When I think of rural Ontario, one of the images that comes to mind is something I saw in a movie once: ladies gathered together outdoors, sitting around a quilting frame, stitching by hand, sipping lemonade and chatting about the week’s events. The breeze is gently blowing and rustling the leaves and I’m sure the air smells like strawberries. Coming from a family of stitchers (my mum and all my many aunts), I know that this is just a picture in my head and not something that actually happens, but that doesn’t matter to me. I like the idea!
Another misconception about quilting is that it’s a craft and not an art. I wholeheartedly disagree. One glance at Renske Helmuth‘s work and I’m sure you’ll see why.
Renske, born on a dairy farm in Holland, trained as a teacher. She studied home economics among other things, including needlework, knitting and crocheting. She also studied art and art history. After teaching for a few years she emigrated to Canada. When she got married, her mother-in-law taught her how to piece quilts.
Renske’s passion for the art of quilting is apparent in her work, as is her love of the Ontario countryside. Many of her works depict rural Ontario scenes, vistas that I have always felt resembled patchwork quilts. Occasionally using the aerial photography of Carl Hiebert as inspiration, Renske employs the techniques of applique and embroidery rather than a paint brush to create her works of art, and the results are impressive.
The most unbelievable thing about Renske Helmuth is that she hasn’t yet sold a quilt! The only way to get one of Renske’s amazing creations is to place the winning bid at the Mennonite Relief Sale in New Hamburg. To date she has coordinated six feature quilts with the help of the members of the Waterloo County Quilters Guild and the Listowel Mennonite Church.
The Mennonite Relief Sale is happening this weekend in New Hamburg. To preview this year’s collection of quilts, head to New Hamburg tonight! Go back tomorrow morning to purchase your favourite. The bidding begins at 8:30am.