When someone says “quilting,” it generally brings thoughts of old-fashioned little ladies sitting around a sewing room stitching symmetrical squares on a large piece of thick fabric. Well, former East and South Salem Elementary art teacher Judy Loope isn’t old-fashioned, and the quilts she makes don’t belong on a bed or in a trunk. Her creations usually hang proudly on a clean wall for lots of folks to see.
Starting Thursday, August 27, a gallery of her textiles and mixed-media quilts, “Stitch Attitude” will be on display at the Gallery on the James in Buchanan through October 4.
Her works are made of mostly synthetic fabric along with almost any other art material she can get a needle through. Her mother and grandmother did a lot of traditional quilting, so she knew the basics, but she started quilting in the late 1980s, early 1990s after making her son a quick throw together “blankie.”
“It was one of those moments where you’re cutting out little pieces of fabric and then wait a minute. Why am I following someone else’s pattern – I’m an art teacher!,” the Longwood College graduate said. She attended there after graduating from Andrew Lewis High in 1969.
She embraced her new hobby as a hobby, in her spare time as a creative outlet, until she retired six to seven years ago. That’s when she got serious. She set up an official studio in her sunroom, and got to work.
Loope’s husband, John, has supported her new career wholeheartedly. When Judy goes to new craft stores or to faraway art shows, he researches a fly fishing spot and finds a place to entertain himself while she’s doing her thing.
So far, she has shown her quilts at galleries in Scotland, England, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Colorado, and all over Virginia.
“I think that’s probably a dream of anyone that’s in the arts field,” she said. “Being an arts education person, my career was in teaching, not in the business side of things. So I’m having to learn a lot.”
So far, she’s been having a lot of luck getting herself noticed. Sam Pettway, CEO of Boardwalk Consulting, a company in Atlanta, contacted her to do commission pieces as awards for the nonprofits that his company works with. Some have gone to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, to the Susan G. Komen breast cancer organization, and to food banks and child services. One even went to Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin - it depicts a jovial character with a large flower on her lapel, just like Franklin usually wears.
Loope has also made fast friends with a British textile artist, Kathy Colledge. That’s how some of her work has landed in England. She and her husband, John, even visited Europe for the first time recently because of her quilting shows.
“Most people think of quilts as grandma’s work going on the bed … Now we’re seeing more and more of them as more of a fine art than a bed art,” Loope said.
Loope is teaching a class on fabric and paper printing from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday, September 18 at the gallery. The cost is $20 per person and has a simple supply list of scraps, old sheets, rags, used wrapping or scrapbook paper, old maps or other assorted papers. Call 254-9708 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
Gallery by the James is located in an historic building on Main Street (Route 11) in Buchanan. Summer hours are 11-2 on Thursday, 11-5 on Friday and Saturday, 2-5 on Sunday or by appointment.