Quilter's colourful creation commands attention

THE faith of Dennington quilter Merrlyn Harrison inspired her latest artwork and made her a finalist in the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest quilting event, the Australasian Quilt Convention (AQC). 

The number 10 is the theme of the special exhibition, celebrating its 10-year anniversary, and will feature 30 of the very best quilts selected from across the country from quilters invited to interpret the theme. 

The 30 finalist artworks, including Harrison’s, will be shown at the AQC event from April 10-13 at the Melbourne Royal Exhibition Building.

The Dennington artist, who has been quilting for 28 years, said she was thrilled to have her work, entitled The Ten Commandments, selected for the coveted 10th anniversary exhibition.

As a devoted Pres-byterian Christian, Harrison said reading the word “Ten” on the AQC outline instantly brought the Ten Commandments to mind, and the classic biblical imagery soon followed. 

Envisaging vibrant colours, grand landscapes and intricate detail, she sketched her unique design from scratch and experimented with hand dying techniques to create the final 125cm square piece. 

Completely machine stitched using predominantly Calico, she said the unusual fabric was chosen to depict not a time of elegance, but a time of survival and necessity as experienced by Moses trying to lead God’s people, in keeping with her design. 

While many of the exhibition’s quilts took up to a year to complete, utilising thousands of metres of thread, Harrison’s inspired theme motivated her to complete the piece in just 30 days.

“I do not usually make quilts in this style with such detail in such a short amount of time, but I had a vision and could not stop myself until it was done,” she said.

“I experimented a week straight with cold dyes, colour magnets, dye setters and my iron until I had the perfect fabric colours to work with.

“I went a little crazy but the end result was definitely worth it.”

Selection as one of 30 finalists in the Ten Year Challenge was both unexpected and exciting for Harrison, bringing her dream for the future of marketing her own design patterns for commercial purposes, one step closer.

“I’ve never entered any competition before,” she told Arthouse. 

“It is one thing to be a finalist for such a grand quilting event, but I am honoured even to have the opportunity to meet my fellow competitors, exchange stories and learn from their techniques.

“I’m just excited to have my quilt hanging at that exhibition and tour Australia for all the AQC conventions.”

The Challenge at the Australasian Quilt Convention boasts three generous cash awards — $3500 for first prize, $1500 for runner-up and $500 for the viewer’s choice.

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