Mary Jo Bowers made her first quilt in 1970 from a kit knowing nothing about appliqué, quilting, basting or putting it together. Yet it somehow got done and the family used it until it was totally worn out. It was not until the 1981 that she made a quilt again. This evolved into her contemporary pieces representing her emotional response to her physical and spiritual environment.
Her present work is characterized by bold colors, shapes and dimensions using artist dyed and commercial over-dyed fabrics, painted fabric and scraps from various venues including sari shops, thrift stores upholstery shops and friends used garments. She uses a fusible web to piece together a variety of fabrics including but not limited to cottons, silks, polyesters and wools. With a color and schematic idea in mind she pulls out fabrics that complement and highlight each other including zingers, darks and lights, complementary and secondary color variations which will add interest, movement and life to the piece. While the fabrics dance on the cutting table, she cuts freehand with a rotary cutter. It is an intuitive process that takes her on a journey with the destination unknown. Her pre-conceived notions of the final outcome are changed so frequently during the process that early notes would not always describe the end art quilt. The separate pieces are pinned, taken down, re-pined and repositioned many times before they are finally assembled using a fusible web. When she is satisfied that the piece is right, she finishes it with machine and/or hand embroidery.
She has had several solo shows and participated in many large quilt shows and multi-media art shows throughout the United States and France. She has many ribbons for her work and has been published in several books.
Mary Jo has a Masters degree in Social Work and did family counseling in schools and hospitals for many years until she became a realtor in 1976. During those years she attended classes and workshops to hone her quilting and embroidery skills. She has now retired from these careers to spend fulltime with her quilting except for regular days when she is grandma to her grandchildren. She also volunteers for the National Association of Mental Illness. She and her husband Norm live in Chicago.
As an artist working with color in fabric, paper and threads, my goal is a vibrant, animated and vigorous art wall quilt. My medium challenges me to translate into a nonverbal art quilt the power of my soul. I use bold colors, shapes and dimensions using artist dyed and commercial over-dyed fabrics and scraps from various places including sari and upholstery shops, thrift stores and used garments.
I work from an idea, a photo, a painting or a scene that captures my imagination and creates a mental image to represent some aspect of the inspiring theme. I lay out all the fabrics that may or may not work with the theme; e.g., green for the fields or maybe red for the fields. The goal of each piece is an abstraction so colors need not represent reality. Freeform organic images are randomly cut and grouped on the design board until they begin to express the mood I am seeking. I continue to work intuitively allowing each piece to determine its own path and direction.
Each wall quilt has at least three layers; the pieced top that is layered with many pieces, the batting which gives the quilt shape, direction and contours when embroidered and quilted; the backing which completes the art quilt. My work is being influenced by traveling, distressed buildings and barns that have weathered the times, and destruction wrought by wars.
Awards and Recognition
Artist Career Training Challenge 2009
Wayne Art Center2005, National Spring juried Exhibition, Juror’s Choice Award
Fine Art of Fiber 2001, Second Place
Fine Art of Fiber1997, Second Place
Smoky Mountain Quilt Show 1997, Third Place
Small Wonders Embellishment Show 1997, First Runner-Up
NEQA Wearables Show 1997, Third Place
Mid-Atlantic Wearable Art Festival 1996, Third Place
Holiday Garden of Quilts 1996, First Place