By JENNIFER HILL • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
GILBERTSVILLE – Jim Bryden is not fazed by the fact he is the first man to be the featured quilter for The Major’s Inn Foundation’s annual quilt show – the 25th anniversary one, no less.
“If they want to put up with me that’s their decision,” the 81-year-old Sidney Center resident said.
About 20 of Bryden’s quilts will be displayed, mostly in a room exclusively for his work, along with 300 others quilts at The Major’s Inn Silver Jubilee show this weekend. And 44 quilters whose work was displayed in the first show in 1994, then called “Butternut Valley Quilts,” will have quilts exhibited in the 25th one.
“All of our quilters at the first show were from Butternuts,” said Diana Heeman, a founder of the quilt show and a long-time foundation volunteer. “But now we have some quilters from far away – Virginia and Maryland.”
Heeman had attended a quilt show in McIntosh, Fla., in the 1990s, and when she returned to Butternuts, she shared her impressions of the show with Cece Rowe, now the foundation’s director. They agreed a quilt show would work well at The Major’s Inn and be a way to raise funds for the inn’s restoration, which has been ongoing since Alan Cleinman, Cleinman Performance Partners’ in Oneonta, began the foundation in 1980.
“We had about 240 quilters in the first show, all from our community,” said Heeman. “It exceeded our expectations.”
About 75 volunteers work to put on the show, which includes hanging and labeling the quilts, making the lunches for the event’s visitors on all three days, and breaking the exhibit down afterward. Rowe curates the exhibit, with her cousin and neighbor Pat Cleinman as her right-hand assistant. “I’m fussy and meticulous,”
Rowe said. “I want each piece to stand on its own and not outshine or be outshined by another one.”
“We’ve kept this a non-juried show,” said Heeman. “We want everyone to feel their quilts are worthy of being shown.”
“Many of the girls at our show are featured in magazines and have won awards at the state and local level,” Heeman said. “They’re very involved with their communities. They make lap quilts for patients in nursing homes and hospitals and raffle them off.”
It is Bryden’s first time exhibiting his quilts at The Major’s Inn event, but they have been displayed in about 25 shows since his foray into quilting 18 years ago. His style – vivid colors often in geometrical patterns on a black background because he wants “people to open their eyes and see it” – has attracted attention locally.
“I just go along with whatever it is, what people want,” said Bryden.
Bryden began quilting the year he retired from his profession as a stone quarry cutter, in 2001. “Doing stonework was getting too rough for me to do in the winter, so I decided to draw my Social Security and live at home that winter,” he recounted. “But a week of being a couch potato didn’t go over very well.”
He asked his wife, Joan, a lifelong quilter, if she would teach him to quilt. Under her tutelage, Bryden cut 6-inch squares and stitched them together, then used an “inside-out” method that does not require using binding for making the quilt.
“If I can do it, anyone can do it,” Bryden said.
The funds raised from the show will go toward renovation of The Major’s Inn.