Cincy is creative: Fiber artist Patricia Statzer adds a contemporary twist to art quilts

DELHI TWP., Ohio - The quilts in Patricia Statzer’s booth at Summerfair 2014 won’t look like bedspreads. Statzer comes from a generation of artists that pioneered a more conceptual approach to the art of quilting. Her one-of-a-kind quilts reflect her ideas, observations and experiences. Some commissioned pieces help others relive fond memories or express core beliefs.

  • WHO: Patricia Statzer
  • WHAT: Fiber artist specializing in art quilts, cloth dolls and mixed-media works
  • WHERE: Home studio in Delhi Township
  • LATEST: Quilts, dolls and silk-tie cityscapes for Summerfair 2014
  • GREATEST: Children’s art quilts at St. Ursula Villa School in Mt. Lookout

Patricia Statzer grew up in the Appalachian Mountains near Big Stone Gap, Virginia but has lived in the Cincinnati area since 1968. Her grandmother, mother and aunt were quilters, but Patricia didn’t start quilting until 1995 after experimenting with everything from cross-stitch to oil painting. She had so much fun making her first quilts by hand that she took a few classes offered by the Ohio Valley Quilt Guild, studied quilting magazines and attended quilt shows.

Before long, she saw that quilting offers endless possibilities for creativity.

“My quilts are a mixture of traditional scrap piecing with a contemporary twist,” said Statzer. While many of her pieces use the ‘log-cabin’ style of piecing together strips of fabric, she likes to use small strips that are not all the same size.

“Each quilt is individual and different,” said Statzer. “I don’t follow patterns, because I’m not really a pattern person.”

Unlike quilts used to warm beds, Statzer’s quilts are three-layered soft sculptures. Their colors, textures, shapes and softness warm the walls of homes, offices, schools and institutions.

Each quilt combines hand-dyed fabrics with a mix of cotton, silk, brocade and velvet fabrics. Some of Statzer’s quilts feature embellishments such as buttons, laces, sequins or African beads and charms.

She scours online and brick-and-mortar fabric stores in her quest to find intriguing fabrics. When she browses the racks of Goodwill stores, she doesn’t see the merchandise as garments. Instead, she’s hunting for buttons, labels and fabrics that might fit one of her projects.

“When I see an item like a wool plaid jacket, I know exactly what I want to do with it,” said Statzer. She has amassed piles of squares and strips for projects she can envision in her mind.

“Sometimes it takes a couple of years for me to finish a quilt, because I don’t just sit down and quilt,” said Statzer. She spends a lot of time preparing to sell her handiwork at local and regional art fairs, including the Broad Ripple Art Fair in Indianapolis May 15-17 and Summerfair Cincinnati, May 30-June 1 at Coney Island.

Statzer will also be featured in the “Art Quilts and Ceramics” show sponsored by The Rabbit Hash Historical Society at the Lowell Lee Visual Arts Center in Rabbit Hash, Kentucky on Thursday, May 22 from 6 to 9 pm.

Cloth dolls, silk tie cityscapes and more

In her exhibit at Summerfair, Statzer will show a range of fiber arts. For example, she uses some of the leftover fabrics from her quilts to make cloth dolls. Even though she uses the same techniques to embroider the facial features, she said, “The lips and eyes are never the same. They take on their own personalities.”

Other popular projects include the Cincinnati Cityscapes she creates from old silk ties. The ties represent buildings and are marked with labels from retailers who once had stores downtown or in surrounding neighborhoods. Some clients commission her to create cityscapes using ties from the closet of a recently deceased father.

Her favorite project was a series of nine quilts she was commissioned to do for St. Ursula Villa School in Mt. Lookout. Working with students in each of the nine grades (kindergarten through eighth grade), she created nine two-sided quilts that were originally designed to be processional flags. Each 3 x 5 ft. quilt combines statements about the children’s beliefs and values with fabric interpretations of their drawings. The backs of each quilt feature embroidered squares with each student’s name and handprint.

This year Statzer created prayer flags to honor the memories of the children killed in the shootings at Sandy Hook elementary school. The tradition of using prayer flags to spread peace, compassion, strength and wisdom originated in ancient Tibet. As the wind-blown flags deteriorate over time, the prayers and mantras associated with the flags are released into the universe as a symbol of the ongoing cycle and renewal of life.

Statzer’s Sandy Hook prayer flags consist of handkerchiefs embroidered with each child’s name and interests. The Art Academy of Cincinnati will display the flags at an event at the end of May.

Quilting is a global art

This fall Statzer will travel to Tuscaloosa, Alabama for the Kentuck Festival of the Arts . From there she will drive to Gee’s Bend, Alabama where she quilts

with friends from the Gee’s Bend Collective. The collective is carrying out the legacy of the original group of African-American quilters in Gee’s Bend who introduced a more abstract, improvisational style of quilting. Statzer first saw the works of the Gee’s Bend quilters at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

In November, Patricia Statzer will take part in the Studio Collection Holiday Art Sale, a one-day event organized by a group of women artists at the Harmony Lodge in Spring Grove Village.

Statzer believes the art of quilting is “alive and well” and not limited to the rural South or even to the United States. At events such as the International Quilt Show in Houston, some of the top honors have gone to fiber artists from Japan and Australia.

To see the most cutting-edge quilt art, Statzer recommends visiting the biennial Quilt National exhibition at the Dairy Barn Fine Arts Center in Athens, Ohio. The show’s curators choose 80 of the most remarkable works from hundreds of entries. These art quilts incorporate everything from canvas backings, found objects, metals and hand-made fabrics to paintings, drawings and digital prints.

Earlier in her career, Statzer taught quilting classes at the Baker Hunt Art and Cultural Center in Covington and entered her best work in various competitions. Now that she’s in her 70s, she’s not so concerned about winning contests.

“I’m going to quilt forever,” said Statzer. “But I have accomplished everything I wanted to.”

BUY: At Summerfair 2014, May 30-June 1 at Coney Island, http://www.summerfair.org/summerfair-2014

CONNECT: http://www.patstatzer.net/

Do you know of a local creative person we should feature? Email holly.edgell@wcpo.com

Follow WCPO Contributor Eileen Fritsch on Twitter: @EileenFritsch

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