For proof that we really try to emphasize the International at International Quilt Festival, you need not look further than a very special quilt to be displayed at this year’s Chicago show.
The impressive Hungarian Jewel, made by well-known Hungarian quilter Anna Dolányi and 50 members of the Hungarian Patchwork Guild, was created in the style of the French Boutis, a wholecloth technique used in the South of France dating back to the 17th century.
Editor’s note: Boutis, a Provençal word meaning “stuffing,” describes the way in which two layers of fabric are quilted together with stuffing sandwiched between the sections of the design, creating a raised effect.
In order to draw attention to the fine detail work of the Hungarian Jewel, the quilt will be displayed using special lights that accentuate its dimensional design using light and shadow.
But the quilt’s design and technique aren’t the only things that make it special for our show. The work, according to Dolányi, was inspired by and named in honor of Jewel Pearce Patterson, longtime quilter and instructor, and the late mother of Quilt Festival Founder and Director Emeritus Karey Bresenhan.
For many years, International Quilt Festival awarded the Jewel Pearce Patterson Scholarship for Quilting Teachers to deserving recipients, allowing them the opportunity (and providing travel) to teach at Quilt Festival in Houston. And it was Dolányi who was awarded the scholarship back in 1997, something that, she says, was an enormous help for her.
“I was the founder of the Hungarian Patchwork Guild, and the first Hungarian quilting teacher as well,” she explains. “In this time—26 years ago—nobody here knew the first thing about quilting and patchwork. During the Soviet occupation, it was not possible to get any information from abroad, and Hungary does not have a tradition of quilting. We have a rich—and still living—tradition in embroidery and special folk art, but never patchwork or quilts.”
Dolányi lived outside of Hungary
for 20 years, but returned in 1990. After teaching herself to quilt using a “German pocket-book,” she had an exhibit with photos, silk-screen prints,
and a few quilts.
“It was such a big success, everybody wanted to learn patchwork and quilting! So, I began to teach,” she says. “After the exhibit, I was asked by many other Hungarian cultural centers across the country to teach this new revolutionary technique. I asked my friends outside of Hungary to send flower and heart blocks or quilts to have the materials to really show them what patchwork and quilting is. I received over 1,000 letters from 27 countries, and created a beautiful collection of blocks and quilts.”
Dolányi continued teaching beginning quilting on weekends, and eventually, her former pupils began to teach as well. Within five years, the Hungarian Patchwork Guild had more than 800 members.
“This was a formidable beginning, but you can understand how fantastic the possibility was for me—and the Guild—to see Houston!” she says. “I took many classes during the 1997 show, and collected plenty of books and materials to make more and take to our guild.”
Dolányi was president of the Guild for 15 years, but now does work on collective projects and exhibits for the group, including an exquisite collection of blue-dyed quilts displayed at International Quilt Festival in Houston in 2012, and, now, the Hungarian Jewel.
The name of the piece, she explains, alludes not only to the woman who inspired its creation, but also the fact that it is a “treasure.” “Our folk art is a Jewel, rich and varied, like the stoves in Kalotaszeg county,” she says, referring to a region (Ţara Călatei in English) in Transylvania, Romania with a significant Hungarian population and a stronghold of Hungarian folk traditions, including decorative handmade ceramic stove tiles.
Using a book containing images of the traditional folk art motifs, Dolányi enlarged the designs and realized that the best way to execute them in detail would be the Boutis technique. “The original stoves are three-dimensional, so the quilt had to be too,” she says.
The Hungarian Patchwork Guild celebrated its 25th anniversary last year with an exhibit in Dolányi’s town of Debrecen—where the Guild was also born. It was the first time for the Hungarian Jewel to be shown, and Dolányi, her guild, and visitors were all blown away. “I can not even explain to you how much everybody liked it!” she adds.
Visitors to International Quilt Festival in Chicago, March 26-28, will have the opportunity to see the gorgeous quilt firsthand (and beautifully illuminated) as part of the exhibit, “Retrospective: Work by Jewel Pearce Patterson Scholarship Winners.”
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