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Behind the hidden life of one art quilt

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 11, 2010 - A new book, "500 Art Quilts: An Inspiring Collection of Contemporary Work," is an introduction to the broad spectrum of quilts that cross from humble bed coverings to exquisite creations that no one would dream of sleeping under.

The book had its somewhat democratic beginnings more than a year ago, when Lark Books sent out a call for entries. Artists were allowed to send digital images of up to three quilts, along with other information to identify and describe the quilts and their makers.

Works from 363 artists were chosen, and two are from the St. Louis area: myself, Jerri Stroud, from Webster Groves, and Pat Owoc of Warson Woods.

In the introduction to this new book, Karey Patterson Bresenhan, the founder of Quilts Inc., writes:

"To me, each of the art quilts in this book comes with a hidden life - a life that is ours to interpret and enjoy. The pieces on these pages are imagination personified. Choosing them was challenging and gratifying, and I am happy to share them with you."

Bresenhan is well known in the quilt world. Her organization sponsors a major quilt show in Houston, which is preceded by the industry's biggest trade show. The International Quilt Festival takes place every fall in Houston's convention center, bringing in quilts and quilters from all over the world.

"Dahlia My Dreams," my quilt chosen for this book, was completed in 2004 and took me about nine months, from cutting the first squares through machine quilting the finished piece. It's 62.5 inches by 60 inches.

My fractal series was inspired by my son, a computer programmer at Amazon.com, when he was still in high school. We designed the first one together, and I made it as a graduation present, though I've kept it and exhibited it in several shows, including the AQS show in Paducah, Ky., and the Quintessential Quilt in University City.

To make these quilts, I start with a computer-generated image of a fractal, choosing an image I like and blowing it up until I can see the individual pixels, then selecting a part I think will make an interesting quilt. I then dye fabrics to match the colors, using a low-immersion dye technique. I generally use a one-inch square as my basic building block and construct the quilts in strips about 12 to 15 inches wide.

Jerri Stroud is an editor with the Better Business Bureau as well as a quilter.