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Articulos escogidos en Español
 February 2005 People
Oranges and Snowballs

Award-winning quilt maker Janett Rice vividly remembers learning to sew with her grandmother, Meme. Meme would draw flowers on pieces of old white sheets and would then teach Rice how to embroider them. In addition to directly teaching such valuable lessons, Meme influenced Rice’s parents to buy her first sewing machine.

“That sewing machine became a part of me,” Rice says. “From grade school through college, the sewing machine was with me and I just kept sewing and sewing. I have never stopped sewing.”

Juggling Oranges Desert Snowballs That Darned Thing Oakland-Kansas City-Las Vegas

Rice, a member of ASTM International’s Committee D13 on Textiles since the early 1980s, initially made garments with her sewing machine. However, about 20 years ago, Rice became interested in quilt making and has sewn few garments since then. Rice has made over 100 quilts and estimates that she makes between 10 and 20 a year.

While starting out by making quilts that use familiar block-shaped pieces of fabric, Rice’s style has changed drastically over the years. Rice has gradually abandoned more traditional quilting techniques and developed striking, one-of-a-kind quilts that are more likely to be found hanging on a wall than covering a bed.

“I get my inspiration everywhere,” says Rice, who notes that “every quilt has a story behind it, some more exciting than others.” For example, one quilt was inspired by the design of a sound barrier along a highway near the Oakland airport. That quilt was ultimately titled “Oakland-Kansas City-Las Vegas” because Rice had the idea for the design in Oakland, Calif., bought the fabric in Kansas City, Mo., and made the quilt in Las Vegas, Nev.

Like many artists, Rice employs a variety of techniques when quilting. For some, she will sketch out ideas before working with fabrics, as she did with “Oakland-Kansas City-Las Vegas”; other quilts result from pure experimentation.

“I’ll pull fabrics in differing colors from my stash, then start playing with them on the design wall,” Rice says. “When I get something I like, I take a digital photo, then experiment some more and take other photos along the way until the design is done.” Using this method, Rice made her award-winning quilt, “Juggling Oranges.”

Although she refined the technique used in “Juggling Oranges” when creating “Desert Snowballs,” Rice says she doesn’t stay with any one technique for too long, preferring to continue her ongoing experimentation.

Grandmother Meme’s inspiration didn’t just influence Rice’s artistic abilities; it put her squarely on a career path. Rice earned a bachelor’s degree in home economics from the University of New Mexico, and began teaching clothing construction at the high school level. After earning a master’s degree in clothing and textiles design from Colorado State University, Rice taught design, fashion illustration, pattern making and clothing construction at the University of Manitoba and Iowa State University.

Rice eventually left teaching to work in the apparel industry, first at The Lee Company and then at Mervyns’s corporate headquarters, running the textile testing laboratories at both companies. Rice now works as the director of client services for Intertek Testing Services.

Rice feels a strong connection between her career and her artistic endeavors. “My work in the textile industry helps me appreciate my quilting,” Rice says. “As I work with fabrics, I’m amazed at the colors and designs that can be achieved and the techniques that the mills can develop every season to give a new vibrancy or a new look to the fabric.”

Rice became a member of ASTM’s Committee D13 on Textiles while working at The Lee Company. “At that time, D13 was trying to write a care label standard. I got involved and was able to contribute my industry experience to help it get off the ground.”

Since that time, Rice has been an important presence in D13, working with D13.62 on Labeling, D13.54 on Subassemblies and D13.61 on Apparel. She is currently chair of D13.63 on Home Furnishings.

Rice is particularly proud of her tenure as the chair of a joint liaison committee between ASTM and the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists. During that time, the committee produced a joint publication, C2C Technical Supplement, in just two years. In addition to ASTM and AATCC activities, Rice has co-written, along with her colleague Patty Brown, Ready-to-Wear Apparel Analysis, an apparel production-oriented textbook that is used in colleges and universities throughout the world.

Of course, whenever she can, Rice settles in with one of her works-in-progress. “I can really express my creativity through my quilts; I can take a thought or feeling and get it down on fabric, through the use of colors and design.”

Grandmother Meme would surely be pleased with the results. //

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