Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Book Review: "Caliente Quilts!"

I was very excited when Priscilla Bianchi's new book Caliente Quilts! landed on my review pile. I've loved Priscilla's brightly colored quilts since I first saw them at Pacific International Quilt Festival years ago. Bright colors! Bold geometric shapes! New and creative twists on traditional quilt designs! What's not to like?

Priscilla Bianchi is a Guatemalan quilt artist who delights in incorporating native Guatemalan textiles and design themes into her quilts. Her quilts are bold and lively and provide excellent examples of the principle that you don't need to work with complex shapes or designs to create quilts of stunning originality.

See what I mean? Here's another that wows me:

When I learned that she was doing a book, I figured that it'd be pretty darn good if all it did was feature the quilts she's made in the past. And this book goes way beyond that, I'm pleased to report. Krause Publications did a terrific job with this book.

The book is both a personal journey through Priscilla's own quilting experience and a study of using one's cultural textiles, symbols, and themes as inspiration for art work. It looks at using landcape, imagery, and traditions as design inspiration. It provides fascinating background information on Mayan and Guatemalan textiles, and good lessons on incorporating various ethnic textiles with other fabrics to create original and personally meaningful quilts. It not only makes me want to explore working with different ethnic textiles, but it also makes me think differently about the textiles, imagery, and traditions of my life and region that I could use consciously to inform my own work.

The book includes 9 different projects with specific instructions to teach the concepts in the book. I'm not generally fond of "project-driven" books, so I was very pleased to see that this book is focused on the principles, not on the projects. The projects here are beautiful and, while fairly simple in terms of sewing skill, they provide great projects for incorporating interesting fabrics and using stripes to enhance visual complexity. The log cabin quilt below is one of the the projects taught in the book:

But wait! There's more! Besides all of that, the book includes "La Galeria," photos of Priscilla's art quilts from 1998 to the present with her comments on them. (I was poring over this while waiting for my husband at an appointment the other day, and I was mildly annoyed at him for finishing so early and interrupting my happy walk through La Galeria!)

The photography in this book is wonderful, by the way. There are lots and lots of pictures, including excellent detailed photos and diagrams for the project quilts. It's a visually appealing book, which well suits these fantastic quilts.

I'm very happy to add this book to my library. There's great visual inspiration for the experienced quilter, but accessible gorgeous quilts for the novice, too. (Now I'm wondering where the leftover scraps of Guatemalan fabrics my friend Silvia brought me are hiding in my studio....)


  1. Thanks for the heads up on this book, Diane. I'll definitely be on the lookout for it. Gorgeous quilts!

  2. Oh Diane, I had seen that book, wanted it instantly and then thought - oh it will be just another pattern book.... now I HAVE to get it! (Along with the 4 that arrvied this week in the post!)

    Also, I tagged you to show us a picture of your work desk.