A High Calling

I was happily engaged, clicking the next button from quilt to quilt on Jenny Bowker’s site, and imagining questions I would ask her if I ever was in a position to enjoy a face to face conversation.

For instance:

1) Could you name a few persons you might choose as role models (of desirable values) for your daughter, since Barbie obviously does not meet the standard.
2)  What did the water taste like from the water fountains in Damascus? Was it as good as the coffee?
3) You mentioned that the pictures on the walls in your house give you places to go to when you are dreaming. Could you describe some of those travels? Are they as vivid as the physical travels you embark on?
4) Why did you reveal the text on your Hearthstones quilt after stating that it was not really meant to be read? Do you expect that your curiosity must always be satisfied?
5) If you tallied your reactions, which would win: looking forward, or looking back?

Ammonite Fault, Fern Fronds with Chalcedony, and Radiolarian Drift had me in their thrall.


Ammonite Fault~by Jenny Bowker

But then I entered Twisted Thread and was confronted by two stunning images of quilts “based on portraits of tradesmen in Egypt.” They were frustratingly small, so I went hunting. Luckily, her blog, Postcards From Cairo, revealed the pair I sought, and a few other gems that would rival any found in a Sultan’s palace. (Also see her Flickr Photostream.)


Untitled~by Jenny Bowker

Untitled~by Jenny Bowker

Twisted Thread contains the following quote:

[Bowker] believes that because we spend most of our lives wrapped in cloth, people respond to textiles in ways that they do not respond to paint on canvas and this is indicated by the way people want to reach out and touch the work. It gives quilters a specific language that relates especially to women.

I think I will have to adjust my previous list of questions to add a sixth:

6) What led you to choose male tradesmen as a subject for a traditionally female art form? Did the irony appeal to you?

I happen to be one of those persons who does reach out to touch paintings, especially when there is mixed media involved. Also, my paper quilts end up being quite hard surfaced (much like leather). No-one would want to, or be able to, sleep under one of them. Nevertheless, I did not take umbrage with these remarks as I continued to explore the Bowker universe. Her bio included a science background, and a husband who is a diplomat. Wide travel has imbued Bowker’s work with a flavor and flare that truly arouses the senses.

And then I found the pearl, a statement that so resonated with my purpose that it caused my being to reverberate to its clarion call:

I teach and really enjoy it. There is no greater delight than to offer tools to a quilter who wants to make original work but doesn’t know how to access her own ideas.

It’s such a simple, precise statement; so matter-of-fact. Yet, it expresses a very high calling~one which I also aspire to. How fitting that Jenny Bowker is a tradesperson herself, employing her tools to facilitate others in the construction of their own, original work.


About CarolWiebe

Art entices, inspires, and delights me. Art is a vehicle for laughter, tears, wonder, enlightenment--taking me on a constant path of discovery. You can't say that about housework (except, perhaps, for the crying part).
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6 Responses to A High Calling

  1. Shirley Bartell says:

    Carol, it is so good of you to do all this research, commenting and posting! I really appreciate it! I spend as little time as possible at the computer – every minute away from my studio is a minute not making art. Since I don’t take the time to browse I miss out on all this wonderful artwork that you find and post!

    These pieces by Jenny Bowker really sing to my heart! Color, geometric shapes, interesting focal points. I’ll bookmark her site, for sure!

    That blue framed piece fairly glows with color! I wonder how she does that (maybe her website will shed some light?) I’d like to get that intensity into my collage pieces!

    Ammonite Fault is just gorgeous! I love reds and oranges, darker colors to offset them. Fall is definitely “my” time of year! The spiral and the sun are two of my favorite symbols to use too and I really like the way she used blue for the vertical lines. I’ll have to see if she has comments. Thanks again for posting these! You are my culture fix for the day! sab

  2. SusanJ says:

    I agree with the previous poster. Thank you SO much for the inspiring research plus your own very interesting comments. I appreciate that what you write emphasizes the positive without being saccharine.

    My goal is to paint, not to make quilts. But nonetheless the last quote wonderfully captures how I often feel: “[as one] who wants to make original work but doesn’t know how to access her own ideas.”

  3. Carol Wiebe says:

    Jenny is very inspiring, isn’t she! And thank you for the kind words for me, as well. I am always finding ways that other artists think, and how they work, which I then translate into meaningful ways for me to think and work.

    I am not talking about copying, but about allowing their methods to inform mine. For instance, I love the way Jenny looks for symbols relevant to her “portrait subject” and incorporates them into her portrayal of them.

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  6. Flora says:

    Carol, once again you bring me thoughts and images that I might otherwise never have come across. I feel that I have my own reference librarian! (Having worked in the field too.) It is so nice to be on the receiving end!
    I love these images and colours. I never realized the narrative in quilting before.
    Thanks again.

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