Fran Smink lives in a beautiful little town in the foothills of the mountains of
South Carolina. Fran and her husband moved to this area after she retired from
nursing and her husband transferred jobs. One of the Smink's sons lives locally
and Fran is very much involved with her grandchildren. Growing up in Pennsylvania,
Fran was never interested in sewing or any needlework; in fact, she did everything
in her power to avoid taking home economics classes. She even chose an advanced
chemistry class in order to skip home ec.
Fran's interest in quilting and textiles began after she married and moved to Ohio,
and after her children had gained some independence. Her very first quilt
commemorated the 1980 Winter Olympics. She used the different Olympic sport
symbols as the basic design for the quilt. She was hooked, immediately signed
up for a patchwork class, and proceeded to make the typical sampler quilt.
Fran's third quilt was her first using her original design. She made this for
her second son who has a great fondness for trains. She found it was easy to
make a full sized drawing, and then make paper templates to cut the various shapes.
Fran's techniques have changed since she began quilting 14 years ago and fabrics
Fran auditions her fabric by placing small pieces on her drawing. Once a color
choice has been made she will then color in the drawing with that choice. Fabric
choices have improved, and Fran finds it much easier today to find fabrics that
reflect some of the natural aspects of her quilts. Initially she hand appliquéd
all of her pieces but now uses a combination of light fusing (only around the
edges of the piece to prevent any undue stiffness), and machine applique using
various decorative stitches. She occasionally uses small markers and paints for
details on faces. Additional textural details are arrived at by the use of unusual
fabrics with pile or nap to add a more realistic appearance. Most of her most
recent work is relatively small and is mostly machine quilted, however, she does
like to use some hand quilting in her outer borders.
The quilts of Fran Smink have a definite primitive folksy appearance, which may
come from her love of antique quilts. While living in Ohio, she and her husband
were part owners in an antique shop that was housed in a 100-year-old hardware
store. Fran enjoyed attending auctions to purchase items to sell in their shop.
She always stayed until the very end of the sale in the hopes of getting the big
bargain. As you can imagine, quilts were a popular item in an auction in rural
Ohio 20 years ago. For some unknown reason, the quilts were always auctioned
off last. That is how Fran began to collect antique quilts. It is very difficult
to deal in antiques and part with them when it comes time to sell them. I think
Fran had some separation anxiety with the quilts she purchased to sell so began
to collect for herself.
Fran's ideas come from life around her and her family and home. She tries to
carry a notebook with her at all times and likes to work from a sketch or
photograph. Fran's current project is a scene of a wonderful old hand-worked
iron gate that she sketched while visiting a historic churchyard in Charleston,
South Carolina. Fran's quilt art has a sweet naiveté about it and her quilts
will be lasting reminders of special events in the lives of her family members.
©2003 Bonnie Ouellette
Additional Quilts by Fran Smink