By Patricia Belyea
COUPEVILLE WA Marianne Burr has always been a maker—playing with art supplies as a child and making quilts with stitches today.
Marianne was outside when I arrived at her cabin-like home on Whidbey Island. Immediately we headed inside—to a space filled with artwork and charm.
Our conversation began across a table on the first floor. Marianne explained to me that she’s a contemporary embroiderer. She paints on silk and then fills the fabric with stitches, like a modern tapestry.
Ten years ago, Marianne’s art quilt friends suggested she add backing fabric to her silk pieces and enter them into a quilt show. That’s exactly what she did. Marianne entered three pieces into the prestigious Visions show in San Diego and her Frank’s Melons quilt won the La Jolla Fiber Arts Award—"an acknowledgement of her artistic ability” and $500!
Marianne and her husband took the train to California to see the show and accept her prize. In their hotel lobby, Marianne helped out a quilter from Japan who was having trouble with her reservation. From this interaction Marianne was invited to participate in the biennial Quilt Nihon show.
The Japanese show’s size requirement was bigger than anything Marianne had ever produced. She stretched herself and created two pieces that were both accepted. In 2008, Marianne won the Hiroko Kon Award and Bronze Award in Tokyo. She has since participated in the show three more times, winning the Founder’s Award in 2012.
Marianne’s skyrocketing success over the last decade sounds dazzling—exhibiting in Quilt National in Ohio, Schweinfurth Art Center in New York, World Quilt Festival in China, Rio Patchwork Design in Brazil, Carrefour Européen Patchwork in France and more. She’s participated in competitive and invitational shows, and mounted two solo museum exhibits. And the list of awards goes on and on.
To listen to Marianne, you’d think she was a gentle grandmother pointing out flowers in her garden instead of an acclaimed art quilter recounting her achievements.
Ready to move around, Marianne and I headed up to her light-filled studio on the second floor.
Marianne explained that she only makes three or four art quilts a year. “It’s slow work. My life is a solitary, creative one.” Typically Marianne works on two pieces at a time—so if she gets hung up on one, she can continue with the other while she reflects on the best resolve.
Returning to Marianne’s dining room table, we finished up our visit over a cup of tea. “I'm happy to just make my work,” she stated. “I’m not a production artist and I don’t work to deadlines. I do as much as I can every day.”
Marianne continued, ”I've had a wonderful life. Having the things I’ve made appreciated by others is the cherry on top of the sundae.” Always understated, Marianne is as enchanting as her highly stitched, colorful art quilts.
To visit Marianne’s website and see more of her work +click here