Submitted by Naomi Macioce
Several years ago, I was introduced to Ruth McDowell’s work when I had the good fortune to attend an exhibit of some of the prized pieces of the Del Thomas quilt collection. I was completely entranced by her use of commercial fabric to create fanciful and vibrant quilts portraying the luscious colors and curves of flowers, and landscapes, along with portraits of many delightful farm animals with unique personalities. She uses a collage like approach, combining the type of fabrics that you would have in your, “I don’t know what I could ever do with this” stash, and colors that you could never imagine side by side, and somehow it works beautifully.
Magically, I encountered her work again this February, when I was in San Diego to visit family, (just prior to quarantined life), and Visions Art Museum had an exhibit entitled, Ruth B. McDowell: A Collector’s Vision. It was a curated selection of 27 art quilts by Ruth, that were a part of Del Thomas’s collection, who is the largest collector of Ruth McDowell’s work.
I dragged along my daughter, Lea, a quilter, but someone that is definitely not big on museums. However, the magic and charm of Ruth’s work won her over. I felt like I was reconnecting with an old friend, and was so pleased to revisit her carefree animals, and cherished scenery. On the museum handout (Visions 1/18-4/5/2020), Ruth explained,” The seeds for my quilts spring from things that absolutely amaze me in themselves: a tree or a place, a group of people or a plant, a ship or a stone.”
Ruth McDowell currently lives in Colrain, Massachusetts, a small town in the Northeastern part of the Bershire Mountains, which is home to two state forests. To the north is Vermont. It is a scenic New England Village with rolling farmland, apple orchards, and a winery. The town is a total of 43.5 square miles, and has approximately 1800 folks. Ruth’s work definitely does a lot towards bringing the beauty of farm life to its viewers.
She is known for her many patterns and books, detailing her unique piecing methods. She taught worldwide for 30 years, and retired in 2012, however she has passed along her teaching methods, to Ann Shaw, who has provided many workshops in the Northwest.
Hope you can take the time to check out some of these links; many of her quilts are so reminiscent of the joy of Spring.