Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
Aug 01st
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Too Legit To Quilt

ae1-quiltingSanta Cruz artist Ann Baldwin May takes quilting to a whole new level

At first glance, Ann Baldwin May’s decorative art quilts could easily be mistaken for paintings. The award-winning local artist consistently challenges the traditional definition of what a quilt is with her remarkable use of detail.

A collection of her creations is now on display at R. Blitzer Gallery in Santa Cruz, where a playful tagline aptly warns visitors, “These are not your grandmother’s quilts.” While May tends to be modest about her art, gallery owner Robert Blitzer can’t stop gushing about it.

“When you Google ‘quilts,’ what mostly comes up are the traditional type of quilts (and) patterns,” he says. “But we all know that there are those quilters who take it to the limit and that’s who Ann is. That’s what she is doing … I don’t know if she can paint or not, but she’s painting with these (quilts).”

From abstract to nature-themed to whimsical to cubicle to marine-themed to Mexican-inspired quilts, May does it all and more with aplomb. Vibrant designs, unorthodox shapes and bold colors bring her imagery to life and would add warmth to any room.

Ironically, May never aspired to be an artist. At age 12, she begged her mother to let her take sewing lessons at the Singer sewing machine store in her hometown of Palo Alto. There, she and a friend made shorts and crop tops for themselves. She went on to study design and clothes construction in high school and crafted most of her wardrobe by hand.

As a young woman and a newlywed, May began making traditional bed quilts in 1974.

“I stopped counting at 300,” she admits. “Most of them I gave away or shared with family members—you know, like donations to charity quilts. And then I kind of ran out of beds, so I thought I'd try the art quilts.”

While there are many similarities between art quilts and traditional bed quilts, when crafting the former, the quilt maker has more freedom to experiment with different materials, shapes

and lines.

“You can draw on texture and use different fabrics, rather than just 100 percent cotton,” May explains. “You can bring in synthetics that might be a little stretchy or shiny, and other non-traditional fabrics like corduroy or loosely woven fabric, because wall quilts are not washed. A bed quilt is concerned about longevity and being washed and being used.”

ae1-2Ann Baldwin MayMay takes inspiration for her art quilts from the works of Mexican muralists and painters, including Diego Rivera, David Siquieros and Jose Clemente. She also likes to incorporate Native American and indigenous themes into her designs, as well as nature imagery from the Monterey Bay.

“What an art quilt does is use quilting techniques to create a picture for the wall,” she says.

Though May never had any formal art training, she has won several awards, including one from the Pajaro Valley Arts Council for her “Great Blue Heron at Dusk” quilt.

Her artistic process always begins with the fabric. Without any artistic endpoint in mind, she gathers fabrics based on textures and colors that appeal to her. Only after she has selected her material does she determine her subject. “You never know what you’re going to find,” May says. “[So] I bring it home and see what I want to do with it.”

May uses a fabric layering technique to create her most complex quilts, because it allows her to more easily incorporate small pieces and details. First, she lays out the odd-shaped pieces that she wants to use, and then lays down tulle on top of her design. Finally, she machine-sews it all together.

She also uses the more traditional practice of fabric piecing to create both abstract and collage-like pieces. And she sometimes employs a technique called reverse appliqué—based on the traditional costumes or “molas” created by the Kuna Indian women of Panama—where layers are sewn together, and then partially cut away to create effects such as depth or contrast.

But it’s not all work and no play for May. She often experiments while sewing and randomly curves her lines for artistic effect. She even invented a technique that she calls “scribble quilting,” wherein she uses different colors of thread to scribble lines across her quilt, creating beautiful color combinations and designs. She got the idea after noticing some of her elementary school students scribbling over what they considered to be unsuccessful art projects.

After all these years, May is still amazed that art has taken such a focal point in her life.

“I never planned on being an artist,” she says. “I am surprised and overjoyed with my success so far because it came out of the blue and I never expected it or planned for it.” 


“SOFT - Art Quilts By Ann Baldwin May,” is on display now through Jan. 28 at R. Blitzer Gallery, 2801 Mission St., Santa Cruz. No cover. For more information, visit rblitzergallery.com, and to view some of May’s work, visit annbaldwinmayartquilts.com.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Health Screening

Santa Cruz wellness expert releases app to improve workplace well-being

 

Leo Sun; Full Moon, Venus Retro in Leo; Saturn Direct

It’s a complex week of planetary movements, challenges, demands and callings. We’re in the time of the Leo Sun. Leo—fixed fire, gold, the heart, generous, strong, noble, the king/queen—needs appreciation and praise from everyone in order to move forward. During Leo we gain a greater sense of self-identification by recognizing our creativity. It’s therefore a perfect time for Venus retrograding in Leo. In Venus retrograde we review and re-assess values. Venus retro in Leo concerns our self as valuable, acknowledging talents, gifts, abilities and offerings. Friday, Venus re-enters Leo (29 degrees, a critical degree) continuing the retrograde to 14 degrees Leo on Sept. 6. Friday (Full Moon) is also the (8 degrees) Leo solar festival, Festival of the Future. Leo is the heart of the sun, the heart of all that matters. When attuned to this heart, we have understanding and inclusivity. The heart of the Lion is Mitra (think “Maitreya,” the coming World Teacher). Leo prepares humanity to receive divine love from subtle sources and later to radiate that love to the kingdoms. Sirius, Ray 2, where love originates, streams through Regulus (heart of Leo), into the heart of the sun (Ray 2) and into all hearts. The heart of Leo is Regulus. Joining Venus, the love underlying all of creation appears. Saturday is Sun/Neptune (confusion or devotion) with late night Saturn turning stationary direct. Ideas, plans and structures held long in abeyance (since March 14) slowly move forward. (Read more on Leo and the week at nightlightnews.org and Risa D’Angeles’ Facebook page, accessed through my website.)

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of July 31

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Holy Cannoli

New bakery opens in Ben Lomond, plus Randall Grahm’s quest to grow 10,000 new grape varieties, and Mexican cooking classes

 

Is Santa Cruz turning into Malibu North?

It's got a ways to go before it gets wrecked like Malibu, but I think we need to be very careful about growth. Maria Mattioli, Santa Cruz, Psychotherapist

 

Bargetto Winery

A much-anticipated annual event at Bargetto Winery is the release of their very special La Vita red wine. June 7 was the day to be heralded this year, and I happily squeezed my car into their overloaded car park in eager anticipation of tasting the new La Vita nectar.

 

Margaritaville

Popular Capitola spot gets new owner and complete makeover