Meet Margot McDonnell of the Phoenix Area.
No one on either side of my Midwestern family quilted or sewed, but when I was 15, our family picked up and moved to Arizona where my parents started what would become a successful “sewing” business. Dad had just learned to monogram on a hand-guided machine invented by an uncle. It not only produced fine lettering but also allowed him to threadpaint art pieces long before the term was invented by quilters. His creations were incredible. I treasure each one he left to me.
As a young married woman with four children, I went to work for Dad, and there in the back room of his shop learned to hand applique and embroider. I designed and sewed kids, birds, animals, flowers—whatever the customer wanted—on cashmere sweaters. I loved my job and stayed on until Dad retired. Then, after returning to school for an MFA degree, I taught high school and college English for many years.
On a whim, when my sullen daughter Libby turned 16, I decided to make her a quilt on my old Singer, hoping she would “come around.” I knew nothing about ¼” seams, templates, cornerstones, or sashing, but when it was finished, I considered what I had done close to miraculous. Unfortunately, Libby was both unimpressed and unchanged. The bug had bitten me, however, and soon I had a studio with all the bells and whistles and plenty of fabric to play with. (My daughter has since become a wonderful friend and artist in her own right.)
Today I focus on art quilts, though I make several traditional charity quilts each year. Working from a vintage black-and-white photo, I base my choice on its composition as well as its emotional pull and enjoy interpreting color. Sometimes I hand applique everything. Other times I fuse. But for texture I nearly always add paint and embroidery. Recently, I’ve begun to teach the process. It’s always good to share!
My quilts have hung in shows and special exhibits around the country, appeared in magazines, and won awards. Arboretum was featured on a TV show. Two of my patterns also have been published in magazines, and Jerome, almost tossed in the recycling bin because of a product that nearly ruined it, earned two blue ribbons and made the 2016 Quilting Arts Calendar.
I credit the Mavericks chapter of AQG for inspiration and encouragement to reach higher through challenges. Two of my own challenges, the Mill Avenue Street Scene and The Tempe Maple and Ash District had several showings. As the AQG show’s Hanging Chair, March, 2015, I recruited Mavericks volunteers to put up 50 of our art quilts and was also honored to be one of six who created Spirit of Sedona that won the Arizona Quilter’s Hall of Fame Award for 2015.
In the long run, though, it’s not about winning or achieving; it’s about the process and the value of connecting with likeminded quilting friends who create and grow alongside you.
Margot McDonnel Quilt Gallery