After a month of highlighting the artists on the upper end of Pocahontas County, the spotlight returns to Marlinton to shine a light on the artists of the 4th Avenue Gallery. This week, Hillsboro Mayor and fabric artist Anne Walker introduced us to her collection of quilted goods that extends beyond traditional Appalachian quilts.
“Most of my pieces are functional and practical,” Walker explained, “but I do have some pieces that are more artistic.”
Delving into a world of textile artwork, Walker has created a collection of bags and purses using a method known as confetti quilting. The method was established by Japanese quilter Noriko Endo, and is often recognized for its “oil painting, impressionistic landscape quality.”
Tiny pieces of colored fabric are layered on batting and, traditionally, a layer of tulle is used to secure the confetti pieces in place. Once the confetti and tulle have been arranged according to preference, Walker machine quilts the entire piece.
When creating her confetti purses and totes, Walker prefers to use a fusible adhesive spray for added assurance that her confetti remains in place rather than just using the traditional layer of tulle.
To create her confetti landscapes, Walker takes a panel of fabric and lays out her initial design. The panel is then coated with a layer of the adhesive, and the tiny pieces of confetti are added next. Another layer of adhesive is applied to secure the pieces in place, and a netting is placed on top.
To activate the adhesive spray, Walker places a teflon sheet on top of her panel and irons the piece using dry, medium heat.
“Sometimes I’ll have to pin things in place – particularly the netting when it comes time to iron,” Walker said. “but once the panel has been ironed, I can remove the pins and quilt the piece. Then I incorporate the panel into the purse and/or tote that I’m making.”
In addition to confetti bags, the 4th Avenue Gallery features Walker’s aprons, coasters, crayon bags – complete with coloring book and crayons – dish towels and more.
Walker began sewing as a freshman in high school when a history project required that each student create a piece authentic to the Colonial period. Walker’s grandmother had previously worked as a seamstress in Romney, and when visiting, she would bring her grandchildren scraps of fabric to play with.
From the scraps, Walker created a small, hand-pieced pinwheel quilt, and rather than quilting each piece, she utilized yarn to tie the pinwheels together. The quilt received a high grade, and while Walker experimented with sewing in the following years, it wasn’t until after her son was born that she really began to determine her focus.
“I had purchased a diaper bag from Wal-mart,” she explained, “and it lasted a month before it fell apart. I knew I could make better bags that lasted longer, so I just started. I never had any formal sewing classes, but I have members of my family that I draw inspiration from. Sewing was kind of a natural talent for me, and I started reading quilting magazines that had patterns and instructions.”
Through her reading, Walker gained a better understanding of the art of sewing. She was able to familiarize herself with the process of piecing patterns together and gathered a number of useful tips to add to her repertoire – such as where and where not to sew seams.
The magazines didn’t offer Walker any specific designs to work with, but instead, gave her the opportunity to learn the basic outlines for creating different types of bags and purses. From there, Walker began experimenting with her own bags, and after seeing how well the diaper bag she had made for herself held up, she began to make diaper bags for her expecting friends.
Walker began selling her bags at her friends’ encouragement. Shortly thereafter, she began setting up booths at craft shows and has since expanded her line.
“Part of the reason I enjoy this [sewing] so much is because I really draw inspiration from two particular women in my family,” Walker said. “The first would be my grandmother, Bertha Custer. In the 1940s and 1950s, she was very fashion-oriented. They were poor, but she liked to be able to make clothes for her children – my dad and his two sisters – and she could make her own patterns.”
According to Walker, Custer had a knack for replicating patterns. Custer could see an outfit in passing, and – no matter whether the outfit was smaller or larger than her own size – was able to go home and reproduce the pattern to fit herself.
“My grandmother was always described as a well put-together and stylish woman for her time period,” Walker recalled. “She dressed like a lady, and I can remember she had head scarfs to keep her hair from flying away.”
The other woman Walker draws inspiration from is her great-aunt Mary Derflinger. Walker remembered Derflinger as a woman of all trades, and was known for crocheting, quilting, restoring antique quilts and sewing her own outfits.
“They [both Custer and Derflinger] encouraged me when I was small – six or seven years old,” Walker said. “Grandma Custer taught me how to crochet, and Aunt Mary was always giving us stuff. We had crocheted blankets for our dolls, and I remember having a cradle bed liner that Aunt Mary had quilted.
“There’s a lot of the handmade things that go into my family’s history, so when they say that it’s hereditary, I guess there is some truth to that – at least for me, anyway.”
In August 2013, Walker became a member of the Pocahontas County Artisan Co-Op.
“When you’re in a cooperative, you can see what other members are or aren’t doing and find your niche,” Walker said. “You can experiment [with your craft] to see what people like, what they’re looking for, and what will sell. That’s where I got the idea for the quilted doilies and the different types of purses. I originally juried in with a couple of different aprons, purses and totes, and then it snowballed from there.”
The Pocahontas County Artisan Co-op operates out of the 4th Avenue Gallery – located at 721 Fourth Avenue in Marlinton. The gallery is open Wednesday through Monday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can be reached at 304-799-2550.
Artist Spotlight is a weekly series highlighting artists in the county.