Gwen Marston - Quilter (home page)
lectures & talks updated 13 April 2015

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Gwen Marston's
Liberated Quilting Page

The GWEN MARSTON Collection: 30 Favorite Antique Quilts

In this book Gwen shares what she loves best about some of her favorite antique quilts and the "little unexpected surprises" that she finds in them. Learning to study old quilts is a skill that Gwen mastered early in her quilt making life and one that she challenges her students to employ for themselves.

Studying quilts and keeping a record of them are lessons we can all learn from Gwen. Documenting the quilts in our own collections will leave a treasured record for generations to come.

Documenting this collection of antique quilts with Gwen was a grand adventure that resulted in a compilation of Gwen's thoughts and impressions about some of her very favorite quilts. We hope you will consider making a record of your own quilts!

For ideas about documenting your quilts or to order Gwen's book contact:

Dawn Pawlak
You can find me on Facebook at Legacy Quilts
Price including shipping $29.00 (Limited Edition)

Gwen Marston donated a quilt to raise money to help poor inner-city kids have a summer camping experience. If you are interested you can check it out at this site and watch Gwen's video about the camp: Camp Earth Connection

Weather Pictures showing our winter on Beaver Island.

Frank Solle is a Beaver Island photographer who has generously allowed me to share the pictures he took on the island recently. They show what the Lake Michigan shoreline looks like when the lake ice breaks up and the wind pushes it to shore where it piles up.

Here is what Frank told me about the events that resulted in these piles of ice along our shores.

"The week before there were no large piles of ice then over the weekend there was a big blow and the ice broke up and piled up. The ice caves were made earlier as waves splashed against the shore ice creating the volcano-like formations that later broke apart into the caves. It happens every year to some extend but this year the conditions, as we well know, were just better, in some regards anyway."

Now, take a look at Frank's stunning pictures: A World of Ice

Gwen's latest book!

Free Range Triangle Quilts by Gwen Marston & Cathy Jones

Gwen Marston and Cathy Jones teamed up to explore exciting old and new ways to make exciting Triangle quilts .As the title suggests, these quilts are made using Free Range (aka Liberated) techniques for a Free Range look. There is looks to look at and think about in this book, plus direct uncomplicated instructions on how to make many of the quilts.

Price: $25.00 plus $4 shipping

Minimal Quiltmaking by Gwen Marston

Publication date March 2014

Join Gwen Marston as she takes you through a process rather than a pattern!

Price: $24.95
Item #: 1546

You can order this book from AQS, or Amazon. Gwen is on the road so much from ow until the end of June, that she thinks it's better for you to order it elsewhere.

If you want an autographed copy, and you don't mind waiting for it, you can order it from her and she will get it out as soon as she can. Price $24.95 plus $4.00 shipping.

" Gwen's new friend: One of the nicest parts of my work as a traveling quilt teacher is that I make friends all over the country. Recently I stayed with a quilter I've known for some time, but had never met her companion, the adorable and very sweet Cleo, who often sits on top of the sewing machine while Linda sews. You gotta love that!"

Jan 18-April 27 Exhibit at the Dennos Art Museum Traverse City, Michigan: Contemporary Quilts with Gwen Marston
Shows 100 pictures from my exhibit that just opened at the Dennos Museum
Dennos Art Museum

My whole lecture at the exhibit opening is now on YouTube.
Gwen Marston: Contemporary Quilts Announcement

Gwen Marston's exhibit at the Dennos features a selection of Contemporary quilts for which she is known.

Many of these quilts have been shown in the 26 books Gwen has authored over the years, and they have also been included in the many exhibits of her work.

The exhibit will include some of her Small Studies, which were exhibited at the Taupo Museum in Taupo, New Zealand, July 2013. These pieces are shown in her book 37 Sketches, which can be found in the Museum Shop. Gwen's work is direct, uncluttered, and bold. Her intent in much of her work of the past seven or eight years was to simply the elements, to melt them down to their most basic forms and thus to allow the color to speak in a stronger voice. In the past year, she has pushed further in that direction, working in a decidedly minimal style.

Artist Statement

Gwen Marston: Contemporary Quilts

In the mid 70's I saw an exhibit of fine antique quilts at my local art museum which spirited me on my way to becoming a quiltmaker. I began as most quilters do, by learning how to make quilts from traditional patterns passed down thro generations. In 1990 I turned a corner and since then have designed my own work.

When making contemporary, abstract quilts I work almost exclusively with solid fabrics, and by that I mean fabrics that have not been printed with a design. I prefer it for a host of reasons, none more important than the fact the line and form are more clearly defined: solids emphasize the delineation between shapes whereas prints can blur the edges of adjoining shapes.

With much of my work I first decide on the basic form I'm going to use to construct the piece (such as working in rows, or beginning in the center and working outward). Then I think about color and scale and once I have worked out those general ideas, I start building the parts and designing the quilt as I am constructing it in an improvisational way.

I have long used rough pencil sketches as a way to test initial ideas. Then in 2010 I developed another way to make sketches. Instead of pencil sketches I made fabric sketches. I found that making sketches with the actual fabric I intended to use was a great way to work out composition and color. Because these Small Studies are completely developed, they take on the added significance as small works of art, and indeed made up the featured exhibition at the Taupo Art Museum during the 2013 New Zealand Symposium. The first thirty-seven are shown in my book 37 Sketches.


Gwen Marston is a professional fiber artist, author, and teacher. She has taught nationally and internationally for over three decades. She has written 26 books, two of which won awards: Mary Schafer: American Quilt Maker 2005 Michigan Notable Book award. 37 Sketches 2012 New York Book Show Award.

She has had twenty-five exhibits of her large quilts, seven exhibits of her small quilts and her work has been shown in many group exhibits throughout the United States and abroad.

Gwen has offered a series of five retreats in the fall of the year for students of quiltmaking over the past 30 years.

Available Now!

Liberated Medallion Quilts

Published by AQS

If I do say so myself...this is a beautiful book! AQS did a great job on designing this book and I'm very pleased to have my name on it. Lots of quilts shown full page in great color. The photography is excellent too. For example you can see the individual little hand quilting stitches on the cover quilt.

This book includes quilts in a wide variety of styles, starting out with Martha Washington's medallion quilts and moving along to the "modern" quilts. I think there's something for everyone. There are 7 "how-to" projects written especially for liberated quilters (and those who are thinking about becoming liberated).

So, taking into consideration that this review is being written by the author of the sbook, I still think it's a very worthwhile book to have, and it's a fun read too.

This book will be 112 pages of fun reading, plus 62 stunning Liberated Medallion quilts. It is packaged in an 8 1/2" x 11" format.

Liberated Medallion Quilts is available now and can be ordered from Gwen Books 


Small Studies (intermediate to advanced) and Liberated Stars (intermediate to advanced)

Bio, Lectures & Workshops 

New book

37 Sketches

It's a really beautiful book too! 37 Sketches is both an artfully designed and beautifully made book. It shows my new work built on the idea of exploring the elements of design by constructing small studies, which I quickly began to think of as sketches. I began to see these sketches in much the same way as a painter does in using sketches to explore technique and to work out color and composition ideas. These pieces are abstract compositions, worked primarily in solids. Constructing these 37 sketches provided me with a valuable and expedient way to explore new technique, color, and composition. I explain my process for making these small studies using my liberated, improvisational methods, of which many of you are very familiar, and discuss how the experience of making this series of sketches was like taking a crash course in design.

Pat Holly had this to say about 37 Sketches : "I am so excited about this book! You did a great job in the text also you explained your process very clearly and simply. This is not easy to do! Good job!" The page layouts are done in such an artful way that the text on the left page and the quilt on the right interact in a supportive way, as you can see in the two sample page spreads shown here. Patricia Ensey expressed it well by saying "The layout of the pages added greatly to the text, tying it to the art."

37 Sketches is off to New Zealand: I will be teaching at the National Quilt Symposium in Taupo, New Zealand in 2013 and have been invited to present a one-woman, month-long exhibit of the work shown in 37 Sketches at the Taupo Museum during July.

This book is beautifully crafted in the classical style and with attention to every detail. 37 Sketches is published in a first edition of 2,000 copies. The 96 page hardcover book has a Smyth sewn binding, is printed on 120 lb Gallerie Art Silk, and includes 37 color plates and additional illustrations of quilt details. The book is published by award winning Six Mile Creek Press, Ithaca, NY; printed in the United States by Capital Offset, Inc., Concord, NH; and bound by Acme Bookbinding, Charlestown, MA.

37 Sketches is available now and can be ordered from Gwen Books 

37 Sketches Book Reviews

Australian Homespun's magazine reviewed it in issue #104, calling it a "gorgeous little book," and one that is "Certain to become a collector's item." In describing the book they say "It is a generous sharing of ideas and an insight into how one of the legends of the modern quitmaking world works.

France's Quilt Mania reviewed it in their January/February issue: "This book, illustrated with thirty-seven studies (small quilts) is actually a foundation for a reflection and work about design and color in abstract composition."

Your last book is a book to love. Its straight forward and gets the reader focused on the form. I love everything about it.
Lee Pettigrew, Eugene, Oregon. 10/2011

Gwen has launched into a new way of creating. This book, illustrated with thirty-seven studies (small quilts), is actually the foundation for a reflection and work about design and colour in abstract compositions. It has even won an award which will be presented at the very prestigious 2012 New York Book Show in March!
Quiltmania, Issue 87, January/February 2012

Your book is over-the-top wonderful from the terrific quilts to the book's design! We're all in awe.
Julie Smith, Muir Beach, California. 2/7/2012

Links to 37 Sketches Book Reviews

The Little Red Hen
Book Plug
The Cozy Quilter
Working in a Series
Material Obsession

This is a picture taken at Gwen's recent Beaver Island Quilt Retreat showing the display of quilts from her new book: 37 Sketches.

At Home With Gwen

At Home with Gwen Update Jan2014

Here we are into 2014 already. What happened to 2013? Didn't that buzz by quickly. In review, I was on the road a tremendous amount including five weeks in Australia and New Zealand, it's seems like I remember that I had a new book come out, and I conducted my 30th and my last Beaver Island Quilt Retreat, and that my dear friends, was indeed a BIG DEAL for me. My quilt retreats have been the one event that I have perhaps loved the most. I made life long friends there, as did a lot of the women who came for years, quite a number who came for 20-25 years. It was like a family reunion in which it just happened everybody was an experienced quilter so there were a lot of fabulous quilts that showed up for show and tell, and a lot of great quilts that got made there.

Because I love the retreats so much, it was difficult to figure out when and how I should give them up. I finally decided to follow the example of the Michigan auto workers who adhered to the "30 years and out" retirement plan, and 2013 was my 30th year. Another big issue for me was that, because I loved the retreats so much, I didn't want them to just end, and they aren't going to end. My old pals from forever ago, the very talented sisters Sue Nickels and Pat Holly are taking them over. Oh that's such good news. Both of them came to my retreat for years, and they know all about it, believe you me. They will do a bang up job, and if I were you, I'd sign up right away. You will have two excellent teachers who can answer all your questions, who have the reputation of being fabulous teachers, and are really really nice! Everything you need to know to register for the HOLLY GIRLS QUILT RETREAT is on Sue's webpage: Sue Nickels

The truth is that I'm easing into retirement. As much as a truly love teaching, being on the road for 30 years takes its toll. I met a lot of great people all over the country, stayed with many really lovely women who I got to know quite well, all of which enriched my live immeasurably. I will miss many things about visiting guilds around the country, but I won't miss the travel. If you are one of the people who housed me when I visited your guild, I thank you again. My teaching schedule is as busy as usual through June of this year, and I'm going to some fabulous places too. Then, I don't have any teaching trips for the rest of the year. I will be home for the summer. I will be in my garden. I will be picking wild flowers in my woods. As usual, I will be entertaining my kids and my grandsons and my sister the month of August. And in our customary way, the adults will begin each day having our coffee and talking softy on the screened in porch; early, before the boys get up. Later we will all be walking single file on the narrow trail through the cedars to Little Sand Bay, our favorite beach on the shores of Lake Michigan. I will be teaching my grandson how to drive my pickup and in return, he will be rowing me around Barney's Lake in our little fishing boat.

In 2015 I have just a few jobs and all I plan on taking. And in 2016 I will have a few less. I do have a new book coming out this March, and several forthcoming articles coming out in 2014 for the American Quilter Magazine. As I said, I'm easing into retirement…not just screeching to a half! Now onto another subject. As Mark Twain once said "Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it." So, I've decided to talk about the weather.

The third week of January this year, Beaver Island got hit hard with bitter cold weather coupled with strong winds (as in 45 miles per) and heavy snow storms. These storms are called Alberta Clippers and they came to the island one right after another so the snow piled up, and up, and up. Here's how they work: Alberta Clippers form when warm, moist winds from the Pacific Ocean blow over the mountains in western Canada, where they develop into a storm over the Canadian prairies when they hit the cold winter air there. Then it gets caught in the jet stream which takes it south and in this case, right to Beaver Island. I have always thought the term "Alberta Clipper" had a sorta ominous ring to it, however there are two more notable Canadian weather delivery systems with even more apt names: the Saskatchewan Screamer and Manitoba Mauler which do seem to suggest possible peril. Brrrrr

The wonderful thing about living in the far north woods, is that Spring means something when it arrives. Seeing the first thin blade of anything green peeking through the snow is absolutely glorious. And daffodils? Heavenly…..Sublime!

My Home and Yard 

...Gwen Marston Quilt Designs on Tile

Now you can own permanent images of Gwen Marston's delightful Talk with Gwen | updated Book Reviews | quilts in the form of art tiles with which to grace your home.
Visit New and Improved Gwen Quilt Tile web store at Loudeac Tile Studio


NEW Here is an article that was published this past November 2012 in a wonderful free (Yes I said FREE) monthly Online Quilt Magazine . This article appears here with their blessing which is very nice. Gwens article PDF 

Working in a Series: Gwen Marston and 37 Sketches Posted on January 27, 2012 by Darra Williamson

Gwens quilt showAlex Anderson and Ricky Timms posted a video of my quilt show at Back Porch on their blog page

How to contact Gwen
I'm not wired up yet here on Beaver Island, but please feel free to contact me at:

Gwen Marston
Box 155
Beaver Island, MI 49782

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