Into the Wild - Creature Quilts

A Fiber Art Exhibit from The National Quilt Museum

The National Quilt Museum - Paducah, KY, U.S.

The National Quilt Museum works to advance the art of today's quilters by bringing it to new and expanding audiences worldwide.

Migration #2 (1995) by Caryl Bryer Fallert-GentryThe National Quilt Museum

Migration #2

Quilt artists take inspiration from everything in the world around them, including living creatures. This exhibit will show you a wide range of fiber art created between 1984 to 2013 that celebrates quilted creatures. This quilt, by Caryl Bryer Faller-Gentry brings traditional and modern quilting styles together in a wonderful way. The two ribbons that dance across the quilt are filled with traditional "Flying Geese" quilt blocks, which are echoed in the literal flying geese silhouetted in black across the center of the quilt.

Great American Elk (1994) by Chizuko Hana HillThe National Quilt Museum

Great American Elk

Some of these quilters have chosen an animal to be the grand focal point of thier art, like this quilt from Chizuko Hana Hill.

Organic Garden (2006) by Bonnie KellerThe National Quilt Museum

Organic Garden

While others, like Bonnie Keller, have chosen to tuck smaller creatures like mice, birds, and insects into the delicate designs of their work.

Can you see them?

Ricky and Lucy (2013) by Nancy Sterett Martin and Karen SistekThe National Quilt Museum

Many quilt artists strive for realism.....

Birds of Paradise (2003) by Pat CampbellThe National Quilt Museum

...while others take a more fantastical approach:

Ms. MacDonald Had a Farm (2011) by Bonnie L. Keller and The Hanging by a Thread Quilt GroupThe National Quilt Museum

Ms. MacDonald Had a Farm

Some quilts are a unique mix of fantasy and realism, like this one, made by a group of 12 quilters called The Hanging by a Thread Quilt Club. This quilt is filled with amazing details, like the onomatopoeias above each animal, and the tracks and paw prints in the background. Double-click the image to take a closer look!

Animals and Places

Many people associate certain animals with specific places, like this one: Churchill Downs Horse Race Track in Louisville, KY, U.S. Notice the two pointed grey towers above the stadium seats. This horse racing track was a point of inspiration for Charlotte Warr Anderson in Three for the Crown and for Shirley P. Kelly in Flowers of the Crown.

Three for the Crown (1987) by Charlotte Warr AndersenThe National Quilt Museum

Three for the Crown

In the top left, you can see the pointed grey towers of Churchill Downs. The other two locations pictured (Pimlico Race Course and Belmont Park) make up the Triple Crown Races of the United States.

Flowers of the Crown (2003) by Shirley P. KellyThe National Quilt Museum

Flowers of the Crown

Again, you can see the towers of Churchill Downs in the open book depicting a "derby triumph" in this quilt by Shirley P. Kelly.

Pandas 'Round the World (1993) by Shirley P. KellyThe National Quilt Museum

Pandas 'Round the World

As you can see, the connections between animals and places lead to an amazing creative process for Shirley P Kelly. About this quilt she recalls, “Years ago, we took our two children to the National Zoo to see Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing. What fascinating creatures they were, still young enough to be very active. I took dozens of snapshots, bought a stuffed toy, some books, and postcards and my obsession with pandas was off and running. At last count, fewer than 1000 wild pandas are found in two small preserves where human encroachment still threatens what is left of their fragile environment."

Puffins (2004) by Shirley P. KellyThe National Quilt Museum


“My mother...was born 92 years ago in Nova Scotia, Canada.  When visiting my Canadian cousins 13 years ago, I took nearly 100 pictures of sea birds off the coast of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia...I never would have had those pictures if my mother hadn’t insisted on the excursion to see her ‘native’ birds.  Every bird made me smile as I remembered her excitement.  Puffins is dedicated to her for her inspiration.” -Shirley P. Kelly

Javanese Jungle (1988) by Audree L. SellsThe National Quilt Museum

Javanese Jungle

Audree L. Sells, who is from  Minnesota, U.S. didn't have to travel far to find her inspiration for this quilt, but the quilt is a reflection of multiple places and cultures.  "The design of this quilt was adapted from an original batik by Emilie Von Kerckhoff, a Dutch artist known for her paintings and batiks," said Audree. Java is known for its very distinctive batik tradition.

Paisley Peacock (2009) by Pat HollyThe National Quilt Museum

Paisley Peacock

Pat Holly's quilt is also the result of inspiration from several places. She says “I do all my own designing and love looking at textiles from all over the world for ideas. I took a trip to England and Scotland with the Costume Society of America and we were able to see many amazing antique textiles in several museums. The idea for the center of this quilt came from a picture I saw of a chintz fabric from India that had a peacock turning into a paisley. The outer borders were inspired by an exhibit I saw at the Burrell Collection outside of Glasgow, Scotland. The textiles in this exhibit were beautiful Suzani embroideries, from Uzbekistan."

Breeze (2006) by Rachel WetzlerThe National Quilt Museum


This quilt shows the most familiar place: home - and the most familiar animal: our own cherished pet. Rachel Wetzler's quilt depicts a seemingly small space filled with rich detail and familiarity.

Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Are you familiar enough with this common pet to see all five dogs in this quilt? Sharon Malec has made over 60 quilts featuring the beloved animal.

Goato and Friends (1996) by Barbara BarberThe National Quilt Museum

Goato and Friends

Barbara Barber's quilt features actual animals she encountered in her daily life. She recalls: "I would never have made it if it hadn’t been for Goato, a goat that lived across the field from us. A lovely fellow with a complex character and high intelligence, Goato provided me and my family with incentive for a good walk."

Serenity II: Life in My Pond, Donna Duchesne Garofalo, 1985, From the collection of: The National Quilt Museum
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Many of us encounter animals in our own daily lives...

Corn Crib, Adabelle Dreman, 1989, From the collection of: The National Quilt Museum
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Feathered Beauties, Pamela Humphries, 2005, From the collection of: The National Quilt Museum
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Discovery, Francelise Dawkins, 1991, From the collection of: The National Quilt Museum
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Feathered Friends, Carolyn & Wilma Johnson, 1984, From the collection of: The National Quilt Museum
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Phoenix Rising (1987) by Nancy ClarkThe National Quilt Museum

...but there are some creatures we've never met, though we all know them.

Petroglyph (1997) by Patricia L. StyringThe National Quilt Museum

They are found in the realms of artistic creation, like quilts, or stories:

Tribute to Tolkein (2012) by Sue McCartyThe National Quilt Museum

Tribute to Tolkien (and Adventure Awaits)

These two quilts by Sue McCarty are inspired by the literary works of J. R. R. Tolkien. References to his story abound in both of them, including creatures both magical and non-magical.

Adventure Awaits (2010) by Sue McCartyThe National Quilt Museum

Adventure Awaits has over 30 animals stitched into its complex design.

To many of us, the phoenix and the dragon are as familiar as the cat or dog.

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (1993) by Laura HeineThe National Quilt Museum

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

Laura Heine's quilt is also inspired by a work of fiction - her quilt shares a title with the famous childrens' book by Dr. Seuss.

Olde English Medallion (1992) by Cindy Vermillion HamiltonThe National Quilt Museum

From very traditional styles.....

Dancing in the Light (2008) by Ellen Anne EddyThe National Quilt Museum very modern styles...

The Beginnings (1990) by Dawn AmosThe National Quilt Museum

...and all those in between...

Sun-Bathing Blue Tit (2004) by Inge Mardal & Steen HougsThe National Quilt Museum

Sunbathing Blue Tit

...this exhibit is a wonderful example of the vibrant art of quilt making. The National Quilt Museum is home to over 500 incredible works of fiber art and features changing exhibits highlighting work from quilt artists around the world.

Credits: Story

All quilts are part of the Collection of the National Quilt Museum, Paducah, Kentucky, United States.

Image rights belong to the individual artists credited.

This virtual exhibit was created by Laura Hendrickson, Registrar.

"Into the Wild - Creature Quilts" originally exhibited at The National Quilt Museum from February 26th to April 7th, 2015, curated by Judy Schwender, Curator/Registrar.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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