This week’s artisan feature highlights Judy B. Dales and her knack for creating beautiful, handcrafted quilts. Her pieces have been featured in numerous museums, corporate and private collections, and in homes all over the United States.
A Modernized Tradition
Quilts in North America date all the way back to colonial periods, where the lack of adequate raw materials meant women had to assemble them out of mismatched scraps of fabric. Quilt-makers made the best of these limitations by giving individual blocks a unique design. Thanks to modern manufacturing methods, quilt-makers like Judy B. Dale can go all-out and create breathtaking patterns and intricate designs that span the entire length of the quilt, no longer limited to a single block.
Judy first started quilting in England in the 1970s. Inspired by a magazine, she started a baby quilt using the British method of paper piercing. She was so enthralled by the process that the baby quilt turned into a king-size bed covering, and from then on she was hooked.
Judy’s first few projects prompted her to experiment with complicated geometric patterns and machine quilting methods. She produced lap quilts and wall-hangings in a variety of intricate designs over the course of several years. Despite her relative inexperience, a collection of her early works earned her a one-woman show at the New Jersey State Museum, as well as two grants from the state Arts Council. Not bad for a first timer!
At around 1986, Judy created a quilt that would win her nationwide fame. It was called “America, the Beautiful”, and challenged Judy’s skills to the utmost. It used curves to create spacious skies, shining seas, and amber waves of grain as a backdrop to a majestic representation of the Statue of Liberty. It was entered into the Great American Quilt contest, where it was the winning New Jersey entry, earned a Judges’ Choice award, and was purchased by the Newark Museum and entered into their permanent collection.
But the real take away for Judy was her new-found style of using curves to add a distinct feminine quality to her work and make it more personal and expressive. She refined her techniques around this newfound style, and developed a new pattern and piercing method that allowed her to precisely render her designs, each of which goes through many revisions before finally being committed to fabric.
The Warmth of Sharing
Judy has a strong passion for quilting, and an equally strong desire to share it with other people. She’s since traveled around the world, exhibiting her work and teaching classes based on her unique curved-seam technique. These classes are comprehensive and thorough; Judy wants to arm her students with everything they need to create beautiful curved-seam designs of their own.
She even published a book, “Curves in Motion”, back in 1996. It is considered to be the definitive text on designing and piercing curved-seam designs, and serves as an inspiration for many budding quilt-makers.
To date, Judy Dale has been creating quilts for over forty years. She’s since slowed down from her formerly rapid pace, but still exhibits and sells new work. Her latest design innovation makes heavy use of flowers, inspired by the tranquil landscapes of her rural home.