Award-winning artist Paula Entin would be the first to tell you that she’s not an ordinary quilter: “From the very beginning, I gravitated towards strong colors, textures and odd shapes,” she recalled. Entin first encountered non-traditional quilts in Middlebury, Vermont in 1982. “I was mesmerized. The next quilt I designed was non-traditional, and I was off and running.”
Her earliest influence came from her parents. It was their love of both modern art (Paul Klee, in particular) and nature that first inspired her artistic journey. Her mother, a skilled amateur naturalist, passed along an appreciation for the artistry that can be found in nature. Before beginning a quilt, Entin studies her subject, noting not only its shape, but also its texture. This attention to detail is evident in every quilt she makes. “I consider all of my pieces art quilts,” she explained, “whether or not they are framed. I want viewers to appreciate the flexibility of textiles to present a thought, an image—even a simple landscape. The depth created by color, texture, quilting and embellishments should draw people in and open their minds to the joy of fiber art.”
Following the birth of her son in 1993, Entin found herself overwhelmed with ideas about ways to add new dimensions to her art. Piecing together her quilts using a sewing machine opened a world of possibilities. She added different textures—even familiar household items—to her art quilts. “Thrift stores and rummage sales are where I find some of the best material for my quilts,” she remarked. Just what kind of treasures does she find? Beads, buttons, lace, leather and even metal have a place in her creations. So does knitting. “If I need to make a vine, I just knit up a little cording,” she explained, adding “It’s also great for leaves and other natural features.”
It is this three dimensional, multi-material quality of Entin’s art quilts that makes them such showstoppers. What looks ordinary is extraordinary on closer examination: No single bird or birdhouse is exactly like another. A flower’s leaves are made of leather. Mushrooms are made of suede. To enhance the 3D effect, she partially attaches embellishments. It is this sense of whimsy that makes Entin’s work a delight to see. Just as in the natural world, there is always something new to discover when you look closely enough.
Paula Entin is a member of the Studio Art Quilts Association, the Asheville Quilt Guild, the Modern Quilt Guild and the American Quilters Society. Her exhibit, Fibersong: The Beauty and Whimsy of Nature, runs from October 19, 2019 through January 12, 2020 in the upstairs gallery of the Arboretum’s Education Center. All art quilts are available for purchase, and a portion of the sales will be donated to The North Carolina Arboretum Society.