by Suzanne Labry
All You Need Is Love
One of the most popular recording groups the world over, the Beatles are said to have 23 of the top 500 songs of all time (the most of any artist according to Rolling Stone), 16 of the 100 most successful tracks of all time, and seven of the 100 most successful albums in history.
As musical innovators and popular culture icons, the Beatles remain unrivaled, over half a century after the band’s formation. Small wonder then, that quilters readily responded to a challenge for the creation of art quilts inspired by the Beatles’ music.
Fairfax, Virginia-based quilter Donna Marcinkowski DeSoto has been issuing a two annual challenges to her bee for years, and also initiates three challenges a year for the Fairfax chapter of her guild, Quilters Unlimited.
Sometimes coming up with new ideas can be difficult, but when Donna learned that 2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ astonishing U.S. debut on the Ed Sullivan television show before 73 million American viewers—ushering in the so-called British Invasion—she knew immediately that celebrating the event would make a great quilt challenge.
She did not know, however, that her idea for the challenge would start something of a mini reprise of “Beatlemania” among quilters.
“Many of us can still remember where we were when we first saw the group perform on the Ed Sullivan Show,” DeSoto says. “The Beatles have an extensive list of songs (300+), so I thought the song list would contain something of interest to many people.
“When I announced the challenge and the guidelines to our large bee, I figured if 15 people participated, and came through with Beatles quilts, it could make for an interesting exhibit. What I didn’t realize is how this idea would go viral! Bee members shared the challenge idea with friends and family, and all of a sudden people from near and far were emailing me, asking if they could participate,”she continues.
“One of the surprising things that happened was that several husbands who had never sewn before were so inspired by a Beatles song that they made their first quilt! As long as people followed the guidelines, were excited about using a Beatles song as inspiration to create a 24” x 24” quilt, and came through by the deadline, they were welcome to participate. I did not want to jury this collection; I wanted it to be driven by enthusiasm, shared love of Beatles music, and camaraderie among participants.”
Donna received ten times as many quilts as she was expecting, and each one depicted a different Beatles song. She was so amazed by the quantity, variety, and creativity of the quilts that she approached Schiffer Publishing with an idea to make a book of the challenge.
To her delight, the publisher agreed, and eventually all 150 of the quilts were included in Inspired by the Beatles: An Art Quilt Challenge, along with each artist’s memories of the Beatles, how they find inspiration in music, and other personal information on their song choice and creative process.
“Even more thrilling than holding the completed book in my hands for me personally, was meeting many of the artists for the first time at the Houston International Quilt Festival in November, 2014,” DeSoto, recalls.
“In the same hall that held works by the masters were our Beatles quilts, made with skill, passion for fiber arts, and love of Beatles music. During the exhibit, we were given special permission to have Beatles music playing. At one point, the song “When I’m Sixty-Four” began. What happened next was a wonderful spontaneous time I will never forget: a whole group of people, artists who made Beatles quilts, and visitors to the show, gathered together in a hearty sing-along, complete with dancing, hugs, and smiles.
“I am very fortunate to now know a spectacular collection of artists who were inspired by a common theme—Beatles songs—and who came together to make magic. All you need is love. And thread.s
To order a copy of Inspired by the Beatles: An Art Quilt Challenge, go to www.fiberbeatles.com.