The social media explosion has brought many new avenues for sharing passions, from the love of silly cat photos to an obsession with fabrics and quilting. It also connects people across the globe. I am on many social media sites, but Instagram has introduced me to a lucky and talented quilter named Mari Perry (#mariperry21). Talented, yes—she shares photos of her own work while admitting that quilting has only come into her life in the last three or four years. But lucky indeed, as she has found an outstanding quilt guild in her temporary home in Saudi Arabia.Born in the Galician region of Spain, her family moved to Venezuela when she was two. There she grew up, attended university, and raised a daughter. But life brings changes, and when Mari met a charming Welshman via Facebook he swept her off her feet. They are now married, and both working at consulates in Riyadh. Mari’s daughter gets to share this experience, but is also excited that the family is building a home in Northern Ireland. They will all welcome the sight of the lakes and green landscape when they move there after their present appointments.
When Mari found herself in Riyadh, there was a beginning quilting class offered in the Western Compound. She was quickly addicted! The Riyadh International Quilt Guild also met in that compound, and from what Mari has told me, she found herself in a quilter’s heaven for learning and inspiration. One of four guilds in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, she joined and eventually took on the role of librarian in the guild. (They have a blog full of stunning photos, be sure to go peek!)“All of the quilters in my guild are expats from the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, Lebanon, Germany, Botswana, South Africa, Poland and more. Because most are here with families doing embassy work, the group changes over frequently,” Mari shares. “It is incredible, the differences in ability, experience and technique that the guild members bring. The marvel is that they freely share with each other through formal workshops and informal conversation on ‘Sit & Sew Day’. There are about 30 members at the moment.” (I did say that she was lucky, didn’t I?)
The most important quilt event in the region is held in February-March every two years. The quilts shown come not just from members of guilds like Mari’s, but also from local artists native to the region. The International Quilt Show, Dubai website has hundreds of photos of stunning quilts, from traditional to abstract, but some of the most intriguing are the street scenes. When I first saw these photos on my phone screen, I was blown away, but they are even more amazing full-size! Take a look at the gallery shots below. These quilts vary in size from large to small wall hangings. An interesting example is the musician seated by the tile wall. This is a small piece, and seems to combine pieced work with painted fabric work, and heavy quilting. In the detail of the man’s feet you get a real feel for the care and skill the quilter brought to this piece, all those perfect triangles in the tiles, all the texture! You can view the slide show by clicking on any photo, and you can enlarge them to see more detail by selecting “view full size” beneath each picture in the slideshow. Each one is a treasure—I also am blown away by the camel, people, and stonework in the street scene.
I asked Mari what inspiration she takes from her surroundings there, and she said that the desert was simply sand, but that “the culture is so rich, the patterns you see in the Arabic buildings, the ornate stars and tile-work on mosques, and the souks themselves (open markets) are just captivating.” While in public, Saudi women don the traditional Abaya, but in their personal lives and celebrations, Mari says that “they love color, texture, and a lot of embellishment. Their fabric stores are full of laces and beaded fabrics, so amazing you just drool looking at them. Jewelry stores show big, massive, exaggerated pieces” like the ones you can see on Mari’s Instragram feed if you have access.
But it is almost impossible to find 100% cotton quilting fabric there. One of the expats sells sewing machines and fabrics from her home, and another offers long-arm quilting services. “Here we can find a large selection of vintage buttons, embellishments, and other unique sewing materials in the souks, and occasionally is small notions shops. When you find one of those shops you immediately tell all your quilting friends!”
While most of what Mari shares on her posts is the work of others, or snippets of her life and travels, she has completed many quilting projects of her own since finding that first class. I have shamelessly lifted these two photos from her Instragram stream. The Tea Time wall hanging should be right at home in the new house in Ireland, but I think that embroidered snowmen might be wishful thinking in the Arabian desert!
Recently Mari won the Second Place ribbon for her quilt “Shall We Dance”, and I can see why. I love the colors and the motion. Mari started with the “Log Cabin Swirl” pattern designed by Brenda Groelz for McCall’s Quick Quilts (Jan. 2004) but modified and enlarged it. With her ancestry from Galacia in Spain, and her husband’s Welsh heritage, the Celtic Knot that is machine embroidered in the center has meaning to them both. I am certain this quilt will find a place of honor in their new Irish homestead.
Special thanks to Mari (#maryperry21) for posting these inspiring pieces, and allowing me to share them with you all. She hopes to hear from you in Instagram. While you are there, be sure to say HI to her, and them come find me at #thecuriousquilter. © 2013 by The Curious Quilter, thecuriousquilter.net, maryeoriginals.com. All rights reserved.