Quilting the family together
Mary Hutchings hand-cuts each half-inch piece to be applied as background foliage for her current project of the Susquehanna River in New York. (Keyra Kristoffersen/City Journals)
Gallery: Quilting the family together [4 Images] Click any image to expand.
Mary Hutchings never wanted to be a quilter. She never considered herself an artist or thought she had the patience to sew the same design and pattern over and over again. But then in 2004, a sister-in-law insisted Hutchings give it a try and wouldn’t take no for an answer. The first quilt Hutchings created had 1,000 hand-cut pieces of fabric sewn together without the use of a pattern.
“The fabric dictated what I did next. I love kaleidoscopes,” Hutchings said.
Hutchings became inspired by Paula Nadlestern, an internationally recognized quilter renowned for her unique kaleidoscopic patterns and who is the author of several books on quilting snowflake and puzzle patterns. Nadlestern’s philosophy is that “a kaleidoscopic design organizes an abundance of light and color, form and motion into a complex and coherent image,” and Hutchings found that to be a vision she could incorporate into her own work.
“For me, every step was creative,” said Hutchings. “Every step was, OK, I’ve got this fabric, now what would contrast with that and how can I make this go right here? I have a bed full of fabrics. I wonder if I could do this with fabric and just sort of figured it out.”
Using a technique of cutting small pieces out, fusing them to the background using Steam-A-Seam and then sewing across the back, Hutchings has created a world within each quilt that closely mirrors the depths of the human eye.
“I figured out I could get a lot of depth and dimension if I layered,” said Hutchings. This technique also allows Hutchings to move and rearrange pieces before the final product is complete.
“You never really know what it’s going to look like until the last piece is sewn in,” said Hutchings.
Hutchings received the Award of Excellence and Viewer’s Choice Award in September 2016 at the 43rd annual Utah Valley Quilt Guild Show, which took place at the Springville Art Museum, for her piece titled “Let Us Walk in the Light.” Inspiration for the quilt came from a photo taken by Hutchings’ brother-in-law of the Sacred Grove, owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in New York during November.
The quilt also caught the eye of the “BYU Studies Quarterly” after the editor attended the quilt show, and it was used as the cover art for the 2016 Volume 55.4.
“I tried to imitate the bark textures of some trees commonly found there: oak, sugar maple, cherry, ironwood, beech and shag bark hickory. Thousands of individually freehand-cut pieces of batik fabric, raw-edge applique and reverse raw-edge applique,” Hutchings said.
Hutchings’ piece “Then Sings My Soul,” after winning the Award of Excellence in Springville in 2015, went on to be juried into the LDS International Art Competition to be hung in the LDS Church History Museum. It won the Viewer’s Choice Award in the theme “Tell Me the Stories of Jesus” for the 2015–16 year.
Hutchings has also used her talents to teach classes at several local Sandy quilting stores to help teach her collage-like technique so others can try their hands at creating beautiful quilts.
Hutchings takes photos of places special to her and blows up the images against a background. She then traces the basic lines, leaving her free to be as creative as she wants in her choice of colors and focal points as she designs the quilt. She is often inspired by her mother’s work as a watercolor artist. The average time Hutchings takes to complete each quilt is one and a half to two years in order to get it just right.
“I wanted it for my kids. I wanted them to have something I made just for them, to tell them how much I love them. That I spent hours and hours thinking about them, creating something that meant something to them,” Hutchings said.