Fall 2014 Newsletter
“Inspired by Libby” is a special exhibit at the International Quilt Festival to honor Libby Lehman, noted award-winning quiltmaker, author, Quilt Festival teacher for 18 years, and long-time judge of quilt competitions. Libby suffered a ruptured aneurysm in April, 2013, followed by surgeries and a stroke. Her valiant battle to recover via speech and physical therapy is chronicled through regular updates on her Caring Bridge page.
As a tribute to Libby, quilter Clara Lawrence of Elgin, Texas curated this special exhibit of quilts that will be auctioned to help Libby’s family defray some of the costs of her medical care and therapy. We spoke with Lawrence about the exhibit for this issue of Friends@Festival.
Friends@Festival: When did you conceive of this special exhibit, “Inspired by Libby?”
Lawrence: Two years ago, my nephew committed suicide. His mother, my sister, also did the same four months later. My family has been in shock and depression since. I have latched onto projects like the Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative (AAQI) to keep me going and not sink too far. Well, Ami Simms (founder and director of AAQI) met her goal of raising one million dollars. I couldn’t be happier for her, but then I was a quilter without a goal.
During last year’s International Quilt Festival in Houston, I had that in the back of my mind. I also had Libby there, too. I wanted to do something, but had no idea what. I saw Caryl Bryer Fallert’s retrospective exhibit, and her quilts were all the same size. I noticed it made the art come to the forefront and seem to pop. So, that night, I had restless dreams and boom—an idea literally popped out.
Friends@Festival: How many artists and/or instructors were invited to participate?
Lawrence: Libby was a teacher and an artist, and that’s who we invited, because teachers want to inspire and encourage. I ran it by well-known quilters, teachers, and colleagues of Libby's Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims and they said “go for it.” They have been a sounding board for me along the way.
Thirty-two artists committed to the project. One of the quilts is a made by a set of two artists—Sue Nickels and Pat Holly—who are sisters.
Others who contributed quilts to the collection were Christine Alexiou, Alex Anderson, Rob Appell, Wendy Butler Berns, Pat Blair, Melinda Bula, Susan Carlson, Susan K. Cleveland, Sheila Frampton-Cooper, Joe Cunningham, Pat Durbin, Helen Godden, Susan Shie, Cherri Hampton, Michelle Jackson, Beth Kennedy, Lyric Kinard, Judi Madsen, Margaret Miller, Carol Moellers, Cindy Needham, Gina Parris-Perkes, Yvonne Porcella, Susan Stewart, Janet Stone, Gail Thomas, Ricky Tims, Sarah Vedeler, Laura Wasilowski, and myself.
Friends@Festival: Aside from the 30-inch-by-30-inch size, were there any parameters set for the production of the quilts?
Lawrence: I wanted to keep it as open as possible to let the artist loose. At first, I was thinking of assigning quilts to certain artists so there wouldn’t be duplicates, but then changed my mind. If you gave 15 artists the same image and told them to use that as inspiration to create a piece, you will end up with 15 different pieces.
The inspiration could have been anything from technique, color, subject—even the person themselves. So, I set them loose. Just create a quilt “Inspired By Libby.” The size automatically linked the exhibit together visually.
It ended up being a fabulous range—everything under the sun. It ought to appeal to just about anybody.
Friends@Festival: What happens to the collection after the International Quilt Festival?
Lawrence: Much thought went into deciding this. We will have one quilt up for silent auction at Quilt Festival in Houston. The remainder will go up for an online auction at www.InspiredByLibby.com, conducted by the same auction house that helped out with the Ami Simms AAQI project.
The auction will start Wednesday, October 22 and end Wednesday, November 5, coinciding with the timing of International Quilt Market and Festival in Houston. The quilts will then be shown at Paducah in the spring of 2015. After that, they will be shipped to their new owners.
Friends@Festival: How long have you known Libby and how did you meet?
Lawrence: I took one of Ricky Tims’ seminars about six years ago in Houston. Libby was one of the teachers, along with Alex Anderson. I made a point of saying hello during a break and showing her some quilts I brought. She was so positive and gave me a helpful critique.
The next year, I made a point of signing up for all of her classes in Houston and to being the Teacher’s Pet. When I saw her at the first class, I let her know that I was stalking her and showed her my schedule. We had so much fun. From then on, when we saw each other, we gave each other a big bear hug. Her love of color speaks to the artist in me.
Friends@Festival: What else is it about Libby, personally, that inspires and motivates people to participate in this endeavor of love and giving?
Lawrence: Her sense of humor comes up a lot, but also her charisma
and ease to jump in and help out an artist. She’s a kind spirit, always with a
Friends@Festival: What is Libby’s current status? Is she making some progress?
Lawrence: She was struggling for a while, but now has her fight back. She is eager to get on with therapy and get stronger again. Yes, she is making progress, and yes, it is a slow process for her. But she is eager.
Friends@Festival: Has anyone communicated to
Libby and her family about the project? What has
been the reaction?
Lawrence: The family has been extremely excited about this project. I have created a private Facebook group and invited family members too, so they could participate or simply watch the process of the exhibit grow and develop. Also, email updates have been sent to the artists and the family.
Cathy, Libby’s sister, is our main contact. She has been sharing the images with Libby as the quilts have been made. Of course, Libby got to see them first hand. When I visited her last month to show her the quilts, she was eager to see each one. At first she was tired and a little confused, but slowly she awoke and her hands would trace the quilts like a master would look at details.
She said she was “overwhelmed” and had a big smile on her face and
in her eyes.
Quilts featured below all from the “Inspired by Libby” exhibit:
Photo 1—Hommage a Libby by Ricky Tims.
Photo 2—For Love of Libby by Susan Shie.
Photo 3—Tangerine Triangle Tango by Wendy Butler Berns.
Photo 4—Metamorphosis by Sheila Frampton-Cooper.
Photo 5—Exuberance by Susan Stewart.
Photo 6—Salsa Con Libby by Patt Blair.
Photo 7—Lovely Libby Circles by Pat Holly and Sue Nickels.
Photo 8—Libby’s Leaves by Laura Wasilowski.
Photos 9 and 10—Libby getting a first look at Ricky Tims’ quilt for the “Inspired by Libby” exhibit and auction.
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