TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Friday, May 9, 2008

Guest Artist: Donna Hussain

I saw one of Donna's quilts, "Baghdad Burning", here at the AQS Quilt show a couple of weeks ago. The quilt had women dressed in traditional dark Muslim cloaks or hijabs in one corner, while the body of the quilt had buildings exploding in yellows and oranges. It did not look violent, just sad, but powerful and moving. I wrote to Bonnie Browning, who works with AQS and is a member of my fiber art group for contact information on Donna which then led to our e-mail correspondence. I'm delighted to have her here at Fiber Focus and look forward to more articles from this talented quilter. Welcome, Donna!

No one praised my art work as a child. I couldn’t draw. I focused on writing skills instead, including library research, term paper organization, topic sentences and concise summaries. This led to many publications and a career as a technical writer including nine computer science textbooks coauthored with my professor husband: his lecture material, my sentences.

I had turned fifty when I was introduced to quilting, and suddenly a whole world of color, design, and texture opened up to me. I learned that by mastering elementary sewing skills I could make quilts of beauty. Basic quilting patterns are classical symmetrical designs. Contrast (more important than color in a quilt) is achieved by using a selection of dark, medium, and light fabrics, a formula that ensures a pleasing result. The only real requirement for success in quilting is to be project-oriented, more interested in the process of quilt making than the finished product.

My early quilts were traditional bed quilts made from patterns in quilt books. But soon I began making quilted wall hangings that tell stories about my marriage and family. Like this millennium quilt depicting our daughter and son, his wife and children, soaring into the twentieth-first century while my husband, Pascha, and I, grounded in the nineteen hundreds, send prayers in the wind for their future.

The biggest influence in my quilting has been the fact that my husband was born in Hyderabad, India, into a prominent Muslim family. Over the years we have made numerous trips to India and Pakistan for visits, weddings, and family celebrations. When I became a quilter I realized that the richness of Islamic art that I viewed during our trips would make beautiful quilts. Muslims decorate their mosques and palaces with symmetrical designs that resemble traditional quilt blocks. I was challenged to make quilts for our home that would reflect Pascha’s heritage. So I took pictures during our travels and combed libraries for books on Islamic art to make copies of designs that pleased me.

My quilt, Symmetry, is based on an Indian tile design that caught my fancy. But it is sewn in reverse. The tiles have become spaces. The design is the grouting between the tiles sewn with bias tubes. Decorative fabrics fill some of the spaces, and beads embellish the eight-pointed stars. Unfortunately, the glitter of the beads is lacking in the photo. To complete the quilt I added six borders. Many borders are a design feature I copied from studying Indian rugs and wall hangings.

I intend to contribute other articles to this blog about my quilts and my quilting journey. I will also discuss quilting techniques and relate anecdotes about quilting circles, quilt guilds, quilt shows, fabric stashes and the like. My present home is in Sacramento, California, a community of talented quilters who taught me how to quilt, and offered me support and encouragement along the way. But my biggest fan is my husband although he has been known to offer comments like, “Wouldn’t that quilt look better if you made it in pink and yellow.”

Donna and Pascha Hussain

Donna wrote a book about how to make her Islamic inspired borders, "Interlacing Borders: More than 100 Intricate Designs Made Easy". I found a copy available on Alibris.


1 comment:

  1. Donna, I loved your quilt when I saw it in the quilt show in Paducah. I wish you had included a picture so thers could see it as well.


“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

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