The Germann Way: Quilting in Blowing Rock

Article Published: Nov. 24, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
The Germann Way: Quilting in Blowing Rock

With complex stitching, whimsical patterns and vibrant fabrics, they're not your mother's quilts.
Well, unless your mother's name is Patricia Germann.

These quilts aren't collecting dust on a quilt rack or hitting the washing machine after a week on your mattress.

"They're no longer blankets or covers on beds. Suddenly, they're art pieces and wall hangings."
That's her proud husband, Fred Germann.

The Germanns are creating somewhat of a quilting empire in the High Country and, thanks to a special show at Art and Artifacts in Blowing Rock, it's an empire you can experience again this holiday season.

For Patricia Germann, it's an art form that's taken decades to perfect, and it started with the bicentennial in 1976.

"I had been sewing clothes for my kids, who no longer wanted to wear homemade things," she said. "And I felt the need to make something to celebrate our country's birthday."
It's an art form that took her and her family completely by surprise.

"In fact, Fred asked my mother if he should buy me a sewing machine when we were first married, and my mother said, 'She'll never use it,'" she laughed.

From that first quilt, though, Germann caught the bug. In her long quilting career, she would go onto to own quilt shops, teach workshops, and settle into a comfortable career at Appalachian State University. The art followed her, from Buffalo, N.Y., to Hilton Head, S.C., and to the High Country.

"In South Carolina, I was very moved by the colors of the ocean and the sea and the sand, and I worked with lighter colors and, since moving to the mountains ... the colors have become more vibrant, reminding me of the beauty of the mountains," she said.

To construct the perfect quilt, you need more than an artist's eye.

"There's a lot of mathematics in it," Germann said.

Think precise measuring, and one more thing.

"Self-discipline," she said, and a lot of it. "Projects are a long time coming."

That's why much of her work is devoted to smaller quilts. The secret to maintaining that discipline?

"I drink a lot of wine," she laughed, kidding. "No. If it makes me smile, it makes me feel fulfilled. It's got to make you smile ... it's got to have some humor in it somewhere. Sometimes, it's a tiny, hidden word quilted in that you've got to look for, but there's a message, usually, in all of my work."

She estimates having created between 800 and 1,000 quilts, including pieces for nursing homes, Ronald McDonald Houses and Habitat for Humanity. When you take into account the time each quilt takes to create, you have a true testament to that self-discipline.

"I try to keep it under a year," she laughed.

Don't be surprised to see between 10 and 15 quilts under construction at any given time at her Mountain City studio.

And don't be surprised to see her, needle in hand at one of her husband's jazz concerts.

"I'm always trying to thread a needle in the dark," she laughed.

Unlike the patchwork and traditional quilt square patterns, Germann's original creations are just that: Original. Take the piece currently hanging in her own living room: "Autumn Splendor."

"It may have 5,000 pieces in it," she said.

And, while a project that extensive might sound intimidating, quilting itself is an accessible art form, she insisted, one that even a needle-phobe can indulge in under the right tutelage.

"The hardest part is threading the needle, and the older you get the harder that is," she said.

But you'll never hear Germann complain.

"Isn't that grand? That at this stage of my life, I'm having a grand time. I'm enjoying it more now," she said.

And, while her husband has taken up the needle, her four children (two boys and two girls) have yet to give quilting a try.

"But they will say, nonchalantly, you could give that one to me when you don't want it anymore," Germann said.

Germann's work will be celebrated at a holiday art reception Friday, Nov. 26, at Art and Artifacts from 5 to 8 p.m.
Art and Artifacts is located at 159 Sunset Drive in Blowing Rock. Sally Lazar, Maryanna Williams, Sandy Adair, Joe LaFone, Judi Russell and Stephen Brooks will also have their art featured at the gallery.

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