Whirling Stars: an art show by Robin Madden


Artist’s Reception
Saturday, August 13

6:3o p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Guitar with Todd Juengling
Show runs from July 20 to September 30, 2016


Artist’s Statement:

My Whirling Stars Are Also Known as Pine Cone Blocks. Pine Cone Blocks (also known as Pine Burr Blocks) have been named as the State Quilt Block of Alabama.

There is a group of native Americans in North Carolina who claim the origin, and there are similar blocks being made in Russia as well. However, the closest personal history we have at this time is from Qunnie Pettway of Gees Bend, Alabama. She taught her daughter, Loretta Pettway Bennett. Quilt Historian Cuesta Benberry states ”From early to late twentieth century, the Pine Cone quilt was popular among southern African American quilters. I found it the 21st Century way: Pintrest.

I followed the instructions found on the internet, though being impatient, not very closely. I was able to use consistent fabrics, but the older versions of this pattern were hand stitched with whatever scraps were available to the quilter. Worn out clothing and fabric scraps formed blocks filled with line -dried color, memory and love. Hand stitching is slow and meditative, but not quite as strong as machine stitching. The old Pine Burr block quilts need frequent repairs. Even the machine stitched ones have the occasional corner pop out. One elderly man showed his block to a historian. He kept it in a box in the closet so it would last, quite proud of his accomplishment.

There are similar looking blocks from England and early America, but they are formed from folded rectangles rather than squares ( Somerset blocks). You can see stitching up the middle of each triangle. It would be interesting to know if the triangles in the Pine Burr, folded from squares, were based on what had been seen, then figured out at home, just a little differently.

Digging around on the internet, I found a couple of mid 20th century quilters breaking out of the circle, coming up with fabric pictures using the folded triangles like tesserae in mosaics. There were also a couple of quilters who turned the triangles around to point outward.

In log cabin blocks, the center of the block was often red. It was said to represent the hearth of the home. I tend to start my blocks with red, or with a music fabric, or something that has represents the energy I am feeling at the moment. The rounds speak to each other. The color and designs interact with each other as they go outward. The dots give the circles energy, while the more solid colors contrast both texture and mood. The look of a block at the halfway point is quite different from the way it looks when finished clear to the corners.

I love this design. It surprises me every time.

These blocks are barely my work at all. They come by way of farm workers, chemical producers, textile manufacturers and designers, miners, machinists, truck drivers and overseas shippers, and many, many more.

About the Author


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Cynthia is a certified Feldenkrais practitioner, a Senior Trainer in Movement Intelligence, and a co-creator of Integral Human Gait theory. By day, she helps children and adults find easier ways to navigate life challenges and thrive. By night, she is dreaming up new options for how we can all become more fully human through awareness, curiosity, elegance and action.

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