Successfully capturing the beauty of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is always a winning feat. But when you do it at the much touted ArtPrize competition in Grand Rapids as textile artist Ann Loveless did—well, get ready for the limelight. Loveless, who along with her husband, Steve, owns State of the Art Framing & Gallery in Beulah, Michigan, won the coveted first place prize of $200, 000 in the fifth annual Grand Rapids’ ArtPrize competition. Loveless’s entry—the artist’s third entry in the competition—was for a quilted mural of Platte Bay in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, located near her home. The mural, made up of four, 5-by-5-foot panels, took Loveless 400 hours to complete.
We checked in with Loveless to learn about the mural and what it’s been like to win so big.
How long have you been quilting?
I’ve been sewing all my life and I have a clothing and textile degree from Michigan State. I started making art quilts about ten years ago.
Where is your studio?
In my home in Frankfort—where I have a seasonal view of the Sleeping Bear shoreline.
Pretty inspiring place to live.
Yes, we love it—we love walking the beach.
What kind of fabrics did you use in the quilt?
Batik and hand-dyed cottons. I particularly like batik because it comes in vivid colors and has a pattern that gives movement.
Tell us about the process that went into making your Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore quilt?
First I chose a photograph, one by my husband Steve Loveless took. It is of Platte Bay near the mouth of the Platte River. Then I sketched it out on graph paper. Then I draw the sketch on to the batting. Then I place the fabric pieces on the batting and fuse it—iron it to the batting.
Do you have all the quilt pieces cut out and ready to place at this point?
No, no. I have all the fabric available but I make color choices as I go—it is about working flat and then putting it on the wall and constantly critiquing it, referring back to the photo,
Are all the fabric pieces relatively the same size?
No. It’s about varying the size of the pieces. That’s what makes it interesting. Using small pieces for the details. Bigger pieces in places like the sky, for example.
Okay, so you have the fabric pieces all fused onto to the batting, where does your sewing machine come in?
I stitch the whole thing—get it all down and the go through and add details. In this case I layered areas like the dune grass and leaves then added more stitches.
You displayed the piece at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum in Grand Rapids. What was that like?
Whew. I spent 14 days out of 19 total days in Grand Rapids. About half of ARtPrize is connecting with people—sharing your art with the people. There was another artist displaying in the Ford who was from Oregon. He wasn’t there for reasons. I notice that his work didn’t get much attention.
And then … Tuesday, October 1st the federal government closed down …
Yes, they told us the museum had to close by noon, so we had just the morning to get out.
There had been about 25 artists displaying their work inside and outside the museum But by then the vote had been narrowed down to the Top 10 artists in the contest and so only Anni Crouter and myself were still left at the Ford—because we had both made the list. We thought it was pretty important to continue to display for the last three days, so we decided to team up and figure out how to move our displays outside.
And that entailed having your husband bring you your art fair awning and Annie’s husband brought display panels … which proved to be the final feat that put you into first place and Annie Crouter into second. What has it been like since?
Our gallery went crazy. The next morning we did $5,000 worth of business—both of my quilts and my husband’s photographs. And we got a call the other day informing us that two busloads of tourists are going to come by. Our gallery is only about 1500 square feet. Two busloads. Holy man!
So you need to get sewing.
Yes—as soon as I can catch my breath.