Carolyn O’Bagy-Davis, of Tucson, Arizona, doesn’t consider herself much of a quiltmaker. That designation, she says, is for others in her family. However, that doesn’t mean that Carolyn’s life is any less influenced by quilting. She was the Founding President of Tucson Quilters Guild, helping create that organization in 1976. Indeed, much of her personal and professional life has centered around quilting activities.
Carolyn almost single-handedly moved the art and craft of quiltmaking from women’s work of little value, into the realm of archeology, anthropology and valued in academia. Most known for her work with the Hopi tribe, Carolyn discovered a quilting tradition. A tradition so strong that major life transitions; birth, marriage, and death; were commemorated with the making of quilts. Her research culminated in a major exhibit, Quilting from the Hopi Mesas; a book, Hopi Quiltmaking: Stitched Traditions from an Ancient Community; and a PBS documentary film,Hopi Quilts.
Carolyn served as curator and consultant to many other quilt exhibitions, including Native Quilters of the Southwest (2004); Portraits of Cloth: Tohono O’Odham Quilts of Goldie Richmond (1999); and Quilted all Day: The Prairie Journals of Ida Chambers Melugin (1997.) Research on Goldie Richmond led to one of her quilts being selected for publication in The Twentieth Century’s Best American Quilts. Carolyn has had articles published inUncoverings, the Journal of the American Quilt Study Group and Quilters Newsletter Magazine. She has appeared on Simply Quilts with Alex Anderson (HGTV) and American Quilter (Lifetime.)
Carolyn’s research has led her throughout the American Southwest and to interesting experiences. In accepting her recognition, which carried the first “Friends of Arizona Quilters Hall of Fame Favorite” designation, she talked about calling upon her inner courage to drive in a snowstorm, thinking these were the normal conditions of the area, only to find upon reaching her destination that it was a blizzard and the roads were “closed.” She laughed at the memory of being passionately kissed by an almost 90-year-old man that the conclusion of their interview. We suspect that Carolyn’s personal story is as interesting as those of the women she has researched and written about throughout her career.
Images supplied by Carolyn O’Bagy-Davis