Bruce Native Takes Quilting World By Storm

Fashion Designer and Bruce native Ethel M. White is taking the quilting
world by storm with her unique collection of nearly 100 original
quilts. Museum exhibitions, radio and television appearances, newspaper
and magazine features, guest lectures and corporate commissions are
following the unique collection started only five years ago.


Fashion Designer and Bruce native Ethel M. White is taking the quilting world by storm with her unique collection of nearly 100 original quilts. Museum exhibitions, radio and television appearances, newspaper and magazine features, guest lectures and corporate commissions are following the unique collection started only five years ago.
“As a Mississippi girl, I give thanks to God for the gifts that he has given me and the parents to whom I was born, my mother Mary, and the Late Quincy Thornton of Bruce Mississippi,” White said. “I inherited my love of sewing and my inspiration to create from Mary Thornton, and the spirit of working hard until the job is finished from Quincy.”
“When I transitioned from operating my custom tailoring and fashion design business into quilting five years ago, I was hoping to adapt my creative design approach to the craft of quilting. I had been designing and creating garments and leather accessories for many years.”
ethelmonday.jpgAs a professionally trained tailor, leather crafter, and fashion designer, White didn’t want to stray too far away from the techniques, methods, and machines that she had grown so fond of over the years.
The initial inspiration for her transition into the world of quilting came from meeting the Gees Bend Quilters at a Milwaukee Art Museum exhibition.
“I made a tribute quilt dedicated to them called ‘The Village’ – A day in the life of an African Village,” she said. “Using Books, magazines, and images found on websites as the basis for the appliqued scenes within the quilt’s panels, I framed the panels in piano key styled strips made from my collection of traditional African fabrics.”
“I have continued to look to the same sources for inspiration,” she continued. “Most of my quilts are interpretations of classic quilt blocks and quilt designs expressed through the unique and vibrant voice of contemporary imported African fabrics. Some of the most popular pieces, in my growing collection of nearly 100 completed quilts, continue to be those based upon the original formula I used to create ‘The Village.’
White described the step-by-step process by saying first find a good source of visual inspiration. Interpret the images through meticulous applique. Frame the images, without overpowering them, and finally, give the back of the quilt a distinctive look and feel of its own, whenever possible.
“Occasionally I will take a similar approach using classic quilting fabrics, but African cultural themes and Imported African fabrics are at the heart and soul of my collection,” she said.
Since she started quilting, she has had two exhibits at the Milwaukee County Courthouse, a solo exhibit of 21 quilts at the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Art in Cedarburg, WI, an exhibit of four quilts at the Leanhouts Art Gallery in Milwaukee, an exhibit of four quilts at the 2007 Wisconsin Quilt Expo, articles of mention in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, WUWM radio station interview, an appearance on the Sewing with Nancy Show on Wisconsin public TV, and a national feature in Quilt Magazine April/May 2007.
Exhibit curator, noted quilt author, and Mississippi native Maggi Gordon says perhaps because of White’s tailoring training, she is one of the fastest quilters she’s seen. Gordon also curated White’s first museum exhibit.
Recently White was commissioned by the Aurora Family Health Services Corporation to commemorate 125 years of outreach and support to the Greater Milwaukee Community. The theme follows the history of the organization, which sprang from seeds of faith and compassion planted by a group of clergy and business professionals. Their Spirits are captured at the quilts foundation. The Families on the horizon, beneath the tree, represent those whom the organization served in the past. Its growth is depicted in the trunk and the branches of the tree.
The challenges of changing social and economic seasons are reflected in the leaves. The encircled families at the very top of the tree represent the clients and customers being served today by the organization’s impressive portfolio of programs and services.
“My love for quilting continues to grow with each project I complete,” White said. “I hope to do an exhibition in the Oxford and Tupelo areas sometime in the near future. If Maggi can join me, it will be a great homecoming for two girls from Mississippi who have made names for themselves in the wonderful world of quilting.”

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