Jul 17, 2009

Sisters OR: The Little Town With a Big Heart


 If you were one of an estimated 10-12,000 people in Sisters, Oregon for the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show this July, you might be in this 10 minute video

Sponsored by the Stitchin' Post and created by Zionpictures.com...it showcases the quilters of Gee's Bend (listen to them sing 'I'll Fly Away...", Janet Storton and her amazing Ugandan ministry "Sisters of the Heart" interview, and the hearts from around the world that keep on giving....the fabric postcards of the 'Wendy' Wish" project.





It also showcases the thousands of quilters walking the streets of Sisters, looking at and yes, touching! the beautiful quilts that covered every building, fence, table, store wall, quilted car, and yes filled the hearts of each and every one of us who viewed them! 




What it can't show, is the amazing depth of the heartfelt joy and complete and utter beauty you find every single place you look! The first quilt in this post. the dark blue one also shown above, epitomizes that joy.

 Stitched by the "The Coffee Creek Quilters", a group of minimum security inmates of the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility. It not only showcases the freedom and joy they feel when they sew and quilt, but the love and joy they feel as they make quilts o give away, to use to earn money for their continuing program and eventually, even a quilt they can keep for themselves or a loved one.(check their website link to see student quilts) In weekly classes, the students make three quilts, two to give to charity, the third one to keep. 

As this group of women quilt, they try to imagine just who might receive one of their quilts, what kinds of lives they might live, and just how much they might feel the love that they, the quilters put into every bit of fabric, and each and every stitch. And in that emotive process, how can they not help but to feel just how their own lives might transition, growth and develop in that process of empathic, joy, caring, and giving back? 

 The heart of the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show, of the quilts, of the fabric covered buildings, and the of the people of the town, itself as to be felt to be believed. It's a feeling that can only be described as a super charged atmospheric rush of emotion and pure heartfelt joy as you see the beauty of gifted hands combined with loving hearts and the undeniable gifts of creation. 


Whenn Jean Wells, owner of the Stitchin' Post imagined the very first Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show in 1975 and its showcasing of !2, yes 12!, quilts, she could never have imagined that it would skyrocket to being one of the premier quilt shows in the country and one of the very best outdoor quilt shows in the world! 





  Jean Wells speaking of the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show: "My whole goal was for people to be able to share what they had done rather than to have a judged or juried show to pick the best quilt. I wanted it to be a day of sharing."


And a day of sharing it truly is. You walk the streets, parks, alleyways and lawns of this beautiful little western themed logging town, and the beauty of the people, the quilts and the every present sunshine just flows into every pore in your body. As Ann Richardson, the Quilt Show's executive director says "Think show and tell...that's what our show is. 

If you're proud of your quilt, we're happy to show it." The show relies on over 500 volunteers to make the portable hanging frames (and the Sister's High School cross country team puts them up!) to hang the quilts (everyone from the owner's of the building's own family, to every volunteer in and out of town) with regular clothespins from guide wires, wood stripping bars, to teepee-like wood frames, and the walls and storefronts of buildings. 

 With the week before the show known as "The Quilters Affaire" , dozens of classes taught by 36 national, even world-class teachers, lectures series such as that of the ladies of Gee's Bend in the High School auditorium, to the fabulous picnic with indescribably good food catered by Tate and Tate of Bend, on real plates served by members of the Sisters High School Cheer team, the fun begins on a Monday and culminates in the big show on Saturday. 

 And the heart of the show lies in just not the spirit of the showcasing of the textile art of quilting, but it what quilting creates and gives back to a larger community. This year quilts were showcased as part of Janet Storton's "Sisters of the Heart" ministry which now teaches young girls in Kapchorwa, Uganda to quilt as a means of earning a living (watch the video for details!)  





And then there was Cindy Pierce's project "Wendy's Wish'" a fabric postcard sale that has earned almost $50,000 in just three years in memory of her friend Wendy who died of colon cancer. With donations of fabric postcards from all over the world, it's personifies the very spirit of why we quilt and what that gift can give to others in so many different ways. (Click on link to see how YOU can donate a card for next year's show!)


Combined with that project, the lovely framed postcard art of the showcased Quilt Show teachers. Individually custom framed by the High Desert Gallery, the postcards were outstanding examples of the quality of not only this year's teaching staff, but of the beauty of this fabric art in even miniature versions. 




The atmosphere of this charming little town, the unbelievable beauty of quilts splashing color everywhere you look, and the warmth and the love that just pours out of every stitch of creation, and every heart beat of intention flows forth with a radiance that is not only seen but felt! 

  ****And for my usual Frugal Friday freebie : enjoy a free visit to the big heart of the Sisters Out Outdoor Quilt Show in news and video...**** Nuggest News-- Sisters Oregon: video

Free Gee's Bend Quilter's Pattern:

Loretta Pettway Bennett created a Pine Burr Quilt for the State of Alabama while participating in the Alabama State council on the Arts Foklife apprenticeship grogram. Loretta's mother, Quinnie Pettway, was one of the orginal Gee's Bend Quiltes and taught Loretta how to make it. On March 11, 1997 it was officially designated as the "State Quilt" of Alabama. 


Scrappy quilter said...

I'm almost speechless after seeing some of these quilts. Absolutely stunning!! Thanks for giving us such a wonderful trip through your blog post today. Incredible!!

Stephanie D said...

Thanks so much for this virtual tour through Sisters, OR and their awe-inspring outdoor quilt show! Such a feast for the eyes! How did you ever manage to fend off sensory overload?

Clare said...

Wonderful photos and gorgeous quilts. Thanks for sharing.

BTW I have moved my blog. It's back on Blogger. Click on profile to get to it.


LyndaG said...

Just want to thank you for the posts about the quilt show. What a great experience!

Bee Quilter said...

I love all of your posts about this show. Your post on the Gees Bend quilters was one of the best I've ever read on them. I've always really loved their quilts and bought lots of the stamps when when they came out but this is so much more to know and understand. Thanks so much!

jenclair said...

I've seen pictures posted in previous years, but never read any of the background of the show. Thanks so much for sharing how the show originated, how many volunteers are needed to bring it off, the information about the Coffee Creek Quilters, and all of the photos and links!

Holly said...

I always know where to go to get the whole scoop and the "rest of the story". Thanks, Michele.

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for showing so many great images of Sisters. I found one of my quilts in your pictures and since I wasn't able to attend this year it was extra special to see my quilt hanging there. Great memories! Lizzie