Exhibit sign at the Bellevue Art Museum

I finally went to see the quilt exhibit — Bold Expressions: African-American Quilts from the Collection of Corrine Riley — at the Bellevue Arts Museum (a city across Lake Washington from Seattle).  This is an amazing collection, gathered over three decades.  Most of the quilts were made between 1910 and the 1970s by women from Alabama, Texas, and other southern states.  I thought that the bold, asymmetrical and improvised designs looked quite contemporary.  This exhibit is definitely worth a trip before it closes on October 7th.

African-American quilts on exhibit

I was impressed by the industry of this quilt maker, who sewed thousands of tiny scraps into a stunning quilt.

Quilt from the Bold Expressions Exhibit

Not all of the quilts were boldly colored, but all were lovely and pleasing to look at.

Some of the quilts were tied rather than hand-quilted — reminded me of my first quilting efforts.

Detail of another tied quilt

This quilt was made from worn-out work clothes.

Even patched scraps were too valuable to throw away.

These quilt blocks, made by Corrine Riley from old, collected fabrics, were suitable for framing and for sale in the museum gift shop for $190 each.

You can read more about this exhibit in this Seattle Times article.

These acorns are still green, not brown

” . . . the iconic image [is] of a brown, ovoid nut with a woody tam o’shanter top.  But the acorn is way more variable than that.  Tree lovers, collectors, and life list keepers take note:  a fine travel goal would be to collect one acorn from all seventy species of oak trees that grow in North America. . .”
—  Nancy Ross Hugo, Seeing Trees:  Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees

I find acorns irresistible.  They are small treasures, pocketable, smooth to the touch, a pleasant round shape.  When I see them, I cannot help but take a handful home.  While I like Nancy Ross Hugo’s suggestion to collect acorns from all seventy species of oak trees, I take a far less scientific approach.  I just admire their beauty, without identifying their exact species.

One of my goals for my week off work was to paint something everyday.  Several of those watercolor sketches were devoted to acorns.  Here they are:

Watercolor sketch of oak leaf with green acorns

Specimens from my collection

Oak leaves with acorns

Another variety of oak leaves and acorns

Oak leaf with five acorns

A circle of acorns


“Choice is the holy-making stuff of life.”
— Joan Chittister, Following the Path: The Search for a Life of Passion, Purpose, and Joy

“In a way, anyone who collects things in the privacy of his own home is a curator.  Simply choosing how to display your things, what pictures to hang where, and in which order your books belong, places you in the same category as a museum curator.”
— Brian Selznick, Wonderstruck

Accordions from Dale Chihuly’s personal collection hang from the ceiling in the cafe at Chihuly Garden and Glass.

Accordions and Chihuly’s paintings

The Cafe at Chihuly Garden and Glass holds its own as a place of interest.  Called the “Collections Cafe,” it showcases 28 of Dale Chihuly’s personal collections.  And what a varied array of collections it holds — accordions, clocks, lemon juicers, and more.  We had already seen parts of Chihuly’s personal collections of Native trade blankets, Native baskets, and Edward Curtis photographs in the Northwest Room of the glass exhibits.  But the collections in the cafe show another side of Chihuly — one wonders what the appeal of the objects had to Chihuly’s artistic eye.

I find it fascinating that Chihuly, a prolific and accomplished glass artist, is also an avid collector of — in many cases — quite ordinary, inexpensive objects.  Every collector is a curator, too, and his collections are another aspect of self-expression.  You can read more about Chihuly’s personal collections in this Seattle Times article.

In the Collections Cafe, most of Chihuly’s collections are cunningly displayed under glass table tops.  Quite ingenious!

Cafe table showcasing a collection of wooden toy furniture

This table displays an assortment of lemon juicers.

Cafe table with clock collection





I like the following quotes from William Davies King, Collections of Nothing:

“To collect is to write a life.”

“For all of us, the pursuit has its pleasures, and some sensation of fulfillment comes in the rhythm of acquisition.”

“Collecting is a way of linking past, present, and future.  Objects from the past get collected in the present to preserve them for the future.  Collecting processes presence . . .”

Vintage embroidered linens

Sugar bowl and creamer from my sister's mother-in-law

From my sister's collection of Johnson transferware turkey plates

I always enjoy visiting my sister’s house.  She is an avid gardener, an excellent cook and baker, and a professional quilter.  Her house is full of her collections of things that reflect her varied interests.  You’ll see what I mean when you look at these photos of her home:

My sister's farmhouse kitchen

Dining room with handmade quilted table runners, place mats, and cupboard full of dishes

Living room chock full of handmade quilts

Front porch, my favorite room in the house

My sister's bedroom - more quilts

Marbles, buttons and spools of thread

I have to chuckle at the title of this poem.  It’s obviously a given that one would collect books, but what else?

Besides Books, What Do You Collect?
by Richard Jones

Foreign coins,
skeleton keys,
old French primers,
small tin boxes —
any little thing
I can hold in my hand
that like a prayer says
be attentive
this is the way we live —

bits of blue glass
polished by waves
and saved
in a jar
in a drawer.

Blue and green buttons from my collection of buttons

Shells, two decades old, found on Sanibel Island

Watercolor sketch of buttons

Another watercolor sketch of buttons

Paintings and the buttons that inspired them

Poppies: Sooty Lashes

May 16, 2010

Poppy bud about to bloom

Poppies in a parking strip

Gorgeous pink poppy

“Her big, lewd, bold eye, in its sooty lashes . . .”
     — Ted Hughes, “Big Poppy”

The poppies are popping out all over town.  I like poppies, and have collected some prints of them over the years.

My collection of framed poppy prints


February 7, 2010

“It is perhaps a more fortunate destiny to have a taste for collecting shells than to be born a millionaire.”
     — Robert Louis Stevenson

Moon snail shells I have collected

Moon snail shells

My collection of sand dollars

Today’s post is inspired by Lisa Congdon’s blog http://collectionaday2010.blogspot.com.  My friend Lynne recently turned me on to this charming site, where every day Congdon posts a photograph or drawing of one of her collections.  It’s not easy to photograph inanimate objects!

I battle internally between collecting things that appeal to me and getting rid of clutter.  I find it amusing that others have had to justify their passions for collecting, as Samuel Johnson does here:

“The pride or the pleasure of making collections, if it be restrained by prudence or morality, produces a pleasing remission after more laborious studies; furnishes an amusement not wholly unprofitable for that part of life, the greater part of many lives, which would otherwise be lost in idleness or vice; it produces an useful traffick between the industry of indigence and the curiosity of wealth; it brings many things to notice that would be neglected; and, by fixing the thoughts upon intellectual pleasures, resists the natural encroachments of sensuality, and maintains the mind in her lawful superiority.”