Lea Ingram has created some 200 quilts over the past 15 years, but she has kept only one for herself. It’s not large — just 32-by-36-inches — and it’s the only art piece she has on permanent display in her home.
The quilt is Ingram’s interpretation of the physical and emotional devastation that occurred when the Kaloko Dam in Kilauea, Kauai, burst in 2006. At the time, she was living on a nearby property, parts of which were stripped down to bedrock from the flood. Seven people were killed.
It was a tragedy that jolted her to the core, and a friend suggested she make a quilt to ease her pain. “Kaloko Mourning” was the result.
“The focal point is a tree being swept away by water,” Ingram said. “Not only does it, in an abstract way, depict the disaster, it helped me realize that life goes on: Nature has the ability to regrow, and humanity has the ability to persevere and become stronger. Making this quilt enabled me to look forward instead of backward and let go of negative feelings about the disaster. Creating it was meditative, meaningful and healing for me.”
IF YOU GO: KAUAI QUILT SHOW
>> Where: Kauai Society of Artists Gallery, Kukui Grove Center, 3-2600 Kaumualii Highway, Lihue
>> When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 8-20; Fridays until 8 p.m. Opening reception and “Meet the Quilters” evening 5 to 8 p.m. Feb. 8.
>> Admission: Free
>> Phone: (808) 652-2261
>> Email: email@example.com
>> Notes: Some quiltmakers accept credit or debit cards for purchases; only cash or checks will be accepted for sales of charity quilts.
Ingram is one of about 30 quilters participating in this year’s Kauai Quilt Show. More than 70 quilts of various types will be on view, including patchwork, applique, embroidery and “art quilts,” which, like “Kaloko Mourning,” are meant to be hung, not used. Sizes run the gamut from small wall hangings to king-sized bedcovers.
“We don’t judge the event; we accept whatever quilts the makers want to display, so we don’t know what the show will be like until the quilts are dropped off on the setup day,” Ingram said. “There’s always a wide range of subjects, and many people like to use vibrant colors and tropical- and Asian-themed fabrics.”
The Kauai Quilt Show was the brainchild of Mary Frazier, wife of the former pastor of Church of the Pacific in Princeville. She thought holding a quilt show at the church would have two important benefits. Since Kauai Museum had stopped hosting an annual quilt show, it would provide a venue for the island’s quilters to exhibit their creations. In addition, some of the quilts could be sold to support the church’s service projects, including a food bank and community garden.
Jeni Hardy, a member of the congregation, stepped in to spearhead the planning with the Nene Quilters, an informal group of quilting enthusiasts that she helped launch. The inaugural Kauai Quilt Show was held in 2003.
“It was just a two-day event back then,” Ingram said. “In 2014, it moved to a more central location at Kukui Grove Center in Lihue and expanded to 13 days. That’s when the Nene Quilters invited the Kauai Quilt Guild, another quilting organization, to assist and it has been a collaboration between the two groups ever since.”
Anyone who lives or spends time regularly on Kauai may enter the show; participants have ranged in age from 12 to octogenarians. Some of the quilts are available for purchase. The event’s charitable component has continued through sales of donated quilts.
“All of the proceeds from the 20 to 35 charity quilts go to the buyer’s choice of about a dozen nonprofit organizations that the show supports,” Ingram said. “Most are priced well below $200, and last year more than $6,000 was given directly to organizations such as the Kauai Museum, Child & Family Service and the Kauai Humane Society.”
New this year is the Quilt Boutique, where bags, mug rugs, potholders, place mats and other items donated by the Nene Quilters and Kauai Quilt Guild will be sold for $5 and up. Funds raised will help pay for the show’s expenses and to purchase supplies to make charity quilts.
Members from the two groups will be on hand to “talk story” about quilting — inspirations for patterns, preferred materials and techniques.
Attendees can vote for their favorite quilts; those that garner the most votes will receive the Viewers’ Choice awards. Fabric stores on Kauai donate gift certificates for the first-, second- and third-place winners. Those are the only awards given out.
“Our show is not about competition; it’s about sharing what we enjoy doing,” Ingram said. “It doesn’t matter if the quilt you’ve made isn’t perfect. All that matters is that you loved making it and that it gives you joy and a sense of accomplishment.”
She remembers a couple from Missouri who came to last year’s show. They spent a long time looking at every quilt and then sat quietly on a bench in a corner and looked some more. Ingram went over to chat with them.
“They told me they had been to almost every major quilt show where they lived and beyond, including some famous and prestigious ones, and they said our little show was by far their favorite,” Ingram said. “When I asked why, they said because it was so real. They said our quilts weren’t as intricate and technically precise as those in the other shows, but they were full of heart. I thought that was the nicest compliment we could ever get.”
Last year’s Kauai Quilt Show drew 2,000 people. Ingram hopes this year’s event will be just as well received.
“It celebrates the power of imagination and the creative process,” she said. “It’s a chance to meet and converse with talented artists who are passionate about what they do. Quilting requires time, patience, skill and care, which is evident in the finished product. Quilts touch our hearts. Quilts are tactile and comforting. They wrap us in warmth — in feelings of peace, security and love.”