LOCAL QUILTS TO EMBASSY IN SAUDI ARABIA
For immediate release – 3/15/10
Berkeley Springs, WV
Press contact: Jane Frenke – 304-258-4582
It is not enough that Jane Frenke helps turn Berkeley Springs into Quilt
Central every May, now she has set her sights on the planet.
A paired set of Frenke’s quilts have been selected as
part of the U.S. Department of State’s Art in Embassies program and will
hang, on loan, for three years in the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia.
“The Ambassador’s wife, Janet Breslin Smith, specifically asked for my
quilts,” said Frenke. “She learned about my work from Morgan Arts Council
board member, Ann Harkins.”
Breslin-Smith is the first ambassador’s wife to go along on the Saudi
mission. She selected quilts as the artwork she wanted to feature in the
public spaces of the embassy because quilting is an indigenous American art
form. By late spring, Frenke’s quilts will be hanging in the main foyer of
the embassy along with a vintage quilt of Ambassador Smith’s great
“Dr. Breslin-Smith told me she wanted to use the quilts as a way to open
conversations with Saudi women,” said Frenke. “Given the role of women in
Saudi culture, she felt using fabric art was a good approach. Every culture
has respected stitchery as women’s art.”
The process of creating the quilts began when Breslin-Smith came to the
League of New Hampshire Craftsmen annual show at Sunapee, NH to see Frenke’s
work. “She showed me floor plans for the embassy and gave me the color
scheme,” said Frenke. “Originally we talked about a wood paneled formal
dining room but then decided on the main foyer which opens to the grand
staircase.” Breslin-Smith saw Frenke’s leaf quilt that hung in the Ice House
for the 2009 Quilt Show and decided that was the theme she wanted. “I was
thrilled,” Frenke said.
Once contacted by the Art in Embassies program with an order to proceed,
Frenke had only a couple months to complete the work. “The quilts were
shipped out in late February,” said Frenke.
The set of two full size quilts are descriptively named Pale Branch Blue
Leaves and Pale Ten Leaves. They represent Frenke’s contemplation of the
state of nature today and the hardiness of certain plants. “I’ve used leaves
as a main motif for years,” said Frenke. “A specific leaf from the Amazon
was the direct inspiration for these.” She pointed out other design features
that reflect man’s impact on the natural environment.
Creation of the fabric and its colors is distinctive feature of Frenke’s
fabric art. She uses an ever changing combination of discharge and direct
dying for the quilts. Discharge is a process of removing dyes from fabric
while direct dying puts color onto white fabric. Using both processes
provides the subtleties that make for the right effect. “It’s all about
chemistry,” said Frenke about the process of achieving varying colors and
shades. She uses fiber reactive molecular dyes to put color in and common
household cleaning substances to take dyes out.
Frenke appreciates the recognition that comes with being selected for such a
prestigious program and the exposure for her art. In addition to hanging in
the embassy, the quilts will also be included in the annual book of Art in
Embassies. “I’m excited both by being accepted as such a high level and by
having my art used to stimulate conversations with Saudi women,” she said.
Jane Frenke is a fiber artist currently specializing in quilts. Her Fiesta
Fibers business is located in Berkeley Springs. Locally, Frenke’s work is
available at the Ice House Co-op Gallery. She is a member of the Morgan Arts
Council’s board of directors and the Delectable Mountain Quilters with whom
she developed the popular Yard Square Quilt project. For more information on
Frenke, call Fiesta Fibers at 304-258-4582 or check online at
From: Tom Williams
Subject: Re: One of two wv quilts hanging at amb's residence here
Date: January 31, 2012 11:58:22 AM EST
To: Lois Turco
On January 29, 2012 the U.S. Embassy hosted a reception for the "Art in
Embassy" program, with over 100 guests and press present to observe the
American and Saudi artworks on display. The U.S. Ambassador, James Smith,
talked about quilting as a function of family as it is passed down within
families from generation to generation, and he highlighted Jane's art, as
well as a quilt that had been created by his own mother in honor of the U.S.
bicentennial. He spoke out how happy he and his wife, Dr. Janet
Breslin-Smith, were to share this family art with their Saudi family, which
included several prominent artists in the audience.
The quilts, needless to say, were a big hit, and featured on the cover of
the booklet created to celebrate the event.