2016-10-28 / Ticket

Sew beautiful

Harpswell artist to have special exhibit at quilt festival
The Times Record


ARTIST SUSAN CARLSON places the finishing touches on her fabric collage quilt “Crocodylus Smylus,” a twenty-foot, life-size saltwater crocodile. The quilt will appear in November at the Houston International Quilt Festival, the largest quilt festival in the world. 
CONTRIBUTED IMAGE ARTIST SUSAN CARLSON places the finishing touches on her fabric collage quilt “Crocodylus Smylus,” a twenty-foot, life-size saltwater crocodile. The quilt will appear in November at the Houston International Quilt Festival, the largest quilt festival in the world. CONTRIBUTED IMAGE HARPSWELL

Eleven art quilts by Harpswell fabric collage artist Susan Carlson will be on display at the Houston International Quilt Festival this Nov. 3–6. The show titled “Specimens” features images of creatures that are “extinct, endangered or overlooked.”

“It’s a great honor to be asked to have a special exhibit in Houston,” Carlson said. “The Festival is like the Super Bowl of quilt shows. It’s certainly some of the best exposure my work can have.”

Over 55,000 visitors attended last year’s event.

The exhibit collects her quilts from over a decade of work. Carlson says she only averages one big quilt per year. She teaches nationally and internationally, traveling for up to 16 weeks each year to places as far off as New Zealand and Australia.


ARTIST SUSAN’S CARLSON’S LATEST QUILT, “Kaloli Moondance,” will appear with ten other of her quilts in a special exhibit at the Houston International Quilt Festival this November. 
CONTRIBUTED IMAGE ARTIST SUSAN’S CARLSON’S LATEST QUILT, “Kaloli Moondance,” will appear with ten other of her quilts in a special exhibit at the Houston International Quilt Festival this November. CONTRIBUTED IMAGE Her collection includes a pink rhinoceros, a life-size (20 foot) saltwater crocodile, and a coelacanth, among others. She has just completed a quilt made especially for the Festival. “Kaloli Moondance” is a portrait of a marabou stork, a bird which, according to National Geographic magazine, was voted one of the ugliest creatures in the world. Carlson’s treatment of the stork is far from ugly, however. In bright colors and rich textures, Carlson’s marabou stork is elegant and graceful.

“I see her as joyful,” Carlson says. “She’s dancing. There’s the moon in the background and the African savannah.”

All the pieces in the collection are dense with color and texture. The critters, while lifelike in form, are most often imaginatively colored. Still the overall effect is almost realistic, despite the use of purples and pinks and aquas and canary yellows.

For example, her saltwater crocodile, “Crocodylus Smylus,” from a distance might be made up of browns and greens (with admittedly some bright red thrown in). Only up close is it obvious that Carlson has used almost every color in the rainbow. The construction is made up of thousands of pieces all successfully blended together to create form and shape.

Aside from the dancing marabou stork, most of the creatures are posed as if on exhibit in a natural history museum, thus the name “Specimens.”

“That’s how I see them—as representing their species. They might be the last of their kind, like the golden toad in “Million to One,” or one of the last, like the rhino in “Tickled Pink,” but they are all unique and irreplaceable. At least I hope that’s the message people get,” Carlson adds.

While the work does have a environmental message, Carlson says, she doesn’t think about that when she’s making a quilt.

“Mostly I’m thinking about the story that this particular animal is trying to tell. I think about where they live and how they act and how I can convey that story with fabric and color,” Carlson explains.

Carlson will be attending the exhibit during it’s four-day run to meet with fans and friends in the industry. Her work is on view on her website and blog at susancarlson.com.

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