Covered Bridge, quilt and photo by Deborah Alderman.
Deep Woods, quilt and photo by Deborah Alderman.
People come into their love of quilts and quilting by a variety of means. But the springboard for Deborah Alderman’s evolution into a full-fledged quilt artist may be one of the most curious. A tree fungus—namely the Artist’s Conk or “shelf mushroom”—was the starting point for what has become Deborah’s passion for creating what she calls “quilted landscapes with a Vermont theme.”
Back when her now-grown daughter was in Girl Scouts, Deborah accompanied the troop on a nature hike. It was there that she discovered the Artist’s Conk, and soon after, she began to etch scenes on the fungus’ pale surface. Over the next 14 years, she became so proficient at it that she sold more than 21,000 pieces of etched Artist’s Conk at craft shows throughout Vermont.
Despite her success, she began to feel limited by the lack of color in the fungus and wanted to transition to a medium that would allow her to explore color. Deborah describes it this way: “When it was time to make a change, I knew I wanted to express my art in a medium that would include lots of color. That is what drew me to the landscape quilt. It blends the skills I learned etching on the fungus with a new and exciting world of color. And what better place to find color than in Vermont? The autumn foliage, in particular, is so perfectly rendered through my technique. When the mountains, pastures, farms, and covered bridges combine with the autumn foliage, the results can be stunning.”
Deborah’s impressionistic pieces are all wallhanging size and combine a variety of techniques, such as raw-edge appliqué and fusion, along with all sorts of fabrics, including those she hand dyes herself to create the skies in her landscapes. She cuts her materials into tiny pieces sorted by color. When the scene is composed to her satisfaction, Deborah covers the pieces with tulle netting and machine quilts the whole.
Her quilted landscapes have gained much recognition, especially in her adopted state of Vermont (she originally hails from Southern California). Deborah’s work has been exhibited at the Vermont State House in Montpelier as well as the office of the Governor of Vermont.
“I had zero exposure to quilts growing up,” says Deborah, adding, “My college education was in the sciences and my work experience was with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.” Quilts and quilting may not have been in Deborah’s background, but then, neither was tree fungus! It just goes to show that an artist’s talent will express itself, regardless of the chosen medium.
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