GREENSBURG — Local quilting and fabric artists Nancy Derheimer, Margaret Parker, Judy Glore and Columbus resident Jan Wantz have been commissioned by the law firm of Church, Church, Hittle + Antrim to create quilts to decorate board rooms of their Noblesville office.

The two quilts will be recreations of the Noblesville Courthouse and a downtown street scene as depicted in early 20th century photos.

“I think it’s turning out really well,” Derheimer said as she picked up an intricately cut piece of fabric and laid it in place on the already very detailed bed-sized creation.

Working in an upstairs room donated for use by Tree City Stitches at 125 E. Main Street, the four have been working since early fall of 2018, stitching, cutting, hand-piecing, discussing (”We discuss, we don’t argue!” as Derheimer explains), appliqueing, hand-dying, and working through all the necessary processes germane to the creation of such a stunning work.

The upstairs working space, once an apartment residence converted to a spacious work-area for the Tree City Stitches staff, is a busy space. That is to say, even though there may be a bit of clutter here and there, it’s obvious that creative minds are at work here, and the “messes” created are necessary to the creative process.

“It’s actually funny. The ladies downstairs have quilting club meetings up here once a month, so even if we get a bit messy, we know we have to tidy up at least once a month for them, said Derheimer, laughing to herself.

“You would think that four such different people would never be able to organize themselves to create such a large piece,” she continued. “They ask if each of us has a certain job, but we tell them ‘no.’ We just come in and go to work, everyone doing whatever needs to be done. Like we’re all of a single mind. It’s fun!”

Art quilts reflect art forms that use both modern and traditional quilting techniques to create art objects. According to an excerpt from Smithsonian magazine (October 2014), “Practitioners of quilt art create it based on their experiences, imagery, and ideas rather than traditional patterns.”

Quilt art generally has more in common with the fine arts than it does with traditional quilting. This art is generally either wall hung or mounted as sculpture, though exceptions exist.

According to the online resource Wikipedia, “Because of feminism and the new craft movements of the 1960s and 1970s, quilting techniques, traditionally used by women, became prominent in the making of fine arts. Dr. Mimi Chiquet, of the Virginia-based quilting association “The Fabric of Friendship,” furthered the art’s prominence in the mid-20th century through her scholarly work, social activism, and intricate, celebrated quilts, which often included rare Scandinavian indigo dyes.”

The transition from traditional quilting through art quilts to quilted art was rapid; many of the most important advances in the field came during the 1970s and 1980s, catching on the the more remote art-fronts of the Midwest just recently.

Although many quilts made and displayed prior to the 1970’s are now defined as “art,” the form was most importantly recognized as legitimate art in the 1971 exhibit, “Abstract Design in American Quilts” at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.

The Whitney exhibit of pieced quilts from the 19th and early 20th centuries was the first major reception into the modern art world. Presenting the quilts on stark white walls with simple gallery labels, exhibit organizers arranged the exhibit so that each piece could “be seen both as an isolated object and as part of a balanced flow of objects.”

This type of visual presentation marked a break from the traditional crowded hanging of quilts in county fairs and guild shows that had predominated throughout earlier displays. The exhibit was widely reviewed, including a glowing report by New York Times art critic Hilton Kramer.

Art quilts are now part of collections in museums such as the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts; the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City; and the Missoula Museum of the Arts in Montana.

Studio Art Quilt Associates, founded in 1989, is a professional organization for quilt artists in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Major exhibitions involving quilt art are at Quilt National in Athens, Ohio, at Visions Art Museum in San Diego California, and at The National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky.

In 1992, a quilted and hand-dyed cotton quilt depicting a summer scene in Massachusetts, sized 75 inches square, was offered for auction and sold at a whopping $356,000.

Derheimer enjoys the work, but isn’t sure she wants to work on quilts like this forever.

“I hope we can display them at Art on the Square Gallery before we have to give them to the Noblesville people. I just want people to see them,” she said.

Contact Bill Rethlake at 812-663-3111 ext. 7011 or email at bill.rethlake@greensburgdailynews.com.