Maggie Stimson, Jody Rusconi, Gerry Smeltzer, Rosalinda Brainerd, Donna Parker, Diane May, Edith Harmer, Pat Durbin.
The Art Friends
Eureka, California This California Condor quilt, aptly named Life Size came to fruition from one woman's passion for condors and her passion for quilting. This masterpiece quilt is made of eight individual vertical panels that were created independently by the artists, then brought together as one. Choosing specifically to sew the panels only at the top 2" of each panel so it hangs as one, the panels gently ebb and flow freely with the slightest breeze. The Fiber Art Friends group has made this quilt to benefit the continued reintroduction of the California Condor with the hopes of seeing condors flying once again in the ancestral lands of our local Yurok Tribes. The Yurok say the reintroduction of Prey-go-neesh, the largest land bird in North America, is part of how the Yurok Tribes can meet their obligation to heal the world.
Life Size - The Quilt
Made of eight individual vertical panels that were created independently by the artists, here are the stories behind the creation . . .
May 2014 - Oct 2015: from viewing condors to quilt completion . . .
May 28th 2014 – Lee and Jody Rusconi with Kelly Sorenson in the Big Sur foothills
June 4, 2014 - Announcement of the project by Fiber Arts Friends of Eureka, CA
August 7, 2014 – Cartoon finished and divided
April 7, 2015 – Quilt completed
April thru May 2015 – Displayed at League of Women Voters, HSU Condor film, Eureka High School Audubon / Yurok Tribe reintroduction seminar
June thru July 2015 – Displayed at Redwood Acres and REQ Guild meeting
August 15, 2015– Humboldt County Fair / Best of Show and First Place awards
October 15, 2015 – Pacific international Quilt Fair / Santa Clara
2016 - Donated the quilt to Ventana Wildlife Society
Panel 1 - created by Maggie Stimson
Panel 1 by Maggie Stimson
Once it was decided that we would create “Life Size”, we had to decide who would do each panel. At the time I was extra busy with my position as Quilt Show Chairman with the Quilt Show looming in the not too distant future. With this in mind, the Fiber Art Friends decided they would have mercy on me and give me the first panel on the left because it had just the tips of the wings to create. We didn’t realize until later that filing the sky would be such a challenge. After several starts and stops and much sewing and unsewing, I finally came up with inspiration from two sources. Having been given a preview of Pat’s panel (the other wing tip panel) which showed her beautiful swirls, they became a part of my design. The construction of my swirls were inspired by a class I took from Gloria Loughman where she taught us to incorporate geometric shapes into our quilt landscapes. The geometric fabric pieces gave dimension and interest to the swirls and also inspired much of the quilting. The swirls themselves on both ends of the quilt seem, to me, to add to the balance of the piece. My appreciation to the Fiber Art Friends for bearing with me through the angst of trying to meet the deadline for this quilt with kind words of encouragement and deadline extensions.
Panel 2 (and QUILT CONCEPTION) - created by Lee Rusconi
Panel 2 by Lee Rusconi
For Jody and myself, after 20 years of volunteering as raptor rehabilitators the opportunity to witness the inner workings of the California condor re-introduction program was certainly on the short list (yeah we know they are not technically raptors - so?). The opportunity to spend the day with the director Kelly Sorenson at the release/re-capture site just had to happen. Once on site we waited and hoped for the chance of a condor flyby. Our first twinge of exciting came from the sighting was of a vulture. Nope. Nothing could have prepared us for the size and majesty of the first condor that ventured into the area. Never could we have imagined 16 individuals visiting the site that day. Unbelievable! Amongst the myriad of photos taken was a particularly nice photo of Cosmo #22 which, upon returning home, Jody shared with the other members of her art quilt enclave, a group of award winning artisans, three of which have won awards on an international level. The decision was made that a worthwhile project would be to create a quilt that was a "Lifesize" depiction of Cosmo.
At this point Jody created a lifesize drawing of Cosmo taken from the photo. The drawing was then divided into 8 panels and distributed amongst members of the enclave. Each artist then returned to their respective studio to invest innumerable hours of thought and design to incorporate their own vision of fabric choice, color and technique to bring to life their piece of the quilt. The 8 individual panels were then joined together, but only along the upper sleeve, so that the panels could ‘fly free’. The precision, artistry and motion of the combined free hanging 8 panels produced a breath-taking visual experience surpassed only by the eventful day that was the impetus for this amazingly beautiful synthesis of nature and art.
Panel 3 - created by Gerry Smeltze
Panel 3 by Gerry Smeltzer
The Condor Quilt was quite a challenge starting with the size . My section was the number 3 panel . It has a lot of feathers on the wing and tail that had to match with the panels on each side also the number 22 had to match the panel on the right. Great fun to see all these panels go together . May all that view it enjoy it as much as I have.
Panel 4 - created by Rosalinda Brainer
Panel 4 by Rosalinda Brainerd
Jody's visit to Ventana in the spring of 2014 and the stories and photos she brought back generated so much enthusiasm for a new project among the Fiber Art Friends ( FAF) that before we knew it we were talking about how to make "Lifesize California Condor". There are 8 of us FAF so we determined there would be 8 panels and we would draw straws to determine which panel we would be working on.
I got panel #4. Looking at the condor sketch for each panel, which Jody did beautifully, I knew that Gerry (panel #3) and I would have to coordinate closely on the bird's feet and the tag#22. Other than this particular collaboration, each of us worked on our panels independently, not knowing how others were doing there's. Coming together with our finished panels on what has come to be known as "Revealing Day", was a total joy. We loved "Lifesize California Condor".
Panel 5 - created by Donna Parke
Panel 5 by Donna Parker
I spent a lot of time studying photographs of this often-considered unattractive bird. Over time it was quite easy to enjoy her specialness. I was challenged with creating the section of her head and chest. When complete, I think I had depicted in fabric a beautiful, un-beautiful bird.
Panel 6 - created by Diane May
Panel 6 by Diane May
I have been quilting for about 15 years and have always been a strong advocate of nature and wildlife conservation. Being able to combine these two loves in a group project was pure joy.
Panel 7 - created by Edith Harmer
Panel 7 by Edith Harmer
The idea of creating a large quilt depicting this magnificent bird was met with great enthusiasm by the eight Fiber Art Friends. Immediately specific panels were designed for each quilter, with specific markings on wings and clouds to assure smooth continuity when displayed. With these guides, each quilter worked independently to create their bird’s image in flight. Each panel was completely finished, using a facing, except for the top. It was left unsewn for joining the panels with a single decorative topping. My panel is # 7 (left to right). With cloud and wing markings, it went together with appropriate fabrics to coincide with the neighboring panels. We each had the freedom to quilt the panels as desired, keeping in mind the overall ‘freedom of flight” theme.
Panel 8 - created by Pat Durbi
Panel 8 by Pat Durbin
My challenge was to construct and quilt the eighth panel. There had been so much excitement about the project among the group that I dove in with great expectations. Because of the position of my portion of the quilt; I had only the very end of the wingtips—my piece would be mostly sky.
Jody’s sketch showed a cloud that extended across the piece so that gave some variety to the sky. I decided to do a patchwork piece for the cloud which would incorporate light blues and whites, blending it into the sky background. I then thought about the movement of those huge wings through the air and chose to put some swirls into my background. I also thought of a traditional quilt pattern called “flying geese” which seemed to me to fit the theme and decided to piece a swoop of “geese” across my background. The wing tips needed to be dark and I chose several brown black prints from my collection to represent them.
The “quilting” is stitching which connects all three layers of the quilt. I chose designs that would also have a lot of movement to enhance the flight of those lovely wings. I included “feathers”, which is a term for a traditional style of quilting design…staying with the theme.
It was of course a challenge to fit all of the panels together, but as usual the group came through with accurate piecing and appliqué so it fits together very well. What a fun project it was. We loved the final piece.