Sharon Schamber: Masterpiece Theater

Sharon Schamber: Sleeping Beauty Opener

I had planned to write this post some time ago, but kept putting it off for one lame reason or another, so please forgive me for my selfishness.

I really love this quilt, but have been hesitant to write about it. My reluctance to write has nothing to do with lack of adjectives, it has to do with emotions. You see, I photographed this amazing piece while staying at Sharon’s studio the week after Bill passed away.

My time with Sharon and her husband Gene was filled with many wonderful and pain-filled moments. This stunning quilt represents one of those magical and transcendent moments. Talking about Sharon and Gene always makes me weepy, so I need to stop or I won’t be able to finish this post, but I promise to share more from my stay in the future.

Here’s where the story of this beauty begins . . .

Sharon casually mentioned this quilt at the end of a brief conversation we had earlier this year. She said she’d been working sporadically on this top for a while (around 13 years) and felt that it was finally time to finish it.

She made it sound like it was no big deal, just something small she had to get off her To-Do List. Sharon said she only needed to finish the outside border and the top would be done. She also said she’d probably never enter the quilt in competition, she’d just add it to her trunk show. (Remember that comment while you are looking through these photos.) That’s the last time I heard about the quilt from Sharon.

In early August I received a surprise email, with a photo attached, from my friend DeNiece. DeNiece was at the International Quilt Festival, Long Beach Show and wanted to know if I could figure out who made the quilt in the photo?

I love to do this type of thing, so I took her up on the challenge. I studied and studied the photo, but I could only come up with one name—and that name was impossible—based on what I was looking at. Sharon.

DeNeice's teaser photo of Sharon's quilt

The quilt featured many of Sharon’s signature design elements, such as hearts, feathers, daisies and most recently birds—but I knew this couldn’t be Sharon’s quilt.

How did I know? It’s rather obvious isn’t it? I’m sure you spotted it right away. Oh . . . you are good. That’s why we’re BFFs. I learn so much from you.

That’s right! Everyone knows that Sharon hasn’t used printed fabric since 2005. This was a dead giveaway. This quilt was obviously made by a wannabe. In spite of this certainty, I couldn’t come up with another name. I was stumped.

Begrudgingly I told DeNiece I didn’t know who it was, but SOMEONE was obviously copying Sharon’s style—and although it was nice—it’s wasn’t Sharon’s work.

That’s when she sent me this . . . Why oh why, didn’t I listen to myself?

Sharon With Quilt At IQF Long Beach Show

Since so many of you seemed to enjoy the guided tour of Sharon’s last piece, I’m going to do it again for this one.

As I mentioned earlier, this quilt has been in the works for 13 years. Can you believe it . . . 13 years? I know most of us would consider this a once-in-a-lifetime achievement, but not Sharon. This is just one of many beauties waiting for their turn to be awakened.

Are you ready? Okay then . . . let’s get on with the show!

Sharon Schamber: Heart Corner of Feathered Swag Border

Oh my goodness, where do I begin? There are so many amazing details in this quilt for me to tell you about, I guess here’s just as good a place to start as any. This all seems perfectly random doesn’t it?

Okay, let’s begin this adventure with a look at one of the outer corners of the quilt. Then we can start working our way towards the center. I know what you’re thinking. (I’m psychic.) 

Outer corner? Where’s the outer corner?

Well, my friends, you’re looking one now. I know . . . (Now, please wipe your chin. Your keyboard is getting messy and we’re just getting started.)

That’s right quilters and quilteets. This and three other equally glorious and regal feathered hearts anchor the corners of this deliciously beautiful quilt.

The feather plumes extending from the heart’s base are not plumes at all. They are actually part of the elaborate swag border that frames the entire quilt. It makes me tingle just to look at it.

Sharon Schamber: Feathered Heart Embroidery Close Up

I know the feathers are amazing, but I want you to check out the center of this heart. Isn’t that cool? This center is one of my favorite design elements in the quilt.

Now you’re saying . . . “Tom, I don’t get it. What’s so special about the center?” 

Well, since you asked . . . I’ll tell you what’s so special about the center. That wonderful chicken wire pattern you are looking at is actually hand embroidery. That’s right . . . embroidery. It’s not a printed fabric. I am in love!

Now your thinking . . . Who Stem Stitches a chicken wire pattern, when they could easily buy a printed fabric that looks like that? (I’m psychic, remember?)

Oh, I know . . . Pick me!  Pick me! I know the answer to this one . . . Sharon.

Besides being delighted with the embroidery, I was also smitten by the fill choice. This quilt is extremely elegant and has a definite Victorian vibe, so the contrast between the two styles is fantastic.

The geometry, scale and formal nature of the fill balances out the many curves that surround it. Most people would have created a fill that mirrors the applique—but not Sharon. Oh no . . . not a Master Quilter like Sharon.

Sharon knows that the contrast between the two elements will give the viewer’s eyes a chance to rest before they take another joy ride along the surrounding feathers. She could have quilted the pattern, but the embroidery adds a level of color that unites all the components of the heart, without taking attention away from the all-important feathers.

Sharon Schamber: Daisy and Ribbon Close Up

I love Sharon and her work for obvious reasons, but her attention to detail makes me weak. Look at how she has masterfully layered the elements in the applique and embroidery. Each element doing its part to support the whole.

Sharon understands the importance of value (lights and darks) and its placement. This sensitivity and understanding allows her to create the illusions of depth that you see throughout the quilt.

Sharon Schamber: Berry and Feather Stitch Close Up

At first glance the quilt appears very formal and very symmetrical, but upon further inspection, you will see that this is not the case at all.

Each abundant bouquet is unique and filled with surprises. The overall quilt design remains balanced because there is uniformity of scale. These design elements are not mirrored or repeated as is commonly seen in this style of quilt. (Wipe your keyboard. You’re drooling again.)

Sharon Schamber: Daisy Cluster with Blue Rose

Each bouquet is delicately tied with loose bows and cascades of soft pink and green ribbon. These etherial ribbons dance across the surface of the quilt creating a visual feast—not only for the eyes—but for all the senses.

Sharon Schamber: Blue Bird Close Up

Tucked within the bouquets you’ll find many surprises. Each surprise, like the one above, is filled with detail and personality. Look at how Sharon has used the Cretan Stitch to add texture and color to the bird’s wing. I love the subtle variations of blues and purples combined with the metallic thread. It’s just scrumptious!

FYI: Sharon dyes her own floss, which gives her the ability to create the exact color palettes she needs for any given project. I know . . . it’s ridiculously wonderful stuff. 

Sharon Schamber: Daisies, Ribbon and Embroidery Close Up

This is another great example Sharon’s undeniable skill. Look at how beautiful the embroidery work is on this section. I love how the wispy Feather Stitch vine delicately twirls in and around the applique and embroidery elements.

Sharon Schamber: Blue Rose Cluster

Isn’t this amazing? Look at all that detail. I am obviously speechless.

Sharon Schamber: Daisy Cluster Close Up

I know . . . What more can I say? It’s just exquisite. Each tiny detail makes my heart sing.

Sharon Schamber: Rose and Daisy Close Up

I love how Sharon has deftly used the values in the fabric to make the Blue Roses practically jump off the surface of the quilt.

Sharon Schamber: Blue Bird Heart

In addition to the gorgeous bouquets, Sharon has created these luscious latticework heart arrangements. Each heart is supported by a pair of Lovebirds gently holding the ends of a flowing green ribbon.

Sharon Schamber: Blue Bird Heart Close Up

I love the way she has used the blue fabric on the Lovebirds. The coloration of each bird is similar—but not matchy-matchy. This type of subtle detail creates added interest and helps move your eye around the quilt.

Sharon Schamber: Berry Close Up

Speaking of details, take a look at the Bullion Knots at the end of this flower bud. These knots add great texture and another surprise element to this exceedingly complex piece.

Before you go, check out the Stem Stitch that outlines the circle. You are not going to believe this, but that circle is only a quarter-inch in diameter. That means Sharon’s Stem Stitches have to be tiny, tiny, tiny to get around that edge so smoothly. It’s such a beautiful detail. I might have to marry it.

Sharon Schamber: Blue Bird Heart Embroidery Close Up

Look at how she has Chain Stitched the lattice. The subtle variation in floss color is fantastic all by itself, but notice how Sharon has overlapped some of the stitching in various rows.

Because these overlaps are random, a more casual look is created. Sharon could have easily stitched this section in a more formal way, but this random approach is better suited for the attitude of the quilt. These variations and overlaps reinforce the overall design aesthetic.

Sharon Schamber: Medallion Center for Quilt

This magnificent bouquet lies at the center of the quilt. When I see it, I can imagine someone running through an English Country garden grabbing a bit of whatever is blooming and making a bouquet. It’s regal and beautiful and free and wild—all at the same time. It reminds me of Sharon in many ways.

As most of you know, Sharon has been a friend of mine for many years. She’s actually more like a sister, than a friend. You see, Sharon came to the hospital and stayed with me during Bill’s and my darkest hours. She gave me peace and strength when I couldn’t find it on my own.

After Bill’s passing, she offered me a place to stay and provided me with an island of tranquility in my storm of emotions. I doubt I would have survived the ordeal without her.

I can’t begin to express my gratitude for all that Sharon has done and continues to do for me. Allowing me to photograph this quilt and share it with you is just one of the many gifts I have received. Each gift leaving me either speechless or in tears and sometimes both. She is a constant blessing to me.

Thank you Sharon.


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28 Responses to “Sharon Schamber: Masterpiece Theater”

  1. Jackie Says:

    Oh my, oh my…. Tom you have been truly blessed with your own gifts (quilting, photography, writing) and to have such talented friends who are also called family. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m so so happy I found your site after watching The Quilt Show. I get so excited seeing what your bringing into my world this day.

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Jackie, What a sweet thing to say. I am fortunate to be blessed with many wonderful and talented friends. I consider you one of them.

      Sharing my friends with the world brings me immeasurable joy. Sometimes I have to pinch myself, because I can’t believe I know these people. I am truly blessed.

      I’m glad you found my site too. I have many things to share in the future. I’ve been busy and so have my friends.

      Have a wonderful day, and thanks for being a part of my journey!

  2. Jean Proud Says:

    I attended the Houston quilt show and saw Sharrons winner. It was really beautiful. All her quilts are exceptional.

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Jean, Thanks for dropping in. Sharon’s IQF winner was truly amazing. I saw photographs of it, but they didn’t do it justice. It was truly breathtaking.

      I am constantly in awe of her. She is my inspiration—in more ways than one.

  3. Lynn Kelly Says:

    Oh My Gosh! What a beauty! I’m so glad she’s YOUR friend so you can share with US! ha As we have come to expect, Sharon’s work is so far beyond superlative, it IS difficult to find words to express. Your pictures do help to communicate that. Her attention to detail makes me more aware of the ideas I sometimes ignore because of my desire to ‘finish and get to the next project.’ Thirteen years is a long time to wait to finish but then, you know what they say, “Wherever you go, there you are!”

    I first read your remark about being psychic as “psychotic” and thought yes, but who wouldn’t be psychotic about seeing her work up that close? ha


    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Lynn, I know what you mean. I feel like I run out of adjectives when I try to describe her work. Usually I am left speechless, which makes the process of writing difficult. 🙂

      I agree. Sharon’s work makes you realize the importance of detail. Getting onto the next project is not the goal for Sharon. Doing what needs to be done, no matter how time consuming is the goal.

      I know 13 years sounds like a long time, and it would be, if that were the only quilt she had working on, but Sharon has made dozens of award-winning quilts since then. She says the quilts tell her when they need to be worked on, and some need to rest before they are ready to be finished.

      This quilt obviously needed to rest for a while. Now that the top is finished, Sharon will start the quilting process. She spent several weeks in November and early December marking it up. She should start the quilting process shortly.

      I can’t wait to see how the quilt looks after it’s quilted. Sharon’s quilting is so dynamic, I can hardly imagine what the it will look like when it’s finished. I get excited just thinking about it.

      Take care, and thanks for your comments!

  4. Jayardi Says:

    • • • Absolutely breathtaking! The details are out of this world. Thank you for sharing. It does spark new ideas. Now I just need to get off my duff and get busy.

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hey there! I couldn’t agree more. Sharon’s quilts inspire me at every turn.

      Knowing you, I seriously doubt you are sitting on your duff. If you are—it’s because you are sewing on a binding. 🙂

  5. carla Says:

    all those tiny stitches. Beautiful! Glad you have such a talented and caring friend.

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Carla, Sharon’s work if full of tiny details. The next time I shoot one of her pieces, I need to add something for scale. The photos are so tight, the stitches appear much bigger than they are.

      If you love detail work, Sharon’s quilts are a feast for the eye.

      Yes, she is as caring as she is talented. I am truly blessed to have her in my life.

  6. Brenda Wall Says:

    To say Sharon’s quilt is beautiful, gorgeous, is just not enough adjectives. 13 years on one project.
    But the friendship that Sharon and Gene have given you and the support and caring, well there are no words, but you are certainly blessed to have them as friends.

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Brenda! You are right. There are not enough adjectives to describe her work. She didn’t work on the quilt 13 consecutive years. The quilt has just been in progress that long.

      Knowing Sharon, the quilt probably laid around the studio for the last 3 or more years untouched. It just didn’t speak to her as loudly as some of her other quilts did.

      Mystique, her Houston Best of Show quilt sat mostly finished in the studio of over a year before she completed it. It is truly amazing what she can accomplish.

      Sharon and Gene have done more for me than I can find words for. You are right. I am very blessed.

  7. kathydrew Says:

    Well, you know I am Sharon’s biggest fan. Everything she touches is magical. Thank you dear friend for a wonderful article.

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hey Sweetie, Yes, I do know you are her biggest fan. 🙂 I told her about you yesterday. She’s looking forward to meeting you one day. I know you two will love each other. Hopefully that day will come soon.

  8. eileenkny Says:

    I am in awe of all of Sharon’s work. I heard her speak at a local show a couple of years ago and when they brought out her Mother Earth quilt, I almost began to cry! This year, I got the opportunity to go to Festival and see her in person again. She looked at me and told me I was in a lot of pain. She then had me put out my hand and she moved both her hands in a circular motion above and below mine. I got such a tingle all the way up my arm and the pain was gone.
    Unfortunately, it was only temporary, and she wouldn’t come back home with me ;).
    You are blessed by your friendship and I’m sure Sharon and Gene feel the same about you.

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Eileen, I couldn’t agree more. WhenI look at Sharon’s work, I’m am often moved to tears.

      Sharon does amazing energy work. She has helped remove my pain numerous times—both physical and emotional. She has a gift. There’s no doubt about it.

      I am blessed to have them and many others like them in my life.

  9. Barbara Says:

    I love Sharon..she’s a magical and exceptional human being. I am so glad she’s your friend…you can’t ask for anything better than that.

  10. Judy Stadler Says:

    The quilt just leaves me speechless – eveything anyone and everything anyone has said I agree with. And, how wonderful that you are blessed to be able to call this wonderful human being your friend!
    Best regards from Judy in NYC (the woman in the white shirt to your right in Jim’s photo in the lobby of the Holiday Inn Express in Houston)

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Judy, Speechless is the right adjective for sure. It effectively describes the emotions I feel when looking at her work. I am blessed, there’s not doubt about it.

      Seeing her amazing work is a gift. Knowing her is a blessing. I treasure them both.

      I remember you. Your wonderful smile lit up the room.

  11. Eddie Landreth Says:

    Wow, that is a masterpiece in every sense of the word! Love those two-tone applique feathers, never seen that done before, and it is quite striking! Looking at those photos my eyes were just constantly on the move, taking in all the details. Thanks for sharing it with us!

  12. JoAnn Says:

    Everyone needs a HSaron in their life. You are blessed. Happy Birthday a few days early. Big Hugs

  13. Sally Says:

    Wow, Sharon teased us with a little of this beauty on Facebook some time ago, it’s wonderful.

  14. Georgia Moncada Says:

    Your talent to appreciate such a work is A++! Thank you so much for sharing it.

  15. Bruce Eastman Says:

    Hi Tom,
    I had the oppurtunity to see this quilt when I was at Sharon’s studio during Rim Country Quilt Roundup. It’s just gorgeous.

    She spoke so much about you that I hope to some day meet you in person.

    Thanks for sharing it with the world!

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hello Bruce,

      Oh, you are a lucky man to get to see the quilt in person. It is truly amazing to see. It is such a dynamic visual history of Sharon’s design evolution. It is such a departure from all the work we have seen from her recently. Just when I think I have figured out how she will do something, she surprises me. This quilt was a complete and welcome surprise.

      She mentioned you to me after your visit to her studio. I hope to meet you in the future as well.

      Believe me, sharing this with the world, was my pleasure.

      Thanks for dropping by to say hi. I hope you come back again soon.

  16. daniellewilkes Says:

    I fell in love with Sharon when I saw her youtube video of her quilting feathers to Moonlight Sonata. I had to add it to my “feathers” playlist on my iPod. weird, huh?!

    • Tom Russell Says:

      I love Sharon and her work. The way she creates is a constant source of inspiration. I am a better quilter today, because of all she has taught me. A feathers playlist? How cool is that? Maybe I should have a list like that. If it works for you and Sharon, then I really need to consider adding it to my quilting toolkit.

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