Pieces Of Lives

Quilts are ‘scrappy,’ and so is quilter


Each morning, I jump out of bed and say to myself, 'What shall I make today?'" Jan Murray Brown says, grinning from ear to ear. "And then I'm out my door and walking through downtown Springdale, on the Razorback Greenway, past the Shiloh Museum and along Spring Creek, seeing the light, hearing the sound as I go.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/BECCA MARTIN-BROWN Jan Murray Brown shows off a small quilt. She prefers to make smaller pieces that can be used in a variety of ...

NWA Democrat-Gazette/BECCA MARTIN-BROWN Jan Murray Brown shows off a new quilt she calls “Center of the Universe,” based on the “Trip Around the World...

"That is a great beginning of a day for a quiltmaker!"


Ozark Quilt Fair

WHEN — 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday

WHERE — Shiloh Museum of Ozark History in Springdale

COST — Admission is free

INFO — 750-8165

BONUS — Cash prize Viewer’s Choice awards will be given for first ($50), second ($35), and third ($15) place winners in both new and antique quilt categories. Other activities during the fair include musical entertainment by Greenland Station and a special exhibit of small quilts by the Dogwood Quilters Guild.

On Saturday, Brown will bring that morning enthusiasm to the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History for the 40th Ozark Quilt Fair. She'll be exhibiting a variety of large and small quilts with old and new techniques of design and myriad bright colors, finished with her hand or machine quilting. What they have in common is Brown's sense of making do, learned at her mother's knee in Wichita, Kan.

"My dad was from New York City, and my mother was a Kansas farm girl," says Brown, who was the oldest of nine children. "She could always make a 'silk purse out of a sow's ear.' From her, I also learned to listen, being with her under the clothesline and listening to her conversations with the neighbors.

"My dad was an accountant, so his thinking was linear and mathematical. He taught me many things about logic and numbers and ethics. My parents were practical, hard-working, productive human beings who gave their kids a lot."

That being said, Brown admits she was nonetheless surprised when her mother asked her to stay with the family for a year after she finished college to help with the younger kids. She was even more surprised when she was informed she'd be paying $150 a month rent.

A year later, her mother handed her an envelope filled with money -- and the two went to the Kansas State Fair to buy Brown a sewing machine to start her own home with. That was over half a century ago, and that Bernina lasted until about two years ago.

But quilting is a relatively new pastime for Brown.

"My chosen career was in elementary education," she explains. "I moved from Kansas to Arkansas in 1980, lived and worked in Eureka Springs. We moved to Springdale in 2004 to [help] open Bayyari Elementary, where I served as school counselor for over 700 beautiful kids and their families until I retired in 2011.

"When I retired, I found quilting again and started making quilts like crazy," she goes on. "Now my days are filled with colors and scraps and rulers and perspectives and choices. I am not limited by design or time or deadlines or technique."

And, she adds, this is a great time to be a quilter.

"Blogs and online classes and fabrics for $12 a yard and patterns and every conceivable sewing machine, quilting machine, batting, technique, you name it! But scraps are where quilting was born. I love scrappy!"

Like every quilter, she says, Brown has a "stash" of fabric -- "every quilter has an excuse for unlimited buying" -- but usually a pattern catches her eye and starts a project. On her design wall, she'll pin up possible fabric combinations -- "auditioning" pieces of fabric before the final selections emerge. She keeps "scrap baskets" in every color range, "so I can keep going until I find something I like -- and I don't ever have to get stuck!"

Then, she says, "if I made it, I want to quilt it. For me, the quilting says a lot about the pattern.

"I'm not necessarily OCD," she adds, laughing. "I'm not driven by the end result. For me, it's the joy of the fabric. It's adult play!"

And that's why she loves the Ozark Quilt Fair, she says.

"This show is just about the joy of seeing what people make."

NAN What's Up on 09/08/2017

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