Friday, April 20, 2007

Artists are drawn to retiree's quilt projects


Muriel Feldshuh and one of her creations. Photo by Sara Heidinger.

Clifford the Big Red Dog. Maisy Mouse. The Stinky Cheese Man. These are a handful of the original illustrations included on two children's illustrator quilts designed and hand-stitched by Muriel Feldshuh, a Brooklyn-based United Federation of Teachers retiree. A third quilt is in the works.

"I wanted to do something to get people interested in the books," said Feldshuh. The idea for the quilts grew out of her experiences as an educator and her volunteer work with the Books for Kids Foundation, a Manhattan-based group that promotes children's literacy.

Feldshuh made dozens of quilts and banners honoring children's literature during her 30-plus years as a librarian at PS 16 in Brooklyn. "I try to bring a love of reading to children," she said.

She retired in 1996.

Creative and giving

Her first project, the Young Readers Millennium Quilt, completed in 1998, features original artwork from 26 illustrators, including Graeme Base, Eric Carle and Laura Numeroff.

"The artists are so wonderfully creative and so giving," Feldshuh said. "Each illustration is so exciting, I'm so impressed by the free-spirited pleasure they take in sharing their talents."

Feldshuh got the illustrations the old-fashioned way - she asked.

"I mailed each illustrator a fabric square along with a letter explaining the project," she said. To date she has received artwork from 96 illustrators.

Feldshuh hand-stitches the artwork into a quilt, adding a border, backing and embroidered title. The quilt back features a listing of the artists' names and a directory of each illustration block.

Her quilts have won widespread acclaim, exhibited at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Mass.; the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature in Abilene, Texas; and the Bank Street College Library and the Milbank Memorial Library in Manhattan.

"I'm going to keep doing this just as long as my steam engine keeps going," said Feldshuh.

You can view Feldshuh's quilts through April 28, at the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature Web site,

- Kara E. Smith of

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