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story.lead_photo.caption Jean Howard fell in love with quilting as it was a practical and pretty hobby, but as she got tired of the same traditional patterns, she realized she could make her own creative and colorful designs. Howard will be featured at the "Quilt National '21: The Best in Contemporary Quilts" show this weekend at The Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens, Ohio. Photo by Submitted

Local artist Jean Howard will be featured at the "Quilt National '21: The Best in Contemporary Quilts" show this weekend at The Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens, Ohio.

Howard grew up in Missouri and has settled in Auxvasse with her husband, Tom. She has been a registered dietitian for the past 40 years, but since her grandchildren were born, she's chosen to spend more time with them than work. Though quilting is now one of her favorite hobbies, it started out more functional — she liked the fact that it was practical, but also pretty.

"Quilting is utilitarian," Howard said. "But you can also put your own spin on it. I get bored making the same patterns that everyone else is using, so I decided to make some myself."

She started off as a traditional quilter, but soon realized the array of colors and designs she could use in abstract quilts was much more fun and interesting. When it comes to Howard's process, she generally will sketch out her design and then put it on film. She then projects it up on the wall and uses a bigger piece of tissue paper to cut out her patterns. This allows Howard to be much more precise with her lines and stitches, which can be pretty tricky because she enjoys working with curved fabrics.

Howard is currently part of a quilting class with Nancy Crow, who is an internationally known quilter recognized by the Smithsonian Institute. Though Crow lives in Ohio, she travels around the world giving classes. Usually, Crow will give the class a set of rules to follow, and the quilts all come out looking unique.

"When you go to class you're supposed to bring something you have been working on so she can tell you're a serious student," Howard said. "And so when I brought in 'Harlem Renaissance Dance,' she told me it was a knockout, so I was like 'OK, I'm entering that one!'"

This year's show will feature artwork from 84 artists from 14 different countries, and will open today and continue through Sept. 5. It is open to the public, but reservations are required and can be made online.

The show has been going on for about 20 years. Every other year, it will send out an invitation to artists and they can enter three quilts — the only rule is they have to be three layers with stitching. With the amount of submissions the show receives, they can get up to about 800 entries and three curators have the hard task of choosing only about 80 quilts to move on to the show.

Though the show starts in Ohio, it moves around. Generally, the quilts will be divided into three categories and displayed in various locations around the world. Howard was lucky enough one year to see one of her quits make it to France.

Each year after the show, a catalog is produced showcasing the different quilts that were one display. This year's will be Quilt National '21 Catalog.

For more information on the national quilt show, visit https://dairybarn.org/QN21/.

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