Tuesday’s Gone Local columns have featured “local” bookstores and publishers. This past year opened with Six Mile Creek Press signing a publishing contract for my clients’ manuscript, Dear Friend Amelia. Mary Jordan and Joyce Hatch collaborated with Ron Ostmun and Harry Littell at Six Mile Creek Press here in Ithaca to produce letters and images from the Civil War in a beautiful book. Six Mile Creek Press approaches books as artistic endeavours and their publications reflect the lost craftsmanship of book publishing. If you have never seen Six Mile Creek Press’ collection of Verne Morton’s photographic history of Dryden, NY, you are missing out on Great Possibilities. Now Six Mile Creek Press releases its’ latest title by artist and author, Gwen Marston.

37 Sketches is a beautifully crafted book with classic style and attention to every detail. The first edition (2,000 print run) includes 37 color plates and illustrations of quilt details. This 96 page hardcover has a Smyth sewn binding and printed on 120 lb. Gallerie Art Silk.

Six Mile Creek Press, Ithaca, NY, published it as though, like a quilt, the book is textile art. Holding its buttery cover in your hands, running your fingers over its embossed title on the front quilt image feels rich and textured in design. And design is really the subject of Gwen Marston’s recently released book, 37 Sketches.

Contemporary folk artist, Gwen Marston explores the elements of quilt design in small studies, like a painter does to explore technique and work out color and composition.

Gwen Marston

Liberated Quilting Design

Gwen Marston mastered the fundamentals of quilt making that took root in early American history and has become well known for her contemporary approach to the form and technique she calls “liberated quiltmaking.” This is Marston’s 25th book and it further illustrates the process of using her improvisational methods in creative quilt design. Many of her ideas come from her study of old quilts and Marston’s book, Mary Schafer: American Quilt Maker (University of Michigan Press, 2004) is a literary testament to her own study of the history of quilting.

Quilting in America became widespread in the late 18th century as decorative arts displaying fine needlework; painting with threads. By the Civil War era, quilts were made to raise funds to support the abolitionist movement and on both sides of the Mason-Dixon women made quilts for soldiers.

Earlier in October I went to the Tompkins County Quilters Guild’s annual show and spent a long time studying the civil war era quilts on display; on loan from The History Center. Technique, design, fabrics, motifs and purpose revealed the story of war: made with practical patterns and fabric these quilts saw heavy use and survived to this day.

Living in Amish country here in the Finger Lakes I’ve often stopped to enjoy looking at the bold colors and simple traditional designs in their quilts for sale. My mother and mother-in-law and my friend Annie all quilt.  Quilter’s Corners in Ithaca offers more than gorgeous materials and supplies: a community of friends who learn and study. While I have stitched a patchwork, I am not a quilter. Instead I enjoy the quilts as pieces of art. Nearly every book published on the subject of quilts I have looked through; poring over them like visual eye candy.

37 Sketches is a confection. Marston puts a small quilt on each recto page. On the verso, Gwen’s narrative explanation and a thumbnail sketch of one section of the piece. The creative placement of text and thumbnails on the verso pages reveals each white page a fresh canvas for Gwen’s eye for design. Between recto and verso pages, the reader glances to find the small excerpt in the larger sketch. It’s a rare treat to look through the sketches of an artist with needle, fabric, and thread.

Gwen Marston

Recto and Verso Pages

Gwen Marston’s book is available only by sending her an order and check . Her previous experience with self-publishing (which she describes on her website www.gwenmarston.com) has not been a happy one. In short: Amazon printed inferior books and the quality of the book as a textile art matters immensely to Gwen’s readers. Six Mile Creek Press published an exquisite keepsake and Gwen’s fans and followers will feel good about purchasing a book directly from the author.

Send your order and check (US $29.95 plus 3.99 shipping; Canada shipping 6.00; International shipping 12.00) to:

Gwen Marston
Beaver Island Quilts
Box 155
Beaver Island, MI

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