I look back at my quilts from when I started to the present, I look at it as kind of as a journey and a documentation of where I’ve come from and where I’m going and how I’ve improved.”