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Historic Lowell, Massachusetts, A Textile Treasure posted: 4/29/2004
by Bonnie Ouellette Printable Page
Category: Reviews Method: All Series: On the Road
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The City of Lowell, Massachusetts is steeped in textile history, but continues to provide opportunities to learn and explore contemporary fiber arts. Until the 1970’s work with fibers and textiles was considered “folk art” but that image is rapidly changing with all the wonderful venues for textile art within the city limits.

Friends Fabric Art at 177 Merrimack Street is smack dab in the middle of all the action. The mother/daughter team of Ann and Sonja Lee owns the shop. Upon entering the shop, one is overwhelmed with the array of supplies, colors, textures, fibers and friendliness of the shopkeepers. The fiber studio, gallery and supply shop hosts regular classes on new approaches to quiltmaking and ways to manipulate fabric and explore silk screening. Several times a year the shop hosts visiting textile artists and holds workshops under their leadership. Some of the regular workshops are a Journal Quilt Group, Art Quilt 101, Coffee and Crafts, Mastering Silk Painting, Fold and Dip Dyeing and Painted Floor Cloths.

Maxine Farkas is the able leader of the weekly Art Quilt 101 meetings. Maxine has a long, significant background in quilting and has developed her own eccentric style with an emphasis on using some very unusual materials in her work. Since her background is so diverse (a training in Historical Geography), her recent work has focused on pulling actual elements from her environment into the mix of fabric, paint and dyes. Maxine has studied with a number of nationally known quilt artists and has an extensive knowledge of surface design techniques. Some elements covered in her weekly Art Quilt 101 workshops may include, hand dyeing, shibori, resists, using non-traditional materials, embellishments, photo transfers, monoprinting, gelatine prints and general design principles. Maxine conducts her workshops with generous giving of her expertise.

Besides her work at Friends Fabric Art, Maxine is deeply involved in other textile activities both nationally and within the city. She has participated in shows at the New England Quilt Museum, The Brush Gallery and The Whistler House Museum, is curating Small Works for Small Spaces at the Ayer Lofts Gallery and her work has been exhibited nationally and in Japan. Her articles on fiber art have appeared in Fiberarts Magazine and Quilting Arts Magazine and she is the editor of the Quilt 21 catalogs. When visiting Lowell, be sure to set aside some time to take advantage of the opportunities at Friends Fabric Art.

Another don’t miss stop while visiting Lowell is the American Textile History Museum where you can experience the world of American textiles from elegant gowns to space-age fibers. This museum is the largest and most complete museum about textiles. Special exhibits offer an in-depth look at fashion, fabric, new textile discoveries, contemporary fiber art, the science of color and more. The museum store has a wonderful array of textile-related books, gifts and supplies. Check their web site for a calendar of events for special programs and activities for the whole family.

Just around the corner is the New England Quilt Museum, which has constantly changing exhibits and exhibits from their permanent collection. The museum also has a wonderful gift shop full of quilt-related books, supplies and gifts. Membership is a worthwhile investment if you live in New England, as it allows you to visit all exhibits throughout the year.

Summer of 2004 is an exciting time for the quilt community in Lowell. August is the bi-annual Lowell Quilt Festival with quilt related activities throughout the city including Images ’04 (a fundraiser for the New England Quilt Museum), special exhibits at the American Textile History Museum, a journal quilt exhibit hosted by Friends Fabric Art, Art Quilts at the Whistler House, Small Works for Small Spaces at the Ayer Lofts Gallery, and Art Quilts New England at the Brush Art Gallery and Studios. Be sure to make all of these events part of your summer quilt exploration.

Friends Fabric Art
177 Merrimack Street
Lowell, MA 01852 (978.458.4200)

The American Textile History Museum
491 Dutton Street
Lowell, MA 01854 (978.441.0400)

The New England Quilt Museum
18 Shattuck Street
Lowell, MA 01852 (978.452.4207)

Lowell Quilt Festival

Maxine Farkas

©2004 Bonnie Ouellette

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