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QUILTER PROFILE: Marge Hurst

"I'm really a person who is where she is," says Marge Hurst. And then she adds a <G>. Born into a Polish family on the island of Cyprus, raised and educated largely in the United States, transplanted eventually to New Zealand where she now lives, Marge has pursued her quilting art since she discovered the craft in the early 1980s.

Although she began quilting relatively late in life, Marge had a needle in hand from an early age. "My first 'efforts' were doll clothes when I was about 10-11. My mother was a professional seamstress and I used to go to the factory where she worked after school. I was allowed to rummage in the scrap carton!" She cross-stitched her first pillow at age 9, and later embroidered a traditional Polish "Krakowiak" costume. "There is no tradition of quilting in my family. I am of Polish ancestry and I don't know of any Polish quilting tradition," Marge says. "Strangely enough, following the article about me in the May 2000 QNM I have recently received an e-mail from a Polish quilter!

"I started quilting when I was studying for the City and Guilds of London Embroidery Certificate Examination in the early eighties. At that time P & Q [patchwork and quilting] was included in the Embroidery Certificate, now there is a separate Certificate for P & Q."

Since moving to quilting, Marge has pursued it with great energy and passion. She has made almost 100 quilts, has displayed them in competitions all over the world (winning many prizes), and has taught at most of the major quilt festivals, including the International Quilt Festival in Houston.

Marge's style has its roots in tradition, but makes traditional blocks and techniques work in the service of her quite contemporary vision. "My quilting style is definitely colour oriented first," she says. "The play of colour in everything is what inspires me. I have what you might call several 'styles'. My 'bordered squares'. My 'cosmic' series, and several other bits and pieces." As her style has evolved, she says it has gotten more complex, "The 'pieces' have become smaller and smaller. <VBG> (Although I have been known to use fairly large pieces as well.)"

Inspiration for Marge comes from a great many different sources, much of it from the natural world, whether it be the flowers in her garden or the rock pools along the New Zealand coast. "I have been 'taking pictures' for almost 50 years now. I have a memory that is geared to remembering spatial relations and colour rather than oral information. I enjoy gardening (intermittently, I admit). I like to compare shapes and forms and colours. I'm not really a 'people' person, although I remember some facts about people for years. I have always enjoyed working with cloth."

Right now she says she taking a bit of a break. "I am not pursuing 'new' directions at the moment. I have just stepped down from serving six years on the National Association of New Zealand Quilters' committee, the last four as both president and newsletter editor and I am just catching my breath . . . ."

Marge's activism on the New Zealand quilting scene has been supplemented by her interest in the internet, which she says has broadened her horizons. "I guess it may have had some influence on my quilting because I have been able to see more of quilts than I would usually through magazines and books. I think it certainly has had a tremendous influence on quilting in general. There is a lot more interaction between quilters from many countries. That is one of the best things about it. Unless you are a teacher or a traveller in general you would never meet so many people with similar interests otherwise."

Although she is involved with the internet, Marge says she doesn't use her computer in quilt design. "About eight years ago I did buy one of the design programmes but my quilts are so dependent on many fabrics and colours that using a computer for design would just slow me down I think." Instead, Marge designs as she goes, with an overall general idea of her direction from the beginning.

In addition to her teaching at quilt shows and festivals, Marge has taught quilt classes at community colleges in New Zealand for the last 20 years, and these have been a major source of inspiration. "My teaching has been a melting pot of ideas for quilts. For many years I taught both a beginners' sampler class and what I called an 'advanced' class in community/evening classes. The classes lasted for anywhere from 26 to 20 weeks over the years, depending on budgets, timing etc. In my sampler classes I taught up to eight techniques which were made up as blocks for a quilt. Students often made several blocks in each technique. They gained a solid background because the class was taught over so many weeks. We talked about colour and design as well as the elementary techniques. The extended time really gave students time to think and consider what they were doing.

"In the advanced class in the last few years I ran the classes around a 'theme'. One year I would teach stars, another squares, and another, strips, etc. Within this theme they would get colour and design exercises. I would develop exercises for them to do and sometimes I would not have done them myself! One of these design exercises resulted in my first 'Best of Show,' in 1993, Starnet. Other exercises developed into other quilts.

"The Starnet quilt led to both my 'bordered squares' quilts and to my snowflake or 'cosmic' quilts. I learned as much from the pupils as they hopefully did from me!"

In recent months Marge and her husband Paul have been traveling extensively in Asia and the Pacific, including China, no doubt "taking pictures" which will inspire new quilts. A person who "is where she is," Marge is a citizen primarily of a very individual and colorful world of patchwork and quilting.

Marge can be reached at mailto:mhurst@wn.planet.gen.nz