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Covered in Art

With COVID creating restrictions that didn’t allow outside artists to display their artwork, staff had to come up with a patchwork solution.

Luckily, they found just what they needed in three resident quilters: Judy Otey (pictured above, left), Carol McMillen and Vivian Bonham (pictured above, middle).

“Since we can’t have outside artists come in and show work, they were looking for internal artwork to display,” Judy said. “A couple other ladies and I had a lot of quilts we were interested in showing — and that’s how we got to that.”

The struggle wasn’t in finding enough quilts to display, but in how to hang and place them, since many of the quilts were larger and heavier than traditional artwork.

“We hung up one, and sometimes two or three smaller ones over the windows of the dining room,” said Carol McMillen (pictured above, right). “The rest are hanging over the wall cabinets. Each quilt had to have some sort of rod to hang on the hooks. It really turned out easier that we thought it would be.”

The artists said they began quilting years ago, so they were happy to share their plentiful selection with their neighbors and friends.

“I’ve been quilting for so many years, I probably had 20 quilts to show,” Carol said.

Throughout the years, Judy has sewn for Quilts of Valor, which donates quilts to service members, and she is a member of several quilting guilds.

“I made my first real quilt at the age of 42,” said Carol. “I’m 85 now. I didn’t really know what I was doing, except my grandmothers were quilters. They did it all by hand — put the blocks together and sit down and quilt by hand. For weeks, or months, depending on the size of the project. Everything was sewn into eight, 10, or 12-inch blocks, then put a border around it. A lot of people send it off to someone that does machine quilting. I have always preferred the hand quilting. On a machine you have to have the eye, hand, and foot coordination together. It’s very hard for me — it’s much easier to sit with a quilt in my lap and follow a pattern I’ve stenciled on the quilt.”

In addition to offering the chance to show their work, the display also gave others a chance to share their appreciation.

“When I run into someone in the hall, they tell me how much they enjoy it, and how nice it is,” Judy said. “It makes it worthwhile, and it’s nice to know other people appreciate your artwork.”

“There are a lot of old women in here, and most of them have quilted,” Carol said with a laugh. “I’ve got a nice response from them.”

Even the artists appreciated each other’s work.

“Of the three quilters that are in this, we are all different,” Carol said. “Vivian only had two quilts in that she made when she was a younger woman. They are absolutely beautiful, hand-quilted, but they made mine look pretty bad.”

Though the quilt show was borne of pandemic restrictions, the artists have some indication that its popularity might extend into future years.

“They announced this was the first of many quilt shows,” Carol said. “Maybe we’ll have a bigger one by being able to spread it into other rooms.”

“They called it the first annual, and that makes me think we’ll be doing it again,” Judy said.

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