Bellingham waterfront

Bellingham is about 90 minutes north of Seattle, and it makes a nice destination for a day trip.  I left the I-5 freeway just north of the Anacortes exit and drove leisurely through the countryside and along Chuckanut Drive.

Old barn on Hwy 11 near Bow, WA

Self-service farmer’s stand on Hwy 11 near Bow

The curvy Chuckanut Drive along Puget Sound

View of the sound from Chuckanut Drive

Bellingham itself has a welcoming, small-town feel.  I like the look of the weathered, old buildings near the waterfront and the small, independent cafes and coffeeshops.  I strolled along the waterfront paths of Boulevard Park, and  because I like to check out libraries on my travels, I stopped by the Bellingham Library.  Serendipitously, the library was hosting its Friends of the Library booksale.  I couldn’t resist buying five books from the gardening table at $1 each.  I will get far more than $1 worth of pleasure from each of these books.

Tansy (I think) — a spot of yellow along the path at Boulevard Park

Mural in downtown Bellingham

Sculpture outside Whatcom Museum

Old weathered building along waterfront

Table on the sidewalk outside the Mount Bakery Cafe, Bellingham

The five books I bought at the Friends of the Bellingham Library sale — a bargain at $1 each

The art alone will give me far more than $1 worth of pleasure.

Pages from My Garden by Mary Russell Mitford

Book with quilts from the exhibit

I made a day trip to Bellingham last week to see a quilt exhibit at the Whatcom Museum — American Quilts: The Democratic Art 1780 – 2007.  The exhibit, which runs through October 28, 2012, displays about 30 quilts from Robert Shaw’s book of the same title.  I wasn’t allowed to photograph the quilts in the exhibit, but you can see a few of them at this link.

The exhibit showcased mostly traditional pieced or appliqued quilts, such as the log cabin, grandmother’s flower garden, flying geese, whole cloth, Hawaiian quilts, etc. I was most struck by two things — first, how many of these cherished quilts were labelled “unknown quilter” — prized by collectors, but makers unknown.  And second, the quality of the hand-stitching — so small and regular.  These days, so many quilts are machine-quilted.  I still do hand-quilting, but I don’t take the time to make my lines of quilting so close together.  These quilts must have had five- or ten-times as many quilting stitches as any one of mine.  Impressive!

I very much enjoyed my first visit to the Lightcatcher Museum, one of three buildings that comprise the Whatcom Museum.  Its most striking feature is a curved translucent wall, which creates a radiant and luminous atmosphere in the building.

The Whatcom Museum, Bellingham, WA

Lightcatcher Museum, the venue for the American Quilts exhibit

Entering the exhibit space

Courtyard in the Lightcatcher Museum

Courtyard bounded by curved, translucent wall

The next time I come I will be sure to eat lunch at the museum cafe.

My day of quilts was just half over.  One of my new friends, Bonnie, arranged for a small group to see some Joan Colvin quilts at the private home of Colvin’s son and daughter-in-law on Samish Island.  Joan created “art” quilts.  She had a painterly eye, using fabric to evoke a Northwest color palette in the scenes she created from Nature:  “What is joyful, what delights me about fabric composition is that colored and textured fabrics have their own symbolism.  Though they may speak in different contexts, they lie in wait for me to find their meaning and voice through juxtaposition.” — from Nature’s Studio by Joan Colvin

Here are the Joan Colvin quilts from her family’s private collection:

This abstract quilt was highly textured.

One of Joan Colvin’s signature Nature quilts

Detail, heron

“Sea Blooms” by Joan Colvin

Detail, free-form machine quilting

Joan Colvin quilt with koi

Joan Colvin quilted wall hanging

Trees were another of Joan Colvin’s motifs

One of Joan’s earlier pieced quilts, hand-quilted

My favorite of all — Joan Colvin’s crab quilt made for her son

Colvin created texture and depth by layering sheer fabrics over cottons, and she embellished this quilt with pearl seeds