Monday, May 22, 2006

Piecing it Together

"Squared" - Nancy Billings
Hand-dyed and hand-painted cotton and silk. Freehand machine embroidery with sleeve ready for hanging. 27"x29"

As Americans we have the notion that frugal pioneer women invented quilting as a means to create attractive bedding out of scraps of scarce fabric, but the truth is quilting goes way back as far as the ancient Egyptians. My first experience with quilting was my own meager attempt to piece together some fabric and hand sew it together. I was into making bread at the time as well. I lived on a dairy farm in Wisconsin and I used a wood stove to raise the dough, and obviously I was into the "Mother Earth" catalog. I actually got beyond creating bricks of bread that would make great missiles for breaking windows, progessing onto a light, yeasty manna that eaten hot out of the oven with a big pat of butter, makes me salivate even now.

My point being is that quilting is not for amateurs. I never got more than a 12-inch square completed, if that much, and I did learn to make pretty good bread, which is sort of an art in itself. That’s why I am so wowed by Nancy Billing’s wonderful textile art. Nancy Billings, a New York native, now located in Miami, received her BFA in Fashion Design at Pratt Institute. A quilt maker for 25 years, Nancy has gone the full spectrum in her career, from creating traditional bed coverings to contemporary wall art. Nancy now often includes mixed media along with dyeing her own cottons and silks for both quilt art and art to wear. She has been published in Joen Wolfrom's Magical Effects of Color, Art Quilt Magazine, American Quilter Magazine and The Miami Herald and has exhibited in juried art shows around the country including the Coconut Grove Arts Festival.

“My obsession with fabric started when I was 12, when I learned to sew from my grandfather who gifted me a respect for creating with fabric. Partner the love of color with the passion for fabric and you get a lifelong journey that has taken me to glorious moments and has also helped me heal from sad times in my life,” she says.” By using unusual color and pattern combinations I try to get the right balance of color, value and contrast and blend them together into a harmonious work of art. With freehand machine embroidery I am able to add another dimension of texture and interest to my art.” One of Nancy’s latest endeavors is making Chuppot (wedding canopies). “This has become a most rewarding and exciting direction in my work,” she says. Lucky brides everywhere!---Ruth Mitchell

(c) 2006 - Ruth Mitchell - all rights reserved

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