Quilts highlight watershed

April 7, 2012
Quilts highlight watershed

Whychus Creek, Metolius River are subjects of quilt project and restoration

By Sigourney B. Nuñez / The Bulletin

Published: April 07. 2012 4:00AM PST

With the wilderness in her backyard, Donna Cherry can easily find inspiration. From trees and mountains to elk and bears, Cherry's artwork is filled with ecological images.

“I do a lot of wildlife art,” the 43-year-old Bend woman said. “I do mostly pictorials, which are representational of an object, mostly nature or people.”

Cherry is one of 21 quilt artists participating in the Quilt for Two Rivers project, a collaboration of the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show, the National Forest Foundation, the Deschutes Land Trust and the U.S. Forest Service. The project is meant to bring awareness and raise funds for effective and sustainable restoration efforts for the Whychus Creek and Metolius River, which frame Sisters.

The finished product of the partnership will be a 40-foot-long quilt art piece that will depict Whychus Creek running through each segment. The 17-panel quilt will be sold either as a complete installation or as individual quilts. A second, smaller quilt, made up of four panels, will also display a similar theme. Half of the proceeds from sales of the quilts will go to restoration projects on the two rivers, while the other half will go to the artists.

The NFF, as part of the Treasured Landscape conservation campaign, will match the raised funds from the quilt sales dollar for dollar. Both finished pieces will be unveiled June 1 at the Black Butte Ranch Lodge. The art pieces will also go on a traveling show throughout the state and reach Washington, D.C., within the next year.

“(The project) was a great way to engage the community. We've been interested in reaching out to a new audience,” said Maret Pajutee, an ecologist representing the Sisters Ranger District for the U.S. Forest Service. “Maybe you're not that into the watershed, but you're into the art — this is a great way to connect with these rivers.”

The NFF has developed specific goals for the restoration of the Whychus and Metolius watersheds and surrounding forests. The restoration work will include the increase of native riparian vegetation and enhanced fish spawning habitat, forest thinning to reduce wildfires and enhance native habitat for ground nesting, and management of increasing recreational use.

“We have two rivers that are different and they both need different kind of help,” Pajutee said.

The project coordinators wanted to incorporate a visual aspect to draw attention to the cause. Selecting quilt artists throughout Central Oregon to portray their interpretation of the local waterways was a suitable option for them.

“We had quite a few (quilters) to pick from but we wanted some that would do original work and have an original style,” said Ann Richardson, executive director for the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show. “You get a sense of how different the styles are. Some are whimsical or realistic and others are somewhere in between. You'll see some way interesting pieces.”

Cherry is one of the few artists making two quilts for the project.

“I kind of bit off more than I can chew, but I was just so inspired,” she said.

The smaller one, part of the final large quilt, shows dual worlds. Beneath the stream is a steelhead, which was stuffed to give her piece a third dimension. She used a traditional quilting technique called trapunto to give it that effect. Her larger piece displays a waterfall, where she used different fabrics to give the water a flowing and transparent look. She used batik, or hand-dyed fabrics, to give the piece an organic feel, she said.

Though Cherry comes from a traditional quilting background, she continually challenges herself when she is creating.

“When you are an artist, you are always trying out new techniques in the journey,” Cherry said. “That's the fun process. It's what you learn and I love it. I am always learning something new.”

She hopes the project, along with creating awareness for the rivers, will also call attention to quilting.

“I knew quilting as what my grandma did. She sat with her bag filled with scraps of fabric, pieced, and sewed them together,” she said. “But I want to promote quilting as an art form right up there with painting. I thought this project was perfect for that.”

For more information on the Quilt for Two Rivers project visit http://on.fb.me/Hn5E6i.

— Reporter: 541-617-7811, snunez@bendbulletin.com

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