Art Quilts on Display at Missouri Star

There is such artistry in quilting, from carefully selecting fabric colors to experiment with design and layout, the only limit to quilters’ creativity is imagination! Beginning Wednesday, May 16 through Saturday, June 2, the Penney’s Quilt Shop at Missouri Star will be home to the University of Missouri’s School of Visual Studies’ Art on the Move: Modern Art Quilts exhibit featuring the wonderful fiber artwork of Jean Brueggenjohann and Riana Bovill.

MU Visual Arts Display
A selection of Riana Bovill’s artwork on display in Penney’s Quilt Shop.

Both artists use fabric and fiber as their canvases. Riana creates stunning portraits that she hand stitches, and Jean creatively combines traditional quilt blocks and contemporary style to create amazing quilted pieces of art.

MU Visual Arts Display
Jean Brueggenjohann’s artwork on display in Penney’s Quilt Shop.

After they finished hanging their artwork in Penney’s Quilt Shop, I sat down with Jean and Riana for a quick Q&A session.

How did you get started sewing and quilting fabric works of art?

Riana: I was a painter before I started experimenting with fabric. My husband and I move quite a bit, and I ended up in a place where I didn’t have the opportunity to set up a studio, so I went to a local fabric store and bought some fabric. I still paint a bit, but I work mostly with fiber.

MU Visual Arts Display
Ode to Joy by Riana Bovill

Jean: My mom taught me to sew when I was 9 or 10, and I started making clothes. I sewed garments off and on until 1991, when I took a quilting class and started making quilts. I’m a graphic designer and I teach graphic design, and I now devote all of my time outside of the classroom to making art quilts.

MU Visual Arts Display
Exotic Enchantment by Jean Brueggenjohann

What does it take to make an art quilt

Riana: I’m very inspired by the people around me. Some are people I know and some are people I do not. I like having a good, big collection of fabrics to work with. I’ll spread out my fabrics and pick from them. I always laugh because I could make 2 or 3 portrait quilts from the large fabric I select.

MU School of Visual Studies
Young Man with Hat and Pipe by Riana Bovill

Jean: I really like to learn new things. When I have the opportunity, I like to take different classes. I have learned how to dye fabric, print letterpress on fabric, and anything where I can try something new motivates me. Right now, I like to incorporate traditional quilt blocks with non-traditional, and I really enjoy creating landscapes. In terms of fabric, if I have an idea, I like to buy fabric I like when I see it, and my entire stash is organized by color.

Riana: Speaking of fabric, in one of Jean’s quilt, I found a piece of the very first fabric I ever bought to make my first portrait!

Jean: Some of the fabric I have could be 20 years old, some could be brand new!

What advice would you give to those experimenting with fiber art?

Jean: Don’t give up. Be persistent. I can’t tell you how many times I rip out stitches because the color or value isn’t right. Think of it as a fun process even when you have to rip it out. 🙂

Enchantment in the Jungle by Jean Brueggenjohann

Riana: Don’t be afraid to find the answers. A quick YouTube video may be just what you need to move on.

Jean: Some of the colors that you think absolutely will not work, do, so you have to be brave and go for it!

What advice do you have on color and fabric selection?

Riana: I’m a big advocate for any color goes with any color. You may be surprised at just how colors interact with one another when you put them together.

Jean: One of my quilts on display has batiks, African fabrics and fabric from a local quilt store, and I had a comment. “How could something so wrong be so right?” in terms of fabric choices.

Riana: Any [piece of fabric] is game. Sometimes I take my husband’s clothing and cut pieces off of them. One time, he was asking for a pair of his pajama pants, and I knew I had recently seen them, and sure enough, I looked down and saw them woven into the rug I was working on.

Looking Back by Riana Bovill

How would you describe your work?

Riana: My work has some quilted elements, but mostly applique and collage. Almost all of my work is hand stitched.

Jean: I want people to see that traditional and contemporary quilt blocks and elements can be merged. Each quilt I create has a story, and I want people to see the story and be drawn in and look at the details. Mine are all machine pieced and machine quilted. Hand and machine appliqued with embellishment.