Messenger - Vol. 4, No. 3, Page 4
Mosaic quilts of many colors

     A quilt is an apt metaphor for the career of fiber artist Iran
Lawrence, Delaware '79. Her professional life is composed of
complementary, distinct pieces-her well-established art quilt
commissions and her fledgling interior design firm, her practical
business sensibility and her need to gamble artistically.
     Lawrence, a 1995 recipient of the UD's Presidential Citation for
Outstanding Achievement, creates the kind of quilts that private
clients put on walls, corporate clients put in lobbies and museums put
behind glass.
     Lawrence says she creates her art out of cloth instead of paint
or metal because she believes "fiber and textiles are very seductive
and cause everyone to relate instantly to them."
     Her quilts are mosaics of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of
pieces of cotton fabric that Lawrence dyes by hand to achieve a subtle
spectrum of intensity in each color. More than 300 hues are in
Lawrence's rainbow. The graded colors evoke sensations of movement and
light, she says, "bringing visual excitement, harmony and warmth" to
corporate, residential and architectural settings.
     Many of Lawrence's designs play with the geometric juxtapositions
of delicate rectangles and squares to create their effects. One of her
breakthrough pieces, Maelstrom, is an arrangement of color currents
that initially draw the viewer into a whirlpool, then ebb into
tranquil waves.
     Lawrence's quilts have been placed in the board room of DuPont
Merck Pharmaceutical Co.; the national treasurer's office of the
Sears, Roebuck Co.; and the lobby of JMB Corp.'s Jefferson Plaza.
Lawrence's most famous clients are President and Mrs. Clinton. They
selected one of her more traditional pieces for their private quarters
at the White House.
     Lawrence makes a special effort to guarantee customer
satisfaction. First, clients are invited to look at Lawrence's
portfolio while she canvasses the proposed environment for the art
quilt, checks design and color preferences and considers the requested
size. (Her quilts range from 4-by-5 feet to 6-by-14 feet.)
     Lawrence has appeared several times on national television, won
the 1986 American Textile Competition sponsored by the 3M Corp. and
the Museum of American Folk Art in New York and has had photographs of
her quilts featured in books and magazines as well as area newspapers.
Her work has been exhibited in Japan and in more than 20 galleries in
the United States, including the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington,
the Baltimore Museum of Art and the American Museum of Quilts and
Textiles in San Jose.
     At the height of her success, Lawrence enrolled in a degree
program in interior design at Drexel University in Philadelphia, and
after her graduation, was awarded a full scholarship to pursue a
master of fine arts degree at Temple University in Philadelphia. In
one of her seminars, she was asked to make a class presentation on a
famous textiles artist. Her assignment? Iran Lawrence.
     Some of her graduate school professors were baffled by Lawrence's
participation in programs that presumably would prepare her for a
career she already enjoyed. Lawrence was equally puzzled by anyone's
underestimation of the need for more knowledge. "My professional
experience has proven to me that behind every good artist, regardless
of his or her medium, is technical expertise," she says.
     People also are perplexed by her choice of an undergraduate
degree in economics. "People ask me about that all the time," Lawrence
says. While she fondly recalls her art electives at UD, particularly
the drawing classes she had with Charles Rowe, she considers studying
economics at her "mini-Harvard" a wise choice.
     "Economics is the base of life. It all boils down to economics,"
she says. "For you to function in any business, knowing how the system
works is a major tool to have. The degree of success I enjoy is
because of my business training. It gave me my solid foundation."
     Now, with her degrees and her design experience, Lawrence has
established an interior design firm. The decision to open the business
was delayed for a few months, however, while Lawrence concentrated on
overcoming an unexpected obstacle.
     In December 1993, she broke her neck while jumping a horse.
Though doctors doubted Lawrence would survive the injury, let alone
recover motor skills, she says she "trampolined" back to health by
     Lawrence has been back at work for almost a year, taking on
opportunities as they present themselves. Told that a color ad for her
new design firm would cost approximately $6,500, Lawrence called on
two friends for technical advice, made three trips to the marble yards
for just the right piece of pink rock, made three trips to florists
for perfect, rosy alstromeria lilies and selected the finest of her
own mauve swatches to accentuate one of her delicately watercolored
sample floor plans. Her full-page ad, produced for $268, has begun
appearing in magazines.
                              -Priscilla Goldsmith, Delaware '78, '85M