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Art Quilt Elements Founder is Merion-Based Fiber Artist


Brimming with vibrant colors and bold designs, Art Quilt Elements 2014 is on display at Wayne Art Center through May 3. No disrespect to Grandma, but Merion-based fiber artist Cindy Friedman founded Art Quilt Elements with a much larger audience in mind. More than 3,000 people are expected to attend this year’s international juried show.

MLT: How does art quilting differ from traditional quilting?

Photo by Jared Castaldi.

CF: In traditional quilting, someone makes a pattern and sells it, and the only difference in subsequent quilts is the color choice made by the individual. In the art-quilt world, no two pieces look alike. We don’t have to follow a pattern or a drawing. As opposed to cutting and piecing commercial fabric, we make our own textiles and form them into quilts, often using different types of fibers and unconventional materials. Many of our pieces are machine quilted, as opposed to hand-sewn. The purpose is also different; our work goes on walls, not beds.

MLT: And how does that go over with traditionalists?

CF: Three layers held together with stitching fits our definition of a quilt. But there are no other rules or attempts to define a quilt. Many traditional shows have rules that quilts have to be certain sizes with certain seams, sometimes even certain patterns. We allow for the creative freedom of our artists. That gets our work roundly criticized by the quilt police.

MLT: The quilt police?

CF: Members of old-school quilting guilds who treasure their traditions and roundly denigrate the work of art quilters. The quilt police will criticize art quilters’ seams or stuffing, and dismiss the work because it doesn’t meet their standards. To me, the thing to remember is that art quilts don’t have to be functional, so those standards don’t apply. There is room for all of us, even though we’re considered the rebels of the quilt world.

MLT: What can we expect at Art Quilt Elements 2014?

CF: More than 40 quilts created with a variety of techniques and textiles by artists from 23 states and seven countries. This is the first year that we’ve had artists from Finland and Korea. There are only two other art quilt shows in the United States— one in Ohio and one in California
 —so Art Quilt Elements attracts huge crowds.

MLT: Your quilts won’t be exhibited because of your involvement with the show. But talk about what you’re working on.

CF: I work from my Merion studio and from Botswana, where I live for three months of the year. My husband (Dr. Harvey Friedman) runs the Botswana-UPenn Partnership, which trains doctors to combat HIV. Botswana has one of the highest rates of HIV infection: 45 percent of people 18-45 are infected. We’ve been going to Botswana for 13 years, and it’s been a huge, amazing, beautiful influence. “Shadowscapes” is the name I gave the art quilts I’ve created with those themes. Lighting, colors, shadows —all of that gets incorporated into my work. 

Call (610) 688-3553 or visit www.wayneart.org.