MICHELLE MCCONNAHA

RAVALLI REPUBLIC

Textile quilt artists Susan Wetzsteon and Sue Anne Iman are hosting their 10th and final year of “An Affair of the heART” art quilt show and sale, Feb. 24-26.

“The theme is ‘Then and Now’ to show how far we’ve come and the progress by our former students,” Wetzsteon said. “They’ll be showing a piece from when they first started and a piece from where they are now to show their growth.”

Iman and Wetzsteon will also have their work on display.

“My then and now both use fabric paper which was our very first TARTs (Textile Art) lesson,” Iman said. “The now is the last piece that I did. It shows how you have these techniques in your head and you can revisit them anytime you want, you just get braver.”

The friends began the textile art show in 2007 as a way to show the work of their students when they were in business together with ‘In Good Company.’ Even though Iman and Wetzsteon currently do not teach there are still a few independent TARTs groups meeting monthly. They gather to share ideas, techniques, skills, accomplishments and encouragement.

Wetzsteon said the biggest benefit of being a textile artist is self-expression.

“Sewing and creating is my calm time when I get to do what I want to do and be creative,” she said.

Iman said there is always something new to learn with art quilting.

“We use new products and new techniques,” she said. “You can explore and experiment all the time. There are no rules.”

The friends agreed that textile art quilting is the perfect place for people who think outside the box.

“It still has to look good,” Wetzsteon said. “It still has to be well done but you can leave behind the traditional style of quilting with the rules. It is art but done with fabric.”

The textile art projects are usually smaller than four feet.

“Post card size is where we started because people were afraid they didn’t have time so we encouraged all of them, ourselves included, to start with this large postcard size,” Iman said. “It was a manageable size.”

“Sometimes these grow larger than what starts in your head grows sometimes,” Wetzsteon said. “For me it is fluid. I think about it, I think about it, I think about it, then I start doing it and just let it happen. I do not plan it out ahead of time. I do it intuitively and fly by the seat of my pants.”

Iman said she often starts with a little sketch.

“It rarely looks like the sketch when it is done but it gives me a place to start and I keep those notes and if I get stuck I can look back and go ‘that’s what you thought about to begin with so maybe we ought to try one of those things after all,’” she said.

In the past 10 years, the textile quilt art show has averaged 300 visitors over three days of the show that has 100 quilts on display.

“All the quilts are displayed as art work and each item has its own space for you to look at, at eye level,” Wetzsteon said.

Visitors to the show will vote on Best of Show (viewer’s choice) and the challenge.

“The Best of Show is whatever you think is best in the whole building,” Iman said. “The second thing to vote on is the challenge that we put out every year. People buy the little kit to do the challenge (approximately 15 by 15 inches). The challenge is using a material, an idea or a fabric. This year it is a material and artists must incorporate mica, the mineral, into their art piece.”

Artist have the freedom to interpret and integrate it in any way and the challenge pieces are displayed with no names so it is a blind voting, just vote for your favorite.

Setting up for the show takes manpower and friends.

“Some of the display units are very heavy so the guys do that in the morning and set up our lighting for us,” Iman said.

Art quilter Heidi Zielinski is making signage with information about each quilt and other friends help with hanging the quilts.

“We’ll spend a good hard day Friday setting up and then the show starts at 5 p.m.,” Wetzsteon said. “It is so fun to stand back and listen to people’s comments about what they enjoy. They are just baffled sometimes about the products used or the artist’s interpretation, especially people that haven’t seen it before. Men especially are taken aback and say ‘wow, this is really cool stuff.’ They didn’t realize you could do that with fabric and objects.”

Previous projects have included metal, paper, mica, beads, screen, a dryer sheet dyed with turmeric, paprika and a food item, using a dye in cords twisted around fabric, dying on silk, decoloring, rusting fabric, sun printing, lumiere (painted after stitching) and printing done with shaving cream drizzled with paints (fabric paint or acrylic).

This is the last show of “An Affair of the heART” but the friends hope the event continues.

“We’re hoping someone will pick up the reins and put their energy and ideas into it,” Iman said. “I own the racks that we use for displaying and I’m not going to sell them but I’d love for someone else to use those racks and do a show again.”

“Everything has a season,” Wetzsteon said. “It is time for us to focus our energies on other things. I’d like to focus mine more on art. The show takes a lot of work to prepare for but it is fun to see the art quilts, this valley has an amazing amount of talent.”

Attend the 10th year of “An Affair of the heART” with Iman and Wetzsteon from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 24, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Feb. 25 and 26 at the Masonic Temple 115 S. Third St. in Hamilton.

Admission costs $3 for the weekend. For more information call 360-0658 or 360-9458.

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