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‘Quilts and Nature – It’s a Great Combination’



Photo for: ‘Quilts and Nature – It’s a Great Combination’

(Photo by Glenn P. Knoblock)

Sandy Popyk loved the Puerto Rican Amazon parrot. The Mandrill monkey caught Joan Tuttle’s eye. And Jean Peters was drawn to the Florida manatee.

“I just want to snuggle up to them,” she said of the rotund aquatic species.

The three women traveled from Indiana recently to view the “Inspired by Endangered Species Quilt Exhibition” at Sugar Creek Administration Center in Joliet. It was the first stop of three they had planned in order to view as many of the colorful art quilts as possible.

All three women belong to the Heritage Quilt Guild in Crown Point.

“It’s a beautiful day and this exhibit is awe inspiring,” Popyk said. “The quilters have a lot of talent. It’s interesting to see how another quilter looks at fabric and how they envision what they can do with it.”

Tuttle was impressed with the workmanship.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “They had to reproduce it from a picture to fabric.”

Peters said viewing the exhibit made her want to go home and quilt.

For Tuttle, the exhibit opened her eyes to the plight of endangered species.

“When you hear of endangered species, you think of animals,” she said. “I didn’t think that plant species were included in that.”

But they are. The traveling national quilt exhibition features 182 plant and animal quilts, and it will be on display at four Forest Preserve visitor centers through July 25. The quilts can be viewed at Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon, Isle a la Cache in Romeoville, Plum Creek Nature Center in Crete Township, and Sugar Creek Administration Center in Joliet. 

The quilts are all 24-inch-by-24-inch works of art that depict threatened and endangered species that are local and from around the world. Alphabetically, the species run from the Acalypha wigginsii, an unusual looking plant found in the Galapagos, to the yellow teardrop butterflyfish, a bright yellow fish that lives in the West Indian Ocean.

'Wonderful exhibit'

Kathy Milligan and Marcia Steward, both of Frankfort, perused the quilt collection at Isle a la Cache Museum first and then headed over to Sugar Creek on a cloudy July day.

Milligan teaches quilting at St. Peters United Church of Christ in Frankfort where her husband, Mark, is pastor.

“I’ve been sewing forever, but I started quilting in 1973,” she said. “I came out to see the quilts because quilts and nature – it’s a great combination. I think it’s a wonderful exhibit.”

Steward was Milligan’s pupil. She said she was intrigued by the techniques used by the quilt artists.

“Some of them created a 3D effect or movement, and that is impressive,” she said.

Milligan said she read the explanatory information about the northern white rhinos and how only two females are left on the planet.

“They’ve frozen their eggs but it ‘s always kind of depressing when you think about it,” she said. “We’re being so cruel to our nature and animals.”

Milligan said she was fortunate to travel to Africa a couple of years ago.

“So, some of this is very personal,” she said. “We saw a hippo, we saw a lion, we saw rhinos. Not the endangered ones, but I’ve seen some of these animals in the real world.”

Inspired to do more

Beth Galovich and Penny Havlicek, both of Frankfort, also toured the quilts at Sugar Creek.

“Penny invited me, and I’ve never toured an exhibit here before,” Galovich said. “This was a fun and interesting thing to do. I like the different interpretations. This one looks like maybe more of an abstract,” she said while standing in front of the Western snowy plover.

“Some of them look like they’ve been painted and some of them really look like a quilt,” she added. “It’s like everyone has their own interpretation – I love that.”

Havlicek said she toured the “Inspired by the National Parks Exhibition” hosted by the Forest Preserve in 2018.

“I told Beth it’s a quilt exhibit, but it’s not really like quilts that you would see on your bed,” she said. “These are art, in my opinion.”

She said she especially loves the quilts that feature landscapes.

“I love the hues. It would be like how you paint, but I don’t know how they do it with fabric. It’s amazing to me how they are able to do that.”

In addition to being amazed at the quality and creativeness of the quilts, Havlicek said viewing the exhibit has inspired her and she’s wondering what more she can do to help endangered species including possibly donating to a wildlife foundation.

Intrigued and impressed

Bobbie Hunley, a volunteer who is helping with the exhibit, said the people who visit are really surprised by how different the quilts are from what they expected. The artists used colored pencils, art crayons, jewels, stones, crystals and netting to form their creations.

“They’re not your grandmother’s quilts,” she said. “This type of quilt is all part of the art community.”

Hunley said she tells visitors who want to learn more about the quilts to search “art quilts” on YouTube. That’s a good way to get some ideas of how the quilts are different than a typical quilt, she explained.

Overall, Hunley said visitors are intrigued and impressed.

“They love the exhibit,” she said. “And they think all the quilts are spectacular, and so are the people who created them.”

The quilt exhibition is made possible through the generous support of The Nature Foundation of Will County.

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