In 2016 I made an art quilt out of leather. I made it for an exhibit called HerStory, about American women who have made groundbreaking achievements. The first woman I thought of was Dr. Temple Grandin. My brother in law was in agriculture and had worked with her years ago. My sister shared with me a book about Dr. Grandin, which informed me of her childhood and struggles with autism. She currently is a professor of Animal Sciences at Colorado State University. There is a wonderful movie about her, called Temple Grandin - you should see it if you have not done so.
While I was thinking about making her portrait, a friend gave me some large pieces of pumpkin colored leather he had found at a garage sale. Since Temple worked with cattle and horses, I decided I would try and do the portrait on leather! I purchased special needles and learned that stitching on leather is not much different than on fabric. I chose to use the inside of the leather pieces, as they were wonderfully soft like suede.
I painted the details and shading with oil paint, and added drawings of some cattle pens and chutes in the background. On the back of the quilt is a blue sky and white cloud fabric, which is reminiscent of a scene in the movie where Temple is seeing images in the clouds.
The quilt was submitted for jurying, along with another one that I made to honor Susan Shie, an artist who has overcome a vision disability to become a rockstar art quilter. In January of 2017, I received from the jurors a happy email about Susan's quilt, and a 'We're sorry' email about Temple's. Susan's quilt is still traveling the world with the HerStory exhibit, and Temple's went into a pile under the bed in my guest room.
In September of 2017, I wrote an email to someone at Colorado State University, where Dr. Grandin is a professor. I asked if they would consider purchasing the quilt and placing it somewhere in the university to honor her. Apparently they were not interested in this idea, as I never heard back from them. Then on November 1st, my dad passed away, and I had other concerns than to follow up on the quilt purchase.
Fast forward to January of 2021. I pulled the quilts from under the bed to say hello and to restack them. I set Temple aside, deciding to finally follow up . In doing some further research online, I discovered that she had earned her doctorate at the University of Illinois. I was born in Illinois and decided I would offer the quilt to them. This time, I offered it, not for sale, but as a donation. I found the gentleman in charge of Animal Sciences on the U of I website, and sent him the story of this quilt. Within an hour, I received an enthusiastic, affirmative response from Dr. Rodney Johnson. He had worked with Dr. Grandin and shared an office with her, so he was as excited about honoring her as I am. He tells me that the quilt will be displayed in a glass case in the Animal Sciences Laboratory at the university in Champaign Urbana. I'm delighted that Temple's quilt will get to come out from under the bed and be seen and appreciated by people there at U of I.
Don't you just LOVE a happy ending?