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Meet the artist: Jan Wantz

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As part of a quilting program for Columbus Star Quilters, Jan Wantz asked for the first quilt she ever made. It was a child-sized quilt she made when her first grandchild was due.

The quilt her daughter returned to her was a rag. The grandson, now 21, had put the quilt to good use.

“If I’m going to make a quilt for anybody, I want it to be used and not hung at all so they have the memory of grandma making that quilt,” she said.

Wantz does have plenty of art quilts hanging on her walls as well, having left behind quilting patterns to create art quilts — quilts that, in Wantz’s case, look like paintings.

Wantz typically dyes her own material, usually without particular projects in mind. Wantz often uses floral or plant themes.

One quilt hanging on the wall features a cityscape; Wantz started it by cutting long strips of fabric and placing them on her design board. She added a road for depth and then put a piano player in one corner.

“I try to make a quilts so that you’re looking at it and all of the sudden you’ll discover something,” she said.

How and when did you start quilting?

I’ve always done sewing, even as a little girl. We always had a sewing machine set up on our kitchen table. And we just made stuff all the time. I grew up in a large family. We were always making something. I was inspired by my mother who was a sewer always and just inspired us to do stuff.

Would you say quilts are usable art?

Most definitely. Of course, there are wall quilts and there are bed quilts. The bed quilts people used to make hundred of years ago were always art. People would use things that they had on hand, but even if they only had a bag of old shirts that they’d cut up, they’d try to make something beautiful. That was their outlet. They didn’t consider them works of art then, but they are.

Why do you think they weren’t considered works of art? How do you incorporate art into what is traditionally a craft?

Because women didn’t do arty type things. They were utilitarian. They were made to keep people warm — which they still are now.

I think art and craft in some respects are the same thing. You can define craft in several different ways. Working with your hands to make an object would be a craft. I don’t care if you’re doing an oil painting or sewing a quilt, you’re still creating. I think a lot of people don’t consider quilts as an art because they don’t realize that you are creating. It isn’t just a pattern you pick up and sew A to B. You’re doing many different things when you’re creating a quilt.

You started off with the pattern quilt. When did you break that?

I did start off with the pattern quilt, but I didn’t last long. After the first quilt, I went to a bed-size quilt. I found the pattern in a magazine; it said to buy five yards of green, five yards of blue, five yards of white. And I did. I did everything it said to do, cut all my pieces and started to sew them together.

The first block was fine. But I was bored and then I had this huge project in front of me that I didn’t like. From then on, I was over that. Not to say that that’s not a good thing — but it wasn’t for me. So I moved on to art-type quilts. I made my first art quilt within the first year or two of making quilts. I’ve sort of evolved.

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