Clear Cut

Clear Cut is a sampler quilt and the first of my quilts. In 1996 it was awarded a People’s Choice blue ribbon at “A Taste Of Country,” the 18th Annual Washington State Quilters Show at the Spokane Convention Center. Later that year it was selected to be in “Trashformations: Recycled Materials in Contemporary American Art and Design,” appearing first at the Whatcom Museum, Bellinghman, WA, then traveling for three years to museums throughout the U.S. The show’s catalog says this about Clear Cut:

“The most traditional-looking of the “quilts” in this exhibition is Rik Nelson’s Clear Cut. Again we have a pun referring to environmental issues: the expedient cutting of old-growth forests in the title juxtaposed against the quilt’s real content -- recycled household containers. Each quilt block is six inches square and most “recycle” traditional patterns, such as a log cabin, a rail fence, a variety of pine tree variations. A “table of contents” accompanying the piece lists every detergent, fruit drink, motor oil, and shampoo bottle (among many other kinds) used in the quilt’s construction.

“According to the artist, Clear Cut is a sampler ‘quilt’ and the majority of its patches are traditional patterns. Traditionally, quilts have been made of scraps from a fabric whose large use was wholly different -- a dress, shirt, tablecloth, curtains. My quilt is made from plastic vessels our society treats as scrap -- beautifully hued and shaped cruets and vials and miniature amphorae tossed willy-nilly in the dumpster. Clear Cut contains over 6,700 individual pieces of plastic and other materials from about 140 different sources.

Traditionally, many quilts have ‘stories’ -- i.e., they commemorate births, christenings, marriages, travels, anniversaries, deaths. Individual patches may have historical meaning or stories associated -- e.g., Algonquin Trail, Barbara Fritchie Star, Burgoyne Surrounded, Cross of Temperance, Kansas Troubles, Rocky Road to California, et al. Therefore, I’ve looked at each patch as a kind of ideograph and organized the patches in Clear Cut to provide a narrative:

(1)  At the center of the quilt is a Log Cabin patch, and at its core the fireplACE, the quilt’s brightest piece. But I have taken the traditional patch and converted it into a pulsating gyre.

(2)  Surrounding the cabin is a Pine Tree forest. Pine is the most common tree in my neck of the woods and is variations in quilting, as in Nature, are numerous.

(3)  Defending the forest which surround the cabin is a Rail Fence. There you have it -- your little piece of God’s green earth.

(4)  At top center in the Rail Fence is a ‘gate,’ the X of the Garden Path patch. Our domain is the Garden.

(5)  Immediately above the Garden Path patch is a Bird’s Nest with its pastel eggs. Many birds live in pines. But the border in which the Bird’s Nest resides is a Garden path mutation, a patch I call Logging Road. At its center is the ‘high lead,’ the single limbless tree at the top of a hill whence cable is strung and all the timber clear-cut below is yanked to the top for loading. This border is like the clear gel that first congeals on a wound.

(6)  The outermost ring is an Everlasting border. At two of its corners are withered Pine Trees. Interspersed are Buzz Saw patches. Where the buzz saw has been, the Everlasting turns brown. The buzz saw advances on the green portions where a lone Tall Pine survives; and in the bottom left corner a Weeping Willow and Tree of Life. The buzz saw has been so rapacious it has reached the edge of the world, cutting into the framework itself.

Meanwhile, back at the center of our own personal worlds, we sit by the hearth, comforted by the narrow band of trees we see out the window, safe inside our fenced-off property. All is well. Clear cut.”

(From Trashformations: Recycled Materials In Contemporary American Art And Design, Lloyd E. Herman, University of Washington Press, Seattle, WA, 1998, pp. 37-39. This publication is available through

If you’re interested in purchasing Clear Cut, or would like to learn more about my community involvement projects, please e-mail me at, phone 509 362-5296, or write to me at P.O. Box 161, Marshall, WA 99020.


P.O. Box 161, Marshall, WA 99020 / 509 362-5296 /