Quiltmakers on a mission
• Photo gallery: Hawaiian quilting
By Lynn Cook
Special to The Advertiser
Quilting seems to be a quiet art, until you meet Patricia Lei Anderson Murray. An elegant Hawaiian artist, Murray can burst into song, tell grab-your-sides-laughing stories or touch your heart with her quilt wisdom — all in the first five minutes of conversation while her fingers whiz through myriad quilt stitches.
Murray is a hula dancer, singer, teacher, author and quilter who will be honored as the featured quiltmaker of the upcoming Hawaii Quilt Guild Annual Show. The Hawaii Quilt Guild has 200 members from across the state and the Mainland U.S.; 150 quilts will be on exhibit.
Named Miss Hawai'i 1962, she said her mission was to take beautiful hula and song and "simply spread it across the world like a Hawaiian quilt."
She married Harry Murray and was quickly busy with their family of five children.
As her children grew, so did her need to expand her creativity.
"I knew I wanted koa furniture. We couldn't afford it. Too expensive," she said. At the same time she was teaching herself to quilt.
"I could just see our Hawaiian quilt on a queen- size koa bed," she said.
Murray called carpenter and wood shops, telling them she was willing to pay if they would teach her to build furniture. The owners would hardly cover the phone, she said, as they laughingly yelled to the crew, "Hey, guess what this lady wants!"
She finally found a woodshop owner who would let her try. To the amazement of her teacher, she made a footstool, a plant stand and moved on to a koa rocker, dining table and chairs and finally a queen-size koa bed.
Murray's queen-size Hawaiian quilt from that koa bed is the centerpiece of the 2010 annual quilt show. It is called "Ku'ukanaeikala'iokamalu" and is dedicated to her father. Translated, it means the healing sigh in the peaceful shade.
"You know, that moment when you can take a deep breath and relax?" she said. The bed is too large to move but some of her smaller furniture will be there, draped in quilts.
Murray will exhibit a unique lap-size quilt made from French lace.
"Three years ago my husband and I accepted an assignment from our church to live and work with young people in another country," she said. "Wow, was all I could say when we found our new home was Paris."
Teaching soon included hula, singing and, of course, quilting. "The ladies in my classes took on a service project, making many, many tiny quilts for the premature babies at our local hospital," she said.
Traveling around Paris, Murray shopped.
"It was wow, again, but I could only afford little things," she said. "I picked lacy hankies, doilies, coasters and created a Parisian memory quilt. Women see this and say that they are inspired to dig out their grandma's doilies and create something."
TREE OF SQUARES
Guild member Charlene Hughes, who calls herself an "idea person," had the idea this year to quilt the Art Center trees. "Not with real quilts," she explained. Every member of the guild sewed hundreds of squares to wrap the trees.
"We have never done this before, so we will be as surprised at the outcome as the folks who are driving by," Hughes said.
The outdoor quilting project will be done no later than April 20, and perhaps as soon as this week.
Another Hughes idea was a challenge quilt.
"I asked each member to create a self-portrait quilt. Ten of us took the challenge," she said.
Not all the quilters are women. One of Murray's biggest fans is Washington pharmacist David Wotruba, a former Hawai'i resident. Murray said she and Wotruba get together every couple of years to compare notes and quilts.
Wotruba is entering the show with the fifth of his first dozen Hawaiian quilts.
From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day of the exhibit Murray will be quilting at Linekona. She is on a mission to complete a Hawaiian quilt she did not applique.
In January a friend from church — Grandma Shizue Kakazu — brought her a quilt top she appliqued 35 years ago, found while cleaning out a closet. Kakazu, formerly an avid quilter, said to herself, "What's in that box?," poked it down with her cane, found the quilt top and delivered it to Murray.
Murray has made it her mission to complete Grandma Kakazu's quilt, setting her other quilting projects aside.
"Grandma Kakazu is doing well," Murray said. "Her 90-year-old fingers just can't do the quilting."
Murray's fingers are flying to get it done. She said she wants Grandma Kakazu to have "lots of years to sleep under her creation."