Feature Articles

April 2013

The Black Mountain (NC) Center for the Arts Offers Works by Stephanie Wilds

The Black Mountain Center for the Arts in Black Mountain, NC, will collaborate with the Swannanoa Valley Museum for its 2013 opening with an exhibit of art quilts by Stephanie Wilds, on view in the Center’s Upper Gallery from Apr. 13 - 26, 2013.

The Swannanoa Valley Museum opens for the season on Saturday, Apr. 13 at 10am with several new exhibits, including “Music, Song, and Dance: Origins and Traditions in Western North Carolina,” the 2013 theme for WNC’s Museums In Partnership. The exhibit will feature the history of music in the Swannanoa Valley, including information on notable local musicians, a display of vintage instruments, and several listening stations for historic recordings. Admission to the Museum is free on opening day.

Stephanie Wilds offers the following about her quilts, “I never saw an art quilt before I made one. My first quilt came out of a particular need: I had a big wall space that needed filling, I needed something that could mitigate sound, and I was skilled with needle and thread. Through that quilt (Musical Mountains) I discovered art quilting and the quilt-oriented shops, books, classes, and exhibits that are abundant in this area.”

Since catching the quilting bug in 2005, Wilds has followed her passions, but not necessarily the rules. While traditional pattern quilting has a strong ethos with regard to materials and techniques, art quilting is a relatively new and unrestrained area, combining a wide range of needle arts, as well as paint, ink, new fabric materials, and computer-generated graphics. “A quilting friend once told me that there are no rules, that I could do what I want, and I’ve taken her at her word,” says Wilds.

Wild’s passions are broad, but tend to focus on music, landscapes, and animals. Though some of her imagery is purely creative, she mostly enjoys working from photographs. “I love the challenge of taking reality and turning it into two-dimensional fabric. If someone shows me a wonderful photograph, of a scene view, or a dog at play, my first thought is, how would I make a quilt out of that? Of course, printing the image on fabric would be the easy way, but, what I do is much harder and so much more fun.” She has recently extended her interests to interpreting vintage photography, including the “Swannanoa String Band 1895” photo that is the basis of the current exhibit at the neighboring Swannanoa Valley Museum.

Besides the obvious palette of colors and patterns available in quilt fabrics, Wilds relies on a variety of techniques to articulate her subjects, including embroidery, appliqué, pen-and-ink, and free-form quilting. She does almost everything by hand, limiting machine-work to background piecing, borders, and small amounts of appliquéd machine ‘thread-painting.’ Each piece usually takes from two to six months to complete, limiting her production to a maximum of three or four quilts per year. “I love doing handwork; it gives me time to think about what I’m doing, and lends itself to a certain intimacy with each piece.” For photographic images of people, however, she relies on a technique she learned from fiber artist Marilyn Wall at John C. Campbell Folk School, which involves some digital photo editing, four shades of fabric, fusible material, and some very sharp scissors.

Blessed with a grandmother and a mother who taught her to sew, Wilds has already enjoyed a lifetime of various needlecrafts. Though she comes from a family of professional artists, she turned to science and nature for her first career, as a landscaper and later as an environmental consultant in land management. Hailing originally from the Sandhills region of South Carolina, she has called Black Mountain her home for the past fifteen years. Along with her husband Tom Fellenbaum, she owns and manages Acoustic Corner, a stringed instrument Mecca for Black Mountain, where she also restores and repairs violins.

For further information check our NC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Center at 828/669-0930 or visit (www.blackmountainarts.org).

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