Thursday, June 6, 2019

Past Perfect: Gwen Marston

Gwen Marston died this spring. 

Portrait by Kathy at Quilted Under the Influence

She was quite influential in teaching us to appreciate antique quilts 
from the formalities of applique to the looseness of string quilts.

Liberated Log Cabin

Hand quilting was always a theme.

Minimal in Neutrals

Wreath and Berries

She appreciated the quirkiness of antique quilts and taught
people who were worried about perfect corners that the perfect
corner might not match up.

String quilt from her collection

One of her talents as a good teacher was creating metaphors that explained ideas succinctly.
"Liberated Quilts" was a term that communicated.

Flowerpot with Heart
Through her 82 years she explored many styles.

Another effective teaching tools was small studies. 
One didn't have to make a big commitment to a new idea.

From an interview on the AQS blog: "Rough pencil sketches were Gwen’s original testing method for initial ideas. In 2010, she developed another way: fabric sketches. 'Making sketches with the actual fabric I intended to use was a great way to work out composition and color.' "

Collaboration was also a theme. She and Freddy Moran did 
a series of  quilts combining their ideas.

Triangle Tango by Marston & Moran

From the AQS interview: "Gwen began to design her own direct, uncluttered, and bold work. Her intent during the past seven or eight years was to simplify the elements, to melt them down to their most basic forms, and thus to allow the color to speak in a stronger voice. In the past year, she has pushed further in that direction, working in a decidedly minimal style."
She wrote dozens of books. Here's a preview of one:

And a typical practical article on feather quilting:

She'll live on in You Tube videos and hearts of her fans.


  1. Sweet post! I was lucky enough to take several classes from her. She was a big influence on me and so many others!!

  2. I feel a void in my quilting life without her. I have most of the books, all of the magazines that she wrote articles for and took a 2 day class from her. My favorite of all of her books was about Mary Shafer. The trip that Mary took through the years with quilting and the frontier of round robins and block making and who she was associated with; all of that needed to be written down and Gwen did it in style. Although my own particular choice is the early work that she presented, all of her brilliance shown through in the complete works. I feel as if we have all lost a family member, but her legacy will surely live on. Thank you for posting about her.

  3. I too appreciate this post about Gwen. I also read her book about Mary Shafer and it has always stuck with me. She captured the essence of what it means to be called "a quilter" through Mary's story. One aspect that influenced my own quilting is hand quilting without a hoop just like Mary did.

  4. I'm glad such a beautiful profile of Gwen was published in the MICHIGAN issue of Quiltfolk last year so that many of us could feel we got a final visit with her before her passing, and so glad my daughter Mary Fons got to meet Gwen. As Bonnie Leman used to say in Quilters Newsletter when a quilt world luminary left us, "Body at rest, spirit free."

  5. A lovely post about Gwen.... always thought I would take a class with her and never did.... my regret ..... I will get out several books tonight and enjoy them all over again. Thanks Barbara.

  6. That was a nice review of her quilts and lovely words about her. I started quilting in the late sixties, 1968 to be precise. I feel like I grew up quilting with everyone from Bonnie at Quilter's Newsletter to Gwen and Joe to you and Jean Ray Laury to Margaret Miller and Sharyn Craig and Laurene Sinema. You all influenced what I do, how I do it, and the quilts I love. I'm always sorry when I lose someone I think of as a mentor.

  7. What a sweet tribute to a most amazing quilter. She did influence so many of us, as you do on a daily basis.
    I agree with Susan above--there are so many quilters who provide tremendous inspiration and ideas to whom we are eternally grateful!

  8. Right now there is a liberated quilt on my design wall, where I can work it out my own way. Thank you Gwen.

  9. Wonderful post. I was lucky enough to take a workshop from Gwen. She was gracious and humble human being.

  10. Wonderful tribute to Gwen. We're lucky she was a prolific author.
    I miss her and will always miss her.

  11. I still have pieces from an applique class taken with her years ago. Time to revisit. I loved her view on procrastination - just make a decision and move on!

  12. Beautiful post about a lady who means so much to many of us. Gwen's book have and always will have a special shelf on my book shelves, especially the Mary Schafer one.


  13. She has been the biggest influence and inspiration in my quilting life. I will miss her smile and her encouragement. Lovely tribute

  14. Her colors and quirky style are reminiscent of a Freda Kahlo painting!