Elaborate Wall Hangings
Sylvia Richardson, Marion, Va.
By Angela Wampler / A! Magazine for the Arts | May 30, 2012Although Sylvia Richardson's quilts have won international acclaim, she only recently started selling her work.
Her first career was teaching school, but at home she made quilts — just like her mother and grandmother.
Early in her creative life, Richardson even used paints, describing herself as an artistic drifter, trying her hand at painting, needlepoint and knitting. She says, "My creative drift came to a halt upon discovering fiber art with its endless possibilities. It has satisfied my love of color combinations, texture, and creative design. This art has been expressed in wall hangings, wearable art, and recently, fiber baskets."
Richardson began quilting in the 1980s. She says her work changed in the 1990s "when quilt shops started offering more than a Williamsburg color palette in their fabric selections."
When Richardson experimented with more vibrant fabric colors, one of the first results was "Galaxy Aglitter," adapted from the Dresden plate of old traditional patterns. After collecting "a lot of African fabric," she designed and created a quilt she calls "Out of Africa."
Inspiration has come from home, from traveling, and from quilt guild "challenges" (the guild often gives members a theme).
"Home Between Two Ranges" was a combination of two of those inspirations. When Richardson looks out the back door of her home, she sees the Allegheny Mountains and out the front door the Blue Ridge Mountains. The quilt was created for "Mountain Messages," a biannual quilt show at the Carroll Reece Museum at East Tennessee State University.
After a trip to Arizona, she created "Rock Portal, Monument Valley" as a quilt guild challenge using the theme "portal."
"I'd Rather Eat Chocolate" was a whimsical response to another quilt guild challenge. Quilters wrote names of their favorite foods on slips of paper and drew two out of a hat. Richardson ended up with "vegetables" and "chocolate." She pondered on this quite a bit until she found some fabric with eggplants and turnips that she used as a garden border surrounding a girl eating chocolate.
After retiring as a school teacher, Richardson taught quilting, often traveling, lecturing and teaching multi-day workshops, using her quilts as examples. For one class, she made three quilts from one pattern.
For instance, one of her earlier quilts was adapted from a pattern called "Attic Windows." "Traditionally the pattern called for calico in the middle of the windows, but my quilts had pictorial scenes in the middle of the windows. Every quilt had a different pictorial. I didn't want the students to think there was only one way to do something."
Working on two or three quilts at a time is nothing new for Richardson. "While doing one quilt, I'm thinking of another I'd like to be doing," she admits.
For Richardson, ideas for quilt designs come easily. She is driven to be original: "One of a kind is what suits me. I like creating a twist on traditional quilts. For as long as I can remember I have been driven to create, which has led me in many directions."
Now she's selling her fiber art — quilts as well as baskets — at Appalachian Spirit Gallery and The Lincoln Theatre, both in Marion; and Heartwood: Southwest Virginia's Artisan Gateway in Abingdon. Her quilts are displayed in the Museum of American Quilters and the Virginia Quilt Museum, and her work has been recognized repeatedly by her peers and in publications.
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Richardson's wall hanging "I'd Rather Eat Chocolate."
"Home Between Two Ranges" by Sylvia Richardson
"Rock Portal, Monument Valley" by Sylvia Richardson
"Out of Africa" by Sylvia Richardson