art, artist, aunt, Barbara Cooney, Bernard Waber, Books, Carolyn Colton, children's books, Christmas tree skirts, creativity, DuBose Heyward, Eric Carle, Graphic Design, ink stamps, Jacky Davis, Lady Bug Girl, Little Engine that Could, Love, Ludwig Bemelmans, Lyle Lyle Crocodile, Madeline, Margaret K. McElderry, Maryland, Maurice Sendak, Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, Miss Rumphius, My Father's Dragon, nephews, nieces, picture books, quilting, Ruth Stiles Gannett, Storybook Quilts, The Country Bunny and the Little Golden Shoes, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Utah, Virginia Lee Burton, Watty Piper, We're Going On A Bear Hunt, Where The Wild Things Are
This weekend we stayed with friends, and I met and got to know Carolyn Colton, a wonderful lady who makes storybook quilts. Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, Carolyn spent most of her life in Maryland and made her living as an attorney. (To my surprise, she knows my son and daughter-in-law very well. It really is a small world after all.) Seven years ago Carolyn retired and decided to develop her creative skills. She went back to school for an Associates degree in Graphic Design, and since then she has created some unusual and very beautiful pieces of art, including personalized address ink stamps, incredible Christmas tree skirts, and most impressive of all, storybook quilts. As she pulled up her file on her laptop and showed me pictures of each of her thirteen storybook quilts, I was amazed at the love, creativity, and care that went into each quilt. These are priceless treasures, created for her many great nieces and nephews. Each quilt averages 40 inches by 40 inches and is meant to hang on the child’s wall. Carolyn has always loved children’s picture books. When her nieces and nephews were growing up, she regularly gave them presents of books. In 2001 a dear friend introduced her to the modern methods of quilting, and she began making quilts as a creative outlet from the stresses her law practice. Her first storybook quilt was a team effort with a friend. In 2005, one of her nieces was expecting her first child, and her college friend was expecting her first grandchild. Carolyn thought it would be fun to make a quilt based upon the Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, and then give the book along with the quilt. So she designed it and her friend, who had never quilted before, helped with cutting out, embroidery and sewing. They made one for her friend’s grandbaby and one for her great nephew. Carolyn loved the result, and a new tradition was begun. Now, thirteen quilts later she is making these keepsakes for each of her “little greats.” Sometimes the new parents will pick the story, sometimes they will leave it up to Carolyn to pick. She then reads through the picture books and designs a scene that best depicted the story. Some, like My Father’s Dragon, took a week to complete. Others, like Miss Rumphius, took months, depending on how much time she could spend on it. Some of her other quilts depict The Little Engine that Could, Madeline, The Country Bunny and the Little Golden Shoes, Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. For We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, she created a number of scenes that move clockwise around the edges, and the bear is a separate piece that the child can move over the quilt. Each quilt is made with a bouquet of colors that match the mood and message of the book, and each is constructed using a variety of materials and techniques such as applique, ribbons, and piecing. The quilting itself, done by Carolyn on her home machine, is exquisite. I asked Carolyn if she had thought about making and selling her quilts, for if one had to pay for her time and the finished product, each quilt would be worth a great deal of money. Carolyn just smiled and shook her head. “I don’t want to do them for sale. Then they’d have to be perfect. When I make a quilt for the kids, I can make mistakes and they won’t care.” She told about one little nephew whose quilt of Lyle, Lyle Crocodile hangs above his bed. When he gets tucked in at night, he looks up at his quilt, and tells his mom, “Aunt Carolyn is a very, very, very nice aunt.” That’s all the reward she needs. She takes her passion for children’s books and pours her love for books and children into each quilt. “After all,” she says, “some of the best art is in picture books.” Her next project is for a sweet little niece and is based upon the book, Lady Bug Girl. I was honored to get to know Carolyn Colton. Here are some of her masterpieces.