My mother, Betsy Abbott, is a gifted fabric artist. She began quilting just eight years ago and has found expression for her tremendous creativity, love of color and natural forms, and a way to bring to life the images and ideas she has carried in her mind's eye for many years. Quilting has become a hugely enriching and vital part of her life, one that my father delights in encouraging, and her quilts are receiving wider recognition and praise at shows across the country.
Her "Luna Eclipse", at left, took 3rd place for color compatibility at the Eastcoast Quilter's Alliance gathering in Nashua, New Hampshire in 2005. This red phase screech owl and the rusty face of the darkened moon leap and shimmer against the swirling fabric of the night sky, mirrored in the outline of the Luna Moth's wings. I have stared at this quilt for hours, thinking about the "tension between predator and prey" that inspired its creation, and sometimes I think the moth flutters to safety. You can see the intricate quilting much better in this image taken by an attendee of the Lowell Quilt Show where it was again displayed last August. Click any of these quilts to enlarge.
Mom's latest creation will be a finalist in the judged exhibit at the International Quilter's Alliance show "Quilts: A World of Beauty" in Houston, Texas. This is the biggest quilt event of the year and her "Shag Rock" is in very elite company. I do not have an image of it to share - a marvelous depiction of Maine cormorants perched on mottled rocks with rock weed swirling - but there is no substitute for viewing these works of art where the fine details of texture, hue and stitching can be truly seen and appreciated. In our home we are lucky to have three of her quilts - one for each grandchild, and her very first quilt for our first and stillborn daughter. She loves doing picture quilts, and her depiction of characters from Wind in the Willows - "Riverbank Friends" hangs in our son Elias's room. Even before Mom discovered quilting, she would needlepoint wonderful creatures onto my little sister Lisa's dresses and our family's Christmas stockings have rabbits and turtles and kittens as well as snowmen and Santas thanks to her.
She makes quilts with traditional patterns as well, often finding ways to represent them in new and startling ways. Her response to September 11th was to turn to her fabric, seeking solace in color, and what emerges is a dramatic and unlike any other quilt inspired by those events I have seen. There are no flags or other patriotic icons in her quilt "Hope is the Thing With Feathers", but a feathered star design at the heart of crazy, fractured blocks of smoke and fire and ash. Yet that center draws some of the heat and jagged shards back together and there is pale blue light within the darkness. It also was accepted to the Houston IQA show in 2002 and was featured in the program book for that year. It hangs in my father's study in their home in Massachusetts.
Mom loves going to "Quilt Camp" in the summer and taking classes with extraordinary fabric artists who can expose her to new techniques and ways of tackling the designs she has imagined. She is a member of Quilters Connection, a guild of 300 Boston area fabric artists and has a wonderful group of peers to offer suggestions and critique. Mom makes only two or three quilts a year, although there are several partially finished ones going at any given time. There are seventeen in all and she is beginning to consider selling some of them. Our family is immensely proud of her.