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Kaleidoscope-style teacher welcomes 2-day classes

By DAVID ZOELLER dzoeller@paducahsun.com

Paula Nadelstern is looking forward to the opportunity to lead a two-day class in her signature kaleidoscope style during the American Quilter's Society Quilt Week in Paducah.

"The chance to teach a two-day class is very exciting," said the New York-based quilt artist, author and teacher. "I think in a two-day class you get past the layers and get a chance to have students actually make some mistakes and talk through how you work through them. It's the stepping off point to teach everybody, it's more relaxed, and they own the information by the time they leave."

Nadelstern is totally self-taught.

"I have a degree in occupational therapy and a master's in psychology, but I started off making group quilts as a stay-at-home mom in New York City on the park bench in the playground in the late 1970s and early '80s," she said. "I just love fabric and texture, and I want it all 'right now in the same quilt,' so working in this kaleidoscope method has allowed me to do that."

She expects the students taking her classes to range from advanced beginners to advanced.

"My work is a little bit more of an art quilt, a little more complex in terms of design," Nadelstern said. "I rely on the fabric a lot to create the effect of a kaleidoscope, which means that the image feels like its full of surprise and magic and chance. I'm teaching a rather unusual design aesthetic, a little different strategy than most quilters."

Because the Paducah show attracts such a wide range of quilters, "everyone can find their own voice, their own signature and decide what they like," Nadelstern said.

"We used to joke that there's a 'quilt police' that said one way is better than another, but I believe we've overcome that at this point and everyone is free to find what they like to do," she said. "That includes the technique they like and the level, speed and design they like."

Both the students - and the teacher - benefit from the classes offered during quilt week, according to Nadelstern.

"I've actually written an article about where the teacher becomes the student," she said. "In every class you learn something from your students. I write books about my techniques. Teaching gives me a vocabulary of what really works best so I have that vocabulary while I'm writing the book. And, in writing the book I create more language and the ability to explain things better so the two really work hand-in-hand."

Nadelstern has taught - and exhibited her work - in Paducah. And, Paducah is known to quilters she has taught all over the world.

"I've taught in Dubai, Japan, through Europe in France, Germany and England, in Spain, and Taiwan, in Canada certainly, and anybody who considers themselves a quilter is going to know Paducah and put it on their bucket list and hope they get there one day," she said.

Not coming from an art background originally, Nadelstern admits, "I didn't realize what a gift I was giving myself" when she began quilting on that park bench in New York all those years ago.

"I thought I'd make that first quilt, then I'd go back to doing the work I used to do," she said. "But instead I'm now working on the 41st quilt in my (kaleidoscope) series.

"When someone asks me how long it takes to make a quilt, I always say ... my whole life because I need all that information that I accrued all those years to make the next quilt."

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