MY ART STORY by

Sharyl McCulloch

Sisters
Oregon

Knilt resized for NEA.jpg

A knitted and quilted blue scarf.

A "knilt"--a combination of knitted and quilted scarf--by Sharyl McCulloch. Photo courtesy of artist

This summer, the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show (SOQS), in the small town of Sisters in Central Oregon, celebrates 40 years.

The largest outdoor quilt show in the world began with one quilter opening a small quilting/fabric store, and her brainstorm of hanging local quilters’ work outside her front door. The Sisters Stitchin’ Post and owner Jean Wells were about to make history, and contribute substantially to the economic growth of a small town and entire Central Oregon region.

Thanks to Jean’s amazing vision and enthusiastic response, the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show became an annual event. Picture a town-wide FREE celebration with quilts hung from every business, fiber arts displays, special exhibitions, and a full class schedule during the preceding five days. Now a nonprofit organization dependent entirely on support from sponsors, grantors, and donors, the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show welcomes 12,000 visitors for its one-day event. Yes—one day. An army of volunteers, organized and supervised by a small staff of three part-time staff, hangs 1,300 quilts in the morning and takes them down in the evening.

I know this because I am a proud volunteer board member of SOQS. A disclaimer here: I am NOT a quilter, but was asked to serve due to my career background in the tourism/hospitality industry and experience in marketing and nonprofit management. However, I have always been a fan of fiber arts. And the inspiration of the Quilt Show and marveling at the creativity and talent each year led me to a journey of my own.

Attracted to the colors and textures of both yarn and fabric, I took one knitting class at the Stitchin’ Post, which had grown over the years to include yarns and a small gift shop and gallery. I enjoyed it, but was really inspired by another class I took in knitting and knotting with mixed media.

Five years later, I found myself selling my work, participating in juried shows, and exhibiting in a local gallery. I’m even teaching some classes. I’m probably the most surprised—along with my two best friends who both said they can’t believe I can “sit down long enough” to design and create fiber arts!

I credit and thank Jean, who has become a mentor and friend, as well as the encouragement and response of my customers. I continue to explore and design, and at this point I can safely say that my passion has become an obsession.

Those of us in the creative world—sometimes I can’t believe I am putting myself in that category!—like to say it’s something about our beautiful environment. The town of Sisters is nestled against the Three Sisters mountains, part of the Northwest Cascade mountain range. Lakes, streams, ponderosa pine sage, and juniper abound, with beautiful hiking and many other recreational opportunities. The view from my back deck is a large canyon with a creek audibly flowing at the bottom, deer and rabbits constant visitors, and Golden Eagles soaring overhead. Predictably, my designs are now trending into “nature-inspired” designs.

My studio is full, my stash and project-list are growing, and my journey is a joy. May try weaving next…..

Sharyl McCulloch
Sisters, OR