Textile artist Sue King has eight artistic quilts displayed in national and state parks across the country. Her favorite is “Rendezvous Bound” hanging as the centerpiece at the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area’s Visitor Center.
“The quilt honors my cousin Mike Halley, a lifelong resident of Delaware County,” King said. “Mike was always the woodsman, as kids he had this coonskin cap that we all fought over to wear.”
King said she grew up on a farm halfway between Hilliard and Dublin. “Mike’s family lived in Delaware County and I spent a lot of my childhood at their house on Hyatts Road,” she said. “Those were great times.”
King said the piece captures the woodsman’s spirit of Halley, who passed away in October 2000.
“Your cousin is your best friend from birth,” King said. “Mike was an amazing man.”
King said she loves the outdoors and applies for Artist in Residence at national and state parks. She said her subject matter is usually centered around adventurous things that have to do with the wilderness. She said the residency programs include staying in the park often in historic housing or other facilities.
“The residence artist programs are usually for two weeks,” she said.
King said as a residence artist she gets to do things that regular visitors don’t. Many times she has had access to the park after hours or gone to areas that are not accessible to the general public.
King said family members had been pushing for her to do a quilt of Halley for a long time.
King said she had learn from research that Bighorn Canyon had a connection with mountain men. She said they were trappers in the area and would pass along the Bad Pass Trail in Bighorn Canyon to rendezvous and trade.
“In 2016 the residence program at Bighorn seemed like the perfect opportunity,” she said. “I lived in the ranger station for two weeks and completed the image of Mike while I was there. I did the background once I got home.”
King said the quilt is made entirely of textiles, fur from a pelt she had bought and a leather thong with an animal tooth and beads.
King has been quilting since 1976, but the last 10 years she’s been doing artistic quilts.
“Art quilts are different from the quilts your grandma made to put on your bed,” King said. “You’d never get a man to show up to a quilt show, that’s why I don’t call them quilt shows.”
King said she makes more than one quilt because each artist is required to donate a piece of work to the park within a year.
“There wouldn’t be national parks without artists,” she said. “I just love it when I’m out there; my spirit flies.”
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.