Gina's Fun Passion

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"Snorkeling in Hawaii" is the title of this work by Gina Perkes. In a sweet tradition Perkes plans to continue, her son, Dalton, drew a seahorse and appliquéd a whale in this oceanic quilt.

The ribbons on Gina Perkes' wall tell the story of a young mother who taught herself an art form that is gaining popularity across America.

Perkes' quilts have won awards on state and national levels.

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Wild animal fabrics give "Untamed Splendor" its name.

Her "Masquerade" is traveling with the $100,000 Quilt Challenge show.

"Masquerade" previously took Best of Show at the Arizona Quilters Show and a Best in Contest at the American Quilters Guild show in Nashville.

She posed with one of her quilts for an advertisement for Gammill, the manufacturer of long-arm quilting machines.

Perkes has always been artistic, but she only started quilting nine years ago, when she was pregnant with her second child, Dalton.

The nesting instinct overtook her and she began to quilt with the new sewing machine, a gift from her family.

Dalton is now nine-years-old -- he sketched a seahorse that Perkes stitched into a seascape design she quilted for her mother.

Perkes' 12-year-old daughter, Rylie, is a beginning quilter. Rylie, Gina, her mother and grandmother were the subjects of a family feature in the February/March issue of American Quilter magazine.

"My grandmother was a seamstress. She sewed my aunt's business suits, her wedding dress and she taught me how to sew clothing," Perkes said.

The artistic bug bit hard and soon after, Perkes made that first quilt. Then everyone in her family had a quilt for their bed and quilts to cuddle with on the couch.

The more techniques Perkes taught herself, the more confidence she gained.

"You only need so many utility quilts around the house," Perkes said.

The quilts she saw at International Quilt Association's Texas show amazed and intimidated Perkes.

Still, she decided to give herself permission to let go and be original.

She started designing show quilts.

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Gina Perkes and her parrot, Birdie

She is still proud of an early quilt made in a freeform starburst pattern, but can see how refined her techniques and color compositions have grown over time.

She likes to play with complementary colors, sometimes using a wheel, sometimes simply laying out fabrics until she finds the perfect combination.

"I get a lot of inspiration from decorative paper, another hobby of mine," she said.

At times Perkes' muse leads her to a traditional path and she spends hours piecing fabric together.

A design might happen spontaneously as she quilts; or it could start out as a symmetrical sketch.

"Complementary" is a combination of techniques. The center pair of birds she appliquéd in blue, orange and white. Perkes drew the exquisite featherlike patterns that surround the birds as a mirror image of one triangular section within a square.

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Perkes has always been interested in designer fashions. She began quilting garments about a year after she began quilting. At left is Perkes' award-winning "Complementary."

The Swarovski crystals sparkle and highlight the fabric colors.

"I'm still a little bit intimidated, but I am a person who likes competition and I like to be challenged to come up with new ideas," she said.

Perkes' next project is to quilt the chartreuse and red top she recently finished appliquéing.

After that, she has another ocean-themed quilt in her head.

Or maybe, it will be a quilt designed around the companion who talks to her and plays with his toys while she sews -- Birdie the parrot.

"He is so beautiful. Each feather has such detail. Look at his feet and claws. He is just begging to be quilted," she said.

The quilt in her head is a monochromatic piece of black and grey with red details, like Birdie's tail feathers.

When Perkes is not taking care of her family or quilting she enjoys decorating cakes, fine art and portrait photography and paper crafts.

"I bounce around artistically, but I always come back to quilting," she said.

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