Featured Contemporary Quilter – Roseanna Morgan

Reflections of Modigliani
©Roseanna Morgan

From soothing indigo blues and solid hued fabrics to wild colors and wonky piecing, Roseanna has a style and palette all her own.  Think of Tuscany’s terracotta and burnt sienna tile roofs, mixed with the turquoise of the sea and kissed by sun gold, and you will get an idea of Roseanna’s favored colors.  Add raw umber, teal blue, eggplant, mustard yellow, and olive green, and an exotic Crayola crayon box theme emerges.

Roseanna grew up in Baltimore.  She went to college in North Carolina, then to the University o fPennsylvania, and finally received a Master’s Degree in Library Science from Catholic University. For twenty five years she worked as a librarian, first at the Pratt library and then at the Baltimore County public schools.  She first learned to sew while working at the Milford Mill High School library when she discovered an adult night sewing class.  She began by making maternity clothes for herself, and baby clothes for the infant she was expecting.  After a gap of 30 years when she was too busy to sew, several factors led her to quilting.  She remembers the quilts that she saw as a child at the Women’s Exchange on Charles Street in Baltimore, and through the years she was fascinated by the quilts displayed at the Maryland State Fair.  After retiring in 1984, Roseanna discovered a quilting teacher, Pat Gardner, who taught at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and who later gave private lessons.  From her first class with Pat Gardner, Roseanna was hooked on quilting.  Now Roseanna meets weekly with former members of Pat Gardner’s classes, and she has been a Baltimore Heritage Quilt Guild member since its inception in 1984.

Roseanna began quilting by making many of the traditional block patterns, but she became impatient to work in a freer style and to create her own patterns.  She enjoys putting together unusual shapes and colors, and fabrics that are not usually seen in combination.  She favors fabrics with large designs, accompanying them with surrounding fabrics that are solids, or subtler patterns.  She is always on the lookout for inspiring fabric.  She has been a constant traveler, visiting street markets and fabric shops around the world.  Textiles from these travels have included antique Japanese farmers’ clothing and Australian fabric designed by aborigine women, all of which have been incorporated into her quilts.  Fabrics from India and Asia, and fabric designed by Kaffe Fassett are also some of her favorites.

Roseanna has been influenced by the art of William Morris, particularly his graceful acanthus leaves.  When she saw the ceramic tiles of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, she marveled at the similarity to Morris’ work, and realized that all of us are influenced by the people who came before.  The women of Gee’s Bend brought the spirit of even more freedom to her style.  She was excited by their usage of color and shape with abandon.  Their emphasis was not on technique, nor a certain number of quilting stitches per inch, but rather making do with what was at hand, and producing exhilarating, inventive and bold results.  Roseanna also likes to use colors that were favored by the great artists, such as Van Gogh, Klimt, Modigliani, Gauguin, and Matisse.

Roseanna is not afraid to avoid traditional symmetry.  She prefers piecing that is off center, askew, tilted, and free of preconceived patterns.  Primarily, she enjoys creating interesting and  unique pieces.  These come about after much thinking, and auditioning how she would like to combine particular colors on her design wall.  Often, she says, “the beautiful is paired with the ugly”.  Next day, she will come back to the design to see whether or not she wants to alter it.  She enjoys the peaceful feeling of hand quilting, frequently accompanied by public television’s British mysteries.  On larger pieces, she may combine her own hand quilting with machine quilting that has been performed by local or distant long-arm quilting professionals, including one who lives in Texas.  Roseanna listens to her own muse, and she readily breaks the rules of traditional quilting.  Color and fabric and working with her hands are exciting to her, and she is proud to be part of the tradition of women who have been doing this for years.