Valerie Huggins : Quilts, Clouds and Other Heavenly Bodies : 16 January 2017
The speaker at the first meeting of the new year is our own member, Valerie Huggins. She began quilting almost by accident nearly 30 years ago, but as many people have discovered it soon became an addiction. A turning point was joining a class at Morley College and going on to take City and Guilds there in Patchwork and Quilting under Jennifer Hollingdale in 1996.
Wanting to take it a step further she eventually came across the Opus part-time honours degree in embroidery and mixed-media textile art led by the late Julia Caprara. Valerie describes it as one of the most exciting times of her life, even though it meant neglecting home, husband and friends for six years. She graduated in 2011.
She also has a full-time job as a journalist with The Times.
Valerie says: "I could never have guessed how much quilting would take over my life. And over the years I have become aware that it has not been a linear progression, but swoops round in circles to take up earlier themes and techniques and take them on to a new phase.
"My interest in shrines goes back to the 1980s and my enduring love of Greece, where I began to notice these small roadside collections of religious icons, votive offerings and small lamps accompanied by very worldly items such as Coca-Cola bottles, cigarette lighters, gaudy plastic flowers and tablecloths and even, in one case, a toilet roll.
"This fascination led to a series of quilts, and I took the theme up again for my degree installation, for which I also looked at Mexican and Voodoo shrines where the veneer of Christianity is so thin that it barely covers the ancient, "pagan" beliefs and rituals beneath.
"Looking back recently at my quilts and sketchbooks I was fascinated to see my developing and persistent use of cloud fabrics - initially inspired by the turquoise skies of Greece - another enthusiasm that took hold almost without me noticing and which has become a subject for my work in its own right.
"In my talk I aim to illustrate how these two linked themes, combined with my love of flowers, have surfaced and resurfaced in my textile work - and hopefully to pass on some of my enthusiasm too."