Quilted Iconic Buildings of Mendocino

You won’t want to miss the Kelley House Museum’s summer exhibit, “Quilted Iconic Buildings of Mendocino,” which runs July 2 – August 31. In an extraordinary display of history meets art, 26 iconic buildings are brought to life on quilt squares, including the Temple of Kwan Tai, the Presbyterian Church, the MacCallum House, the Mendocino Hotel, and the Kelley House Water Tower. Each building is colorfully rendered on 18” x 18” quilt squares by members of the Ocean Wave Quilters. The Kelley House quilt square will be available for silent auction during July as a fundraiser.

Quilt of Mendocino Hotel
Quilt of Mendocino Hotel

The Ocean Wave Quilters on What Inspired Them

The Ocean Wave Quilters is a 70+ member guild that meets monthly and contributes to the community in myriad ways, including quilts for newborns, dresses for Hope for Women International, touch quilts for patients, and masks during the pandemic. In July of 2019 member Cindi Jo Willey, issued a challenge to guild members to make quilt renditions of Mendocino’s iconic buildings. Nine members accepted the challenge, but the pandemic delayed the original deadline. The resulting exhibit was worth the wait, and the Kelley House Museum is delighted to display the creations of Ginny Cooper, Christie Daoust, Dee Goodrich, Evelyn Harris, Nodja Jones, Sharon Lau, Tina Perry, Cindi Jo Willey, and Daisy Woodhams. 

Centering the exhibit is a magnificent, quilted landscape of the buildings on Mendocino’s historic Main Street. Quilter Sharon Lau described her inspiration, “Since my husband and I bought our home in Mendocino, I have been absolutely enchanted by that iconic view of the buildings on Main Street from across the Bay. For more than 9 years I thought about that view and depicting it on a quilt. In 2019, when my husband and I were honored to be the Featured Artists in the Fort Bragg Quilt Show, I realized I didn’t have a new, exciting quilt to display. I got to work on the quilt and finished it in just 3 weeks. Meanwhile, Cindi Jo Willey and I had chatted over the years about getting a group of quilters together to create quilts of individual buildings. My quilt, I think, just spurred us to finally issue the challenge.”

The Technique

You will want to see the quilts in person so you can marvel at their artistry. Examine the intricate piecework as you compare it to the black and white photo of the building, and read a bit of its history. Each quilt is made with a “raw edge applique” technique, where fabric is fused to the quilt, then secured by stitching around the raw edges. Each quilt has been finished with a “faced edge,” rather than a traditional binding. Some of the quilts use other techniques: thread painting, photographs printed on fabric, appliqued lace, and other trims. 

The quilters described challenges creating depth and dimension as they turned 2-dimensional images into 3-dimensional objects. Many of the quilters tried to find just the right angle to depict their buildings. Says Cindi Jo Willey, “I had a decent photo of the Blair House, but when I returned months later, a man was working on the place, so I asked to stand in the back of his truck to get a better shot and I really liked it much better. One of the issues was that from that angle, the fence was too far in the foreground to include it in the quilt while keeping the frame filled and not too filled with sky and greenery.

For the Love of a Building

How did the quilters choose which buildings to depict? Many of their answers to this question read like a love letter to the town:

“I chose Crown Hall so that I could honor my husband’s Portuguese heritage; he was born and raised in Mendocino. We also had our reception at the hall.” – Nodja Jones

“I was drawn to the firehouse because I have always liked the way the building looks on the street.  It has been there for a long time and somehow it says ‘Mendocino’ to me. I also chose the Mendosa’s building because I shopped there as a tourist long before Harvest took it over.”– Evelyn Harris

“I have always been drawn to the uniqueness of the old Baptist church, and the idea of it as a Co-Op market is so fitting to continue serving the community.” – Tina Perry

“My mom worked at the Blair house in the 2010’s, so it has a little personal connection, but I mostly love that it was Jessica Fletcher’s home in the TV series, Murder She Wrote. The Masonic Lodge has some mystery in its traditions and rituals, so the fact that the carving atop the hall in Mendocino shows a little more than the brotherhood wanted to share just adds more to the mystery. It’s a beautiful piece and learning bits about it being carved on Big River Beach and about the carver have drawn me even closer.” – Cindi Jo Willey

“I love Mendocino’s water towers and knew immediately that I wanted to do the Kelly House Water Tower. Many of my quilts represent linear, geometric, and mathematical concepts. The water tower, with all its angles and shapes, and the uniformity of the construction really appealed to me. It was a challenge, but I enjoyed every minute of it.”  – Dee Goodrich

Bonus Exhibit: Grade School Students’ Quilt of Historic Buildings

Also on display is a full-sized quilt created in 2000 by Millie Jensen’s Mendocino Grammar School class of 7–8-year-olds. Photographs of historic buildings were printed on muslin and incorporated into the quilt. The quilt bears the names of the following students: Gabriella Addison, Gregory Ardzooni, Balan Blakely-Hall, Ayla Arreguin, Patrick Brewer, Marshall Brown, Chetco Jamgochian, Sarah Freeman, Jason Deutsch, Megan Miller, Katherine O’Bryan, Christina Rzeplenski, Simone Smith, and Monica Lancaster.

Special Events: 

Second Saturday: July 10, 5 PM – 6:30 PM, open to public

Sunday Afternoon with Ocean Wave Quilters, August 15, 4 PM – 5:30 PM, $7 public, $5 members

Kelley House Museum hours: Friday – Sunday, 11 AM – 3 PM, www.kelleyhousemuseum.org

Many of the quilt squares are for sale, with proceeds benefiting the artist and the Kelley House’s educational programming in the schools. For inquiries about purchasing one, please email info@kelleyhousemuseum.org