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The Fabulous Folk Art Quilts of Fran Smink posted: 5/15/2003
by Bonnie Ouellette Printable Page
Category: General Method: All Series: In the Studio
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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 have too.

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

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