The "Sewing and Quilting Forum" at CompuServe has a reputation for being one of the best-organized, most efficient, and friendliest of the online quilting forums. Files are placed in the libraries speedily, notices of new information are posted on the meaningfully categorized and threaded boards, and the team of volunteer leaders at the Forum is always greeting newcomers with warm welcomes and steering them toward the information they're seeking.
This well-earned reputation is a direct result of the leadership of Anne Brown, a quilter, designer, teacher, and resident of Freeport, Maine, who has been the senior leader of the online quilters at CompuServe for the last three years.
"I joined Compuserve because the software came with a new Christmas computer in 1992. By April 1993 I was a section leader in the Fibercrafts Forum. We quilters talk so much that we soon had to open up a quilting section. Fiber grew again and split into Handcrafts and Fibercrafts and recently split again into our third forum, Sewing/Quilting. The rewards of the volunteer job are getting to know quilters from all over the world, sharing in their projects and learning new tips and techniques. I have friends here that I talk to more than my neighbors."
Managing an online forum can be a time-consuming and demanding task, but Anne and her group of fellow volunteers do it as a labor of love and she says the downside is negligible: "The frustrations are few but usually come with not being able to keep all the questions answered or in having once active friends not messaging a lot anymore," she says. "I feel our Quilt forum helps a lot of members grow as quilters and share in resources they never would have known of. Our face-to-face meetings at quilt shows and conferences are eagerly anticipated. A forum is constantly evolving with new members joining. We attract many national quilt teachers who graciously share their knowledge with beginner and advanced alike."
As to the influence of the World Wide Web and other internet resources on the quilters at CompuServe, Anne sees this as a positive development. "I feel that the commercial forums and Internet will dovetail and simply lead to a further sharing of quilt knowledge and resources," she says.
Anne's beginnings as a quilter were planted in her childhood, and came to full flower about ten years ago. "I spent a lot of time while growing up in Virginia and North Carolina with my grandmothers," she recalls, "both of whom sewed but did not make quilts. I learned my love of all needlework from my paternal grandmother and fondly remember her treadle Singer sewing machine. My mom's grandmother was a quilter and I am proudly in possession of the only quilt top we can attribute to her. It is an 'Ocean Waves' made from shirts and aprons my great grandfather wore in his barber shop. The top is too tattered to quilt but is taken from its pillowcase to be admired from time to time.
"My best Maine friend, Shirley Prout, had started to learn hand piecing in 1986 and I followed along. We would sit at hockey games and hand piece. I had sewn, made counted cross-stitch samplers, knit, spun and wove prior to quilting -- but once quilting grabbed hold of me there has been no turning away. This form of expression allows me the freedom of design, color manipulation and change that I never found in any other needlework."
Quilt Design by Anne and Joe Brown
All rights reserved
Anne's own style defies easy categorization, and reflects a unique blend of her personal preferences and influences. "I've been called an 'organized scrap quilter' since I use so many fabrics in most of my work. Why use one green if 20 are on hand? I am definitely not a traditional quilter if you define such as one who recreates exactly older patterns and color use. I am also not an 'art quilter' and rarely embellish my quilts. My joy in quilting is design of complicated star, star/compass and multilayer-appearing quilts that take a second/third look to find where the layers lie. Using colors to define the shapes, I usually end up with a very distinct line, not a 'watercolor' effect. I don't 'mush' colors well. Inspiration usually comes from sitting at the computer, starting with a shape and building from there. We live in a pine forest on a tidal estuary in coastal Maine and my colors are best when taken from the fall season surrounding us."
Anne's use of the computer to design quilts has also led her
to a pattern business she and husband Joe run. "I use ACAD,
software from Autodesk which is usually used for designing
schools, houses, engineering projects," she says. "Joe
and I spend many hours together 'discussing' how a design is
working and not working! We publish our patterns under the name
of HardStar Designs and were featured in Better Homes and Gardens
'American Patchwork and Quilting' last spring. For me/us the
computer is just another tool to use for design and drawing.
Jinny Beyer's 'Patchwork Portfolio' opened up a whole way of
thinking about design for me. Instead of using paper, graph paper
and a whole lot of time
Anne also uses dedicated quilt design software for some things. "I do own and use both EQ2 and BlockBase. I find that I like working/designing outside of the preset block format but use the programs to show new quilters block construction and layout."
As for many busy, modern quilters, Anne's online life has taken the place of participation in a local quilting group. "Time just doesn't stretch like it used to and I'm no longer a local guild member. My guild now is the Compuserve Quilt Forum - I can participate when and to the extent I want. I do attend the Maine State guild meetings to enjoy the speakers. I have exhibited at the Maine State show, Vermont Quilt Festival and A Quilters Gathering in Westford, MA. I like to enter juried/judged shows for the feedback from judges' comments. [I'm] frantically working on a large wall hanging I hope to finish for Westford this year - a paper- pieced block with arcs and rays, designed on computer and manipulated with color to hide the block lines."
Computers have not replaced all human contact for Anne, however. Quilting provides an important human intersection with husband Joe and other family, and friends. "Joe is my greatest quilt supporter, sharing his enthusiasm for our designs and giving endlessly of his time for 'just one more change.' He is a merciless critic on my piecing and always seems to be able to spot a color problem instantly. There always seem to be fabric, tools, books and projects in progress all over the house, even to a 9-foot by 9-foot fabric wall on the bedroom wall. Family members often send photos from magazines, etc., they think might make good quilts. They might not fully understand the addiction to quilting and cutting up 'all that perfectly good fabric' but they sure are supportive - and all sleep under a quilt! Maybe it's in self-defense but Joe is becoming a pretty good cook."
The melding of quilting and computing creates a vital synergy in the lives of Anne and Joe that spreads out from them to their widening circle of friends around the world. Anne takes special pleasure in assisting those new to both quilting and the online world. "Sharing the enthusiasm and love of quilting with women and men new to the art keeps all of us enthused and learning," she says. Her enthusiasm shows in her quilts and in the diligence she displays in keeping Compuserve a friendly and supportive place for quilters to gather.
Anne Brown can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c)Copyright 1997 by Robert G. Holland, The Virtual Quilt Company. All rights reserved.
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