Valerie Beuth saw Katie Upton's work for the first time in a gallery in Santa Barbara several years ago. Impressed by the scale of her subjects and the bold colors, Val had a hard time walking away from a particular painting; White Horse. The painting reminded Val of her husband's horse, Fog.
On a desk near the front door of the gallery there were postcards of the painting. Val took one and posted it on her sewing room wall. "I was drawn to this image in a compelling way. About three years later I contacted Katie and asked her for permission to translate her painting into a quilt. She was flattered by my request and encouraged me to go for it. She told me to let her know when I finished as she wanted to see the finished quilt."
When asked how long the quilt took to make, Val replied, "This is a tough question to answer. I start by making a pattern using freezer paper and my dining room table as a light table. When the pattern is finished (it takes me about two weeks) I clip it to my sewing room window blind, audition fabrics for the quilt, and make a color chart of the fabrics I've selected."
"After about four months of pattern making and piecing, a weird thing happened. I just couldn't figure out how to quilt it so it just hung on my design wall and it stared at me for a long time."
Val showed the quilt to a group of girlfriends (all non-quilters) and, as luck would have it, light was showing through it from a window behind her as she held it up for the girls to see. Here's the conversation from that day:
Them: 'Hey Val, after you quilt it, will you still be able to see the triangles?'
Val: 'Huh? What triangles?'
Them: 'The triangles all over the thing!'
"Thankfully, one of them held it up for me to see and, sure enough, I saw triangles I'd never seen before because I never saw it with light showing through it."
"Well, it took the providence of that comment and seeing with my own eyes to show me how to quilt it. I didn't want to lose those wonderful triangles so I machine quilted them to highlight them and the result was that the quilting looks like little cowlicks of horse hair. Perfect, I thought."
About six months later, Katie invited Val to her home in the country in Santa Barbara. "I showed her the finished quilt and the pattern I drafted in order to create it. I think it's safe to say her reaction was one of being blown away. We talked about art and artsy stuff for several hours. Meeting her and seeing her works in progress (as well as other finished pieces) at her home studio were a high point for me last summer. Katie's captivating artwork continues to be an inspiration."
Val's quilt won second place in its category ("Pieced Wall Hanging") at the Seven Sisters Quilt Show in San Luis Obispo this June. Five quilt guilds participated in producing the Seven Sisters show and hundreds of quilts were exhibited for two days. (The word "pieced" refers to the method of construction of the quilt top. Each piece is stitched together instead of laid on top of one another.