Men Who Quilt – Sew What?
Unique Exhibit on Display in Santa Paula
By Annie Eitman 10/13/2011
The California Oil Museum boasts an extensive display of local history consisting of antiques illustrating our region’s legacy in the oil industry. Soon, amid the various vintage tools hefted over the years by muscular and muddy derrick workers, the museum will be hosting a rather unusual exhibit. Just past the antique gas pumps and the authentic drilling rig built of cast iron and timber, the public will be able to view quilts crafted by men.
“Men Quilting! Quilts Made by Men,” is the theme for the 13th Annual Heritage Valley Festival of Quilts. This unusual collection will be on display from Oct. 16 through Feb. 5 at the Museum.
Influenced perhaps by our uncertain economic times, quilting has enjoyed a bit of a comeback. Quilting offers both creativity and comfort, an artful outlet while serving a functional purpose. The stereotypical quilt is often a quaint, common throwback to the days when life was simple, and when people took otherwise wasted bits of material and fashioned them back to life.
More than 200 years ago, men who quilted were a common occurrence in places such as England. Quilts constructed by English soldiers were prominently displayed during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Today there are at least 21 million active quilters in the United States, but their profile has changed substantially. The average quilter is about 62 years-old, college educated and female, but there are exceptions.
Kai Johnson of Moorpark is 8 years old. This past summer his grandmother helped him piece together his first quilt, which will be on display at the California Oil Museum. His grandmother is an avid quilter, participating each year in the world’s largest outdoor quilt show in Sisters, Ore. His first quilt follows traditional patterns, but incorporates youthful colors. “My favorite part of quilting is choosing the colors and patterns of the fabrics and piecing the quilt together,” says Kai.
Today’s quilts don’t always follow the patterns of the past. Pictorial quilts often leave the rhythmic color play behind, opting instead to illustrate an event or idea. Roget Nguyen of Ventura will be exhibiting his quilts, “New York” and “Paris.” Both evoke the hustle and bustle of grand cities and remind one of modern art. Quilts in their creation, but cubist in their execution.
Rob Appell, owner of The Cotton Ball Quilt Shop in Morro Bay, will have a few quilts in the exhibit. Appell’s works showcase his varied interests in surfing, design, science and protecting endangered species. One of Appell’s quilts features a dramatic, colorful close-up of a Bengal tiger. Like many of the exhibit’s displays, Appell’s quilt offers a rhythm not seen in traditional quilting — the tiger’s stripes form a jagged but repeating pattern, its bright green eyes challenge us. The tiger is part of a series dedicated to endangered species, with a portion of the revenue generated from sales of the quilt patterns donated to the World Wildlife Fund.
Appell notes the surge in male quilters: “I must admit I feel a bit confused by the guys starting to make it public that they make quilts. When I first started years back there were very few of us guys who were brave enough to confess that they made quilts, and now it is no longer such a rare thing. I love being recognized for my art, and yes, being a young male who makes quilts helps me to get recognized.”
“Men Quilting! Quilts Made by Men,” Oct. 16 through Feb. 5 at The California Oil Museum, 1001 E. Main St. in Santa Paula. The public is invited to attend the opening reception on Sunday, Oct. 16 from 1 to 3 p.m.. Light refreshments will be served. A short gallery talk by guest curator Linda Wilkinson will be held at 1:30 p.m. Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.