Shows celebrate history-inspired handwork

The Wilton Historical Society will open two shows — centered around decorative, as well as practical, handwork — next Thursday, March 19, with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. The community is welcome.
The quilts of designer Denyse Schmidt will be shown as well as the hooked rugs of June Myles.
Ms. Schmidt’s quilted creations are modern interpretations of classic quilt designs such as Rail Fence, Lafayette Orange Peel, Ocean Waves, Mariner’s Compass, Streak of Lightning, Wagon Wheel, Snake Trail, and Churn Dash.
“A quilt is art, a quilt is history, and a quilt is a tactile, shared experience on many levels,” says Ms. Schmidt, who will show almost a dozen pieces of work.
“Like folk music and tales passed down orally, quilts are graphic representations of stories and ideas that have emerged over the years in endless variations. Handed down from generation to generation, evolving slightly each time, the quilting patterns are themselves a living, breathing entity.”
Ms. Schmidt’s passion for using the quilt as a springboard for contemporary design has led her on some interesting journeys. She collaborated with the Japanese department store Takishamaya, creating a small number of quilts carefully made with antique Japanese kimonos. She was selected to be part of the Philip Johnson Glass House Commissions Program, designing a quilt in a modernist style inspired by the components of the house and its site.
The Denyse Schmidt Quilt Studio is based in a historic factory building in Bridgeport where three quilt collections are produced. They are available through retailers nationwide. Information:

Hooked rugs

One Loop at a Time is the name of the rug exhibition, which features works of art “painted in wool,” the artist says. The rugs, wall hangings and pillows feature her use of color, love of language and needle skills.
The work, which will be on display in the Sloan House Gallery, is rooted in folk art. Beyond a basic design, these pieces showcase words, and images of animals — from anteaters to camels and cats — as well as portraits of men, “men I’ve never met,” Ms. Myles says. There is a “Matisse-man,” fiddler, cook, banker, exotic manservant, turbaned philosopher and more.
“Hooking is a pure delight,” Ms. Myles says of her art form,” a   creative outlet for telling stories and expressing one’s ideas, while enjoying color and textures. My influences are a commingling of Appalachia, France, New York, and Connecticut,” to which she moved in 1988.
That’s when she began on her artistic journey, learning the craft with a friend through Wilton’s adult education program. She had experimented with painting, woodturning, pot throwing, and stained glass work, but what really “took” was hooking. Her work has been exhibited widely across Connecticut and in Maine and West Virginia.
Rug hooking as we know it today developed in North America, specifically along the Eastern Seaboard in New England and the Canadian Maritimes. It began as a craft of poverty. The vogue for floor coverings in the United States came about after 1830 when factories produced machine-made carpets for the rich. Poor women began looking through their scrap bags for materials to employ in creating their own home-made floor coverings.   Women employed whatever materials they had available.
Both exhibitions will continue through Oct. 3.
The Wilton Historical Society is at 224 Danbury Road. Information: 203-762-7257 or