Quilt Inspiration from a Week by the Sea

Back when I was living on the East Coast, my two younger sisters and I established a tradition of meeting somewhere once a year for a spouse-free, offspring-free sisters’ reunion. For the first few years, we gathered in Lancaster, PA, for the long Presidents’ Weekend, but since I’ve moved to California, the “when, where, how often, and how long” factors have required a tweak.

The three "Stever girls" (Darra, Loretta, and Charlie), heading off on an early sisters' weekend

The three “Stever girls” (Darra, Loretta, and Charlie), heading off on an early sisters’ weekend

Last week, my siblings took advantage of accumulated air miles to fly cross-country, and I obliged by securing us a place in one of my favorite places in the world: the village of Mendocino on the northern California coast.

It's hard not to love Mendocino, a charming village on the northern California coast!

It’s hard not to love Mendocino, a charming village on the northern California coast!

For five days and four nights, we took up residence at the Bever-Roberts Tower, an amazingly transformed, historic water tower within easy walking distance of the headlands and all the wonderful shops, galleries, and eateries that this charming little seaside town has to offer.

The Water Tower, our home away from home for the week; photo by Charlie Brown

The Water Tower, our home away from home for the week; photo by Charlie Brown

Aside from the obvious lure of the Pacific Ocean, which we could see from the upper floors and widow’s walk at the tower, Mendocino abounds in artistic inspiration.

Part of the 360-degree view from the widow's walk atop the Water Tower

Part of the 360-degree view from the widow’s walk atop the Water Tower

The community is a magnet for artists of all media. Color; shape; texture; light; endless, everchanging vistas of land and sea–even the work of fellow artists–they’re all here. A quilter couldn’t ask for more.

Some of the inspiration is strictly natural. Known locally as “naked ladies,” these colorful pink blooms appear in abundance, as if by magic, in late summer.

Naked Ladies

Naked ladies long view

Some of the inspiration is manmade, but no less stimulating. For example, the village was established in the 1850s, and its wealth of Victorian and saltbox architecture makes a terrific source for original quilting motifs. (For you trivia buffs: Mendocino was the stand-in for Cabot Cove, ME, in the long-running TV series, Murder, She Wrote.)

Don't you just love the woodwork surrounding the windows?

Don’t you just love the woodwork surrounding the windows?

One of the most colorful buildings in the village is the Temple of Kwan Tai. This Taoist temple, restored and re-dedicated in 2001, is a living reminder of Mendocino’s 19th-century Chinese community. It has been designated a California Registered Historic Landmark.

red and green temple

Mendocino boasts an extremely vibrant art center, with galleries, artists in residence for various media, a gallery shop, and a busy roster of classes, including those focused on fiber arts. Not all of the art is indoors, however!

This delightful mosaic piece adorns the gardens outside the Mendocino Art Center.

This delightful mosaic piece adorns the gardens outside the Mendocino Art Center.

A fanciful seahorse sculpture, constructed of driftwood

A fanciful seahorse sculpture, constructed of driftwood

Nor is the inpiration confined to the usual venues. If you keep your eyes open, you can spot art in the most unexpected places.

Unexpected art along the headlands

Unexpected art along the headlands

Unusual garden art

Unusual garden art

Not your typical weathervane!

Not your typical weathervane!

Creative bench for weary wanderers

Creative bench for weary wanderers

Even local businesses display an artistic sensibility ;-)

Even local businesses display an artistic sensibility ;-)

I couldn’t leave you without sharing one fantastic, sea-inspired quilt. I spotted this one last fall at Quilt Market in Houston. It was made by Albuquerque (NM) quilt artist, Patricia Gould, and was inspired by a photograph she took on the northern California coast. (Note: This quilt is available for purchase. It is currently on exhibit at the Texas Quilt Museum in La Grange, TX, as part of the invitational show, America the Beautiful.)

Dancing Waves, © 2011 Patricia Gould, 31 x 49 inches. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Dancing Waves, © 2011 Patricia Gould, 31 x 49 inches. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Before I sign off, I’m pleased to announce that vivoaks and hardenbrookgirl are the winners of the giveaway from my Tuesday post. Each will receive an autographed copy of Scrap Quilting with Alex Anderson, hot off the press.

That’s it for now. ‘Til next time, happy stitching!Darra-signature

PS: I almost forgot! This weekend (Saturday and Sunday, September 28 – 29) marks the popular annual outdoor quilt event, Quilting in the Garden, at Alden Lane Nursery in Livermore, CA. This year’s featured artists are Sandy Klop (of American Jane fame) and quilt sculptor, Susan Else.  If you’re anywhere nearby, you won’t want to miss it!

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10 Responses to Quilt Inspiration from a Week by the Sea

  1. What a wonderful place to relax with your sisters and be inspired. I was just going through my photos and thinking I would love to be able to catch the waves on the rocks, in a quilt.

    Debbie

    • Darra Williamson says:

      When you do, Debbie, be sure to send a photo. I would love to see it! I’m planning a little “memory” surprise for each of my sisters, and will be sharing more about that next month. Darra

  2. Elaine says:

    How blessed you are to have sisters you enjoy being with. As an only child I always craved that sisterhood. Thankfully, God has given me amazing friends who are my “sisters” and we do getaways as well. I am a San Diego native whose adventures in No. Cali have been confined to the Sierra’s and the Redwoods. We will be relocating to Medford in the spring-I may have a better chance of visiting Mendocino from there:) Your lovely pictures have inspired me to go!

    • Darra Williamson says:

      Elaine, Once in Medford, you’ll be right next door to another unique small town (Ashland). I had no idea about these “little treasures” when I was living on the East Coast. They’ve been the most wonderful surprises! Darra

  3. Grace says:

    Your photos of Mendocino were great! I live in Fort Bragg-just 10 miles north of Mendocino and it’s a treat even for us to visit there. Thanks for spreading the news… Northern Calif is an amazing place to visit.

    • Darra Williamson says:

      Hi Grace. I always enjoy an afternoon in Fort Bragg when I’m in Mendocino. There are some wonderful little galleries, shops, and eateries there, too. I had a wonderful time there with my sisters. Darra

  4. Chris Smith says:

    I love your selection of photos and pithy captions! While you were with your blood sisters in Mendo, I was with my art sisters 100 miles south on the same coast on a quilting and photography retreat at my Sea Ranch home and studio. Inspiration, renewal, re-connection . . . all are such blessings!

    I’d love to re-connect with you via email, too, about your story and my book — I don’t know if your old address still works, so I’d be delighted if you’d drop me a quick private email.

  5. I love your post! Mendocino is a favorite destination for me as well! California, my own back yard has been an inspiration for my fabrics designs for Robert Kaufman for quite some time. Thanks for sharing Darra. And good for you for keeping up a sisterly tradition!!

    • Darra Williamson says:

      Thank you, Jennifer! Those sisterly bonds are so important, and what better please to reconnect than marvelous Mendo. We’re already talking about “next time”–and I have plans for at least two small pieces based on our recent adventure. Darra

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