Hinsdale quilter heads to national competition
Joan Chao prefers brighter colors in her quilts. Chao recently had one of her quilts selected for an international quilting expo award. | Jon Langham—for Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 7, 2012 6:04AM
HINSDALE — For Joan Chao, each of her quilts is like a work of art.
Instead of paint or clay, the Hinsdale resident employs a sewing machine and various pieces of fabric to create a canvas of bold colors and shapes.
And like any good artist, Chao requires the proper inspiration to move forward with her work. Sometimes she can sew for a while piecing together her work in her spare time. And other times, she has to leave her project alone and wait for her inspiration to return. The creativity involved in quilting is the best part of the craft, she said.
“When it starts finally coming together … that is really the one part I like about quilting,” Chao said.
Thousands of people will get to see one of her pieces of art as her quilt “Starburst” is part of quilt contest this week at the Wisconsin Public Television Quilting Expo at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wis.
Chao’s quilt is one of more than 300 quilts entered into this year’s contest and come from all over the United States, including California, Washington and Florida, said Lynn Brockmeyer, senior publicist for Wisconsin Public Television. Chao’s entry is one of 45 entries from Illinois.
There are also a couple of entries from Germany, Brockmeyer said.
The competition awards monetary prizes for first, second and third place finishes in each of the 10 quilting categories, Brockmeyer said. There are also awards for the quilts voted Best of Show and Viewers’ Choice.
It took Chao about six months to put together “Starburst,” piecing it together in her free time.
Chao has been quilting for 22 years, but this is the first time she’s entered a contest of this kind. She plans to be in Madison for the expo.
“I’m so excited and I’m go to go and see it,” she said.
The fact that Chao’s entry was accepted into the competition did not come as a surprise for Chao’s friend Terri Karls. They are both members of two of the Salt Creek Quilters Guild, which meets in Hinsdale and The Chicago Modern Quilt Guild.
Chao is very talented at her craft, Karls said, but noted Chao also has a very good sense of humor. She doesn’t take things too seriously.
“Overall she is a good quilter and she’s fun to be around,” Karls said.
Chao got into quilting, she said, because she was looking for a hobby. She learned to sew in the seventh grade and was inspired to take up this particular craft partly by Amish-style quilts. She thought those type of quilts were gorgeous.
And there were practical reasons, she said. Many of her quilts have become presents for family and friends.
“I wanted to make something that lasts,” Chao said.