A dirt stretch of road between Mabou and Inverness is where Ann Schroeder first found inspiration. Ever since 1972, she’s been enamoured with the people, landscape, and music of Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island.
By 1999, she and her partner were renting a home every summer. “We made friends,” she says. “Every time we left it was really challenging, more challenging than leaving Boston to come here. Eventually we figured out that we had to move.”
Today they make their permanent home in Mabou, just a few clicks up the road from St. Mary’s church. In her basement studio, Schroeder dyes fabric, experiments with silk screening and chalk pastels, and assembles colourful and complex fine art quilts.
“In creating the fabric I can do whatever I want and not worry about it because I don’t necessarily have to use it,” she says. “It’s in putting [a quilt] together that I have to really make the tough decisions about how I’m going to cut and assemble it. It’s the right brain and left brain aspects working together.”
Schroeder’s quilts feature three layers: the colourful textured top, a thin cotton batting, and a back. Machine-quilted lines provide form and function. They hold the quilts together while creating depth and dimension.
The quilts of her Fiddle Music series capture the energy and rhythm of a Friday night ceilidh with flowing lines and grid patterns. The curvy lines of her Natural Forces series boldly illustrate the weather, landscape and skies of her adopted home.
“Some people label their work textile art or fiber art,” she says. “I use the term fine-art quilt because I feel that it springs off the quilt form. I want to honour that tradition.”
In the summer Schroeder hosts dyeing and quilting classes in her studio, as well as welcoming visitors year round.
Many collectors want to meet the artist before buying, she says. Her small pieces, measuring about 50 square centimetres, sell for about $500. Larger pieces measure upwards of 100 square centimetres and sell for $1,000 to $2,300. Schroeder also hand-dyes silk scarves for those who want to own a piece without the collector’s price tag.
Move quickly if you’re interested in a scarf or class, because Schroeder is pulling back a little on her extra-curricular activities to devote more time to quilting this summer. But as always, she will display her work in Hands Dancing, the Inverness County Centre for the Arts members’ exhibition in July.
“It’s an amazingly eclectic mix: from professional artists and young people just starting out to people just making art for fun,” she says. “You never know what you’re going to find there.”
The vegetable garden Schroeder and her partner plant each summer inspired the quilt Garden Song Two. It was named for Pete Seeger’s Garden Song: “I’ll find my way in nature’s chain / Tune my body and my brain / To the music of the land.”