Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Rita's Waco City Canyon

As I contemplated CANYON two months ago, I first thought of a wooded divide with perhaps a stream running down its length.  And as I grew up in central Illinois in corn country, I remembered driving down narrow country roads between corn fields and feeling like I was in a canyon, a corn canyon.  And the really big city canyons of New York were next in my imagination.  It was then I decided to attempt to depict my own little city canyon, Austin Avenue, in Waco, Texas.
Waco, Texas, population 126,697 (2011), has the feeling of a small country town.  It is a great place to live and is not at all like the vision some have of it because of events that have happened near Waco.  Sixty years ago (May 11, 1953), a devastating tornado almost leveled downtown Waco.  I have heard it said that at that time Waco was growing faster than Dallas.  The tornado brought that growth to a halt as rebuilding began and today we see the great differences in the two cities.
A certain amount of artistic license has been taken in this depiction.  All of the labeled buildings are in downtown Waco, but not necessarily in the pictured locations.  Three landmarks were ‘must haves’ for my canyon representation:  The ALICO (Amicable Life Insurance Company) built in 1911, the Waco Hippodrome built in 1913, and the Suspension Bridge built in 1870.  The first two are in their correct locations; however the Suspension Bridge is not at the end of Austin Avenue (although it is located near Austin Ave).
The technique used for this panel was adapted from a book by Helen Stubbings called Faux Appliqué. Helen has developed a method to use colored pencils and embroidery to simulate appliqué on a quilt.  The color on my quilt was applied with Crayola colored pencils on muslin, but I quilted it instead of doing embroidery. The batik tree trunks and leaves are fused onto the piece.
In drawing and planning the design, I made the decision that the buildings should not be overshadowed by the foreground trees, but instead the trees should frame the scene.  After wrapping the quilt around the frame, I wished the two side trees had been more visible from the front.  This is why you see four “edge” photographs around each side of the panel. They are there to show you the sides of the quilt block, which as usual, is gallery wrapped.
Interesting Waco Facts
Waco is named after the Huaco Indians, the first inhabitants of the area.
The ALICO building (1911) is 22 stories tall.  It was originally planned to be 20 stories, but the builder discovered that the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas also would have 20 stories and the number was increased by 2 floors.  The building stood strong during the 1953 tornado.  In fact, it is said that the building swayed more than 13 inches in the high winds of the tornado. It was reported that employees on the top floors were thrown against the walls. Although most buildings collapsed around it, the damage to the ALICO was largely superficial. 
The Hippodrome (1913) was built as a vaudeville theater, complete with a pipe organ in the front stage pit.  It then became a movie theater.  It closed for a time in the ‘70’s and then in 1980’s the Junior League of Waco took on the project of restoring the facility in response to the need for a performing arts center.  Currently one more renovation is being planned for the entire corner.
The Waco Suspension Bridge (1870) has a 475 foot long span.  It was the first bridge built across the Brazos River, and at the time one of the longest single span bridges in the world.  It brought the Texas section of the Chisholm Trail straight through Waco, and the city became a thriving trade center.  A toll was charged for each person and each head of cattle.  The toll was eliminated in 1889.  Today the bridge is for foot traffic only and is a popular spot for parties and weddings.


  1. Oh, Rita, how I love this quilt! You, Andrea, Janet, and I all have much in common with our quilts, but how different they are. I love it that you have given the other Mavens all these interesting tidbits about Waco. We have such "bad reputation" thanks to the Branch Davidian debacle that didn't even happen in WACO but in a tiny town nearby. Anyway, your quilt is beautiful, the "artistic license" you took is absolutely great, and I am so eager someday to try this method you used in construction. Oh, and thanks for giving us a view of the sides of the quilt!

  2. So many wonderful things can be said about this quilt and even the photo of this quilt with the four canvas edges showing is VERY interesting. You might consider having postcards published of this image in itself because I think the two side panels of trees really adds to the contrast and composition. Just saying...

  3. What a tribute to your city, Waco. I lived there three years and need a revisit. I enjoyed the facts about the town but especially the old name and the pronunciation's changing the spelling. The side pieces are so graphically interesting as pictured here you may want to think of cutting wood to fit them. I also like the wit of the arrow suggesting a turn to the left.

    1. These "side pieces" are sections of the quilt that are folded back around the frames that Rita uses for her quilts--they aren't separate pieces!

  4. Interesting that several of you portrayed city canyons in some manner for this reveal. Love the light feeling that yours evokes. Your artistic license is great as I think the bridge at the end of the canyon is perfect and the other buildings placement provide just the right perspective to it. Lovely job!

  5. Oh Rita - What a fabulous job you did with this challenge ! Your workmanship is always stunning, and I loved that you added more artwork to what will be the side, and top / bottom panels on your gallery wrapped quilt. Thanks too for all the information about Waco.. much of it was new to me. I can hardly wait to see this at the next Waco Quilt Guild meeting !

  6. Love this quilt, we will let you take some license with moving the bridge. For those of you close enough to come they are adding a herd of life size bronze cattle and cowboys to the bridge (also the model for the Brooklyn bridge). My father-in-law survived the Waco tornado, saved by his metal desk. Pray for those people who were hit so hard last night by tornadoes across north Texas.

  7. Lovely quilt! Amazing workmanship! Live your narrative as well!!!

  8. Another interesting fact about our Waco Suspension Bridge, and I am quoting from Wikipedia: "The Brooklyn Bridge was initially designed by German immigrant John Augustus Roebling, who had previously designed and constructed shorter suspension bridges, such as . . . the Waco Suspension Bridge in Waco, Texas." Ours is older than the Brooklyn Bridge. The Waco bridge was completed in 1869; the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883.

  9. Thank you for your personal tour of Waco! As a non-appliquer ( probably not a word! ) I am most interested in your techniques using colored pencils and embroidery stitches, which gives such a nice effect.

  10. Loved seeing this in person today. The detail and precision of this piece is perfection! I'm glad you put the trees in. They are wonderful to have downtown and gives your quilt even more interest. Love your colors and composition.