I asked Diane Dover if I could visit her studio after a friend told me about an amazing commissioned piece she was doing. She is making a quilt showing scenes from Huffman Prairie, the field where the Wright Brothers learned how to fly. I had seen photos of the work online, but when I saw it in person I was impressed with the amount of detail.
I asked Diane how she approached this piece.
“Most of my work comes from something I have experienced in nature. I often spend time sketching or taking photos in the field, but for this piece I spent more time in the field than I ever have before. I may have taken nearly 1,000 photos at Huffman Prairie over the past year, and I’ve done lots of sketches.”
“One of my favorite parts of creating this quilt was the extra time spent in the field. Walking in the prairie is a feeling of being in a very magical world. Sometimes one feels as if they are the only person there. In late summer it is impossible to see over the plants. It is a place where a mind can wander and you can lose track of time. It is easy to spend two or three hours there; just slowly walking the paths and feeling pleasantly alone in a glorious landscape full of color and insect and bird activity.”
“My client wanted 25 plant species that are found at Huffman Prairie, which would have taken me forever. I asked him to choose his favorite six and he chose Royal Catchfly, Butterfly Weed, Wild Bergamot, Black-eyed Susan, Blazing-star, and Prairie Coneflower. They are native species that once covered prairies in our state. The quilt also showcases one of my favorite birds, the Bobolink. This bird is rarely seen in the Dayton area but it can be found at Huffman Prairie.”
Diane started pulling out some of her other quilts. I especially liked this one.
This smaller piece shows a red-winged blackbird.
I asked Diane about her work process.
“Most of the quilting is done by machine. The birds and flowers are hand embroidered and hand beaded, which is an important part of the process and of the finished work. That’s the part I enjoy the most. I get completely absorbed in the color and detail of each bird, blossom, leaf or insect.
“Lately I have been working on this ironing board. I can change the height to switch from standing to sitting, and I can easily move my work to wherever the light is best.”
I told Diane what a great work space she had – lots of space, lots of light, and lots of storage. She showed me the contents of some of her storage cabinets.
“I know it looks like I have plenty of space, but I feel like I could use much more. I like to have plenty of fabric choices on hand and various art supplies as well. I need my photos and drawings and reference materials handy, and I like to have nature specimens with me here in my studio.”
Diane is best known for her quilts, but her appreciation for nature is sometimes expressed in other ways.
She showed me several sculptures, each about eighteen inches high, that she called self portraits. Each had the details of a bird – one was a Blue Jay – but with two legs added. I also saw several of Diane’s “seed bowls” which use small glass beads placed in a gourd to create interesting patterns.
My favorite non-quilt art pieces were the photos below and the story that goes with them.
“My husband loves to swim in our backyard pool when he gets off work. But one spring I noticed that frogs had laid eggs in water that had collected on our pool cover. I asked my husband if he would stop using the pool so we could watch the frogs develop. He agreed. Love that guy”
“I had more fun watching those frogs. They were everywhere. I took lots of photos and showed some of them in an exhibition. Eventually, these frog photos will probably inspire some kind of textile art.”