When I met up with friend Robin and her granddaughter Anna at The Quilters Hall of Fame 2014 celebration we learned to expect the unexpected. We missed this year’s inductee Ruth B. McDowell’s morning walk-thru of her quilts and the opportunity to meet and interview her. As we walk into her exhibit space a sign states photographing her quilts or sketching them is forbidden. Anna is particularly disappointed because she remembers posing in front of her favorite last year to have her photo taken. Robin and I understand Ruth’s need to protect the images of her original artwork and respect her wishes, but it’s hard to explain it to a six-year-old. Viewing Ruth’s Holstein and Jersey dairy cows, the dog, the flowers, the pumpkins, the draft team it is almost like looking at photos of a 4-H Fair! Her use of color to create depth, her machine quilting to add texture…so creative… She is a Master quilter and much deserving of her induction into the Hall of Fame.
After examining each and every quilt and choosing our favorites we head to the next gallery. The exhibit is entitled Arnold Savage: My Life in Textiles.
We learn Mr. Arnold Savage comes from a family of quilters and his ancestors collected fabrics and passed them down through generations with the oldest fabric dating back to the late 1700s.
In 1932 while in the first grade, Mr. Savage comes down with rheumatic fever. He recollects, “From that point onward I contracted every childhood illness there ever was, one right after the other. Grand Aunt Alice (who raised my mom) came to stay and help her take care of me. She showed me the rudiments of quilting to keep my mind occupied.”
This exhibit truly depicts his lifetime of quilting: His use of old fabrics and creativity to fashion hand quilted masterpieces to warm the heart and soul. Many of the quilts use incredibly small pieces of fabric: homage to the adage “Use it up, wear it out; make it do or do without! His wall size quilt “Come to my garden” was started back in the 1930s. Mr. Savage cannot decide how to border it and lays it aside. In 2005 he is inspired to surround the garden with a picket fence complete with a few crooked slats and adds whimsy with a rooster to crow all about it.
Along with row upon row of his breathtaking quilts, we find his fabric panels with headlines like 1870-1880s and 1880-1910. Underneath each heading are 8″ x 11″ or so pieces of fabric from the given era. The 1870 group contains 16 examples of madder dyed fabrics from brown to copper tones, the 1880 group features examples of double pinks and the 1880-1910 features shirting, red/black and indigo blue fabrics. Along with the panels Mr. Savage compiles a book of fabric samples and donates it all to The Quilters Hall of Fame education collection where it is available to researchers.
Now 87 years old and in declining health Mr. Savage was due to arrive later and alas we couldn’t stay to meet him. His gift to TQHF will ensure present day and future textile historians and designers a treasure trove of fabric history to be studied and emulated. Last year Anna is so inspired by Meredith Schroeder’s quilt exhibit she goes back to the farmhouse sits down at her little desk and designs her own quilt collection to show to Babu Robin and Grandpa Jim. With her appreciation of quilts and knack for design perhaps one day she will design fabric for future quilters!
Lois Levihn Eubank is the owner of Born Again Quilts restoration studio and quilt gallery located at 4005 South Wayne Ave. Hours are 5:30-7p.m. T-W-TH and Saturday 9-2 p.m. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 260-515-9446.