The Art of Quilting: Gallery Q at the Susi Q announces winners of its recent exhibition

The word “quilt” comes from the Latin “culcita,” meaning, of all things, “a stuffed sack.” That bare-bones and rather disparaging definition might have made sense when frugal early settlers cobbled together discarded pieces of fabric with filler to create coverings designed solely to keep people warm.

But quilts are no longer simply “cloth sandwiches,” not by any stretch. As Gallery Q’s ongoing virtual exhibition – Building a Beautiful World One Quilt at a Time – clearly demonstrates, quilts have transcended their utilitarian origins and over time have evolved into stunning works of art.

More than that: ask any quilter, and they’ll tell you that there are many dimensions to creating the perfect pattern. Quilters love quilting because it’s a method of storytelling: the techniques, the motifs, and the fabric itself all have significance. 

Just take a look at the winning quilts – or even better, visit to see all the entries – and you’ll appreciate their depth and beauty.

First prize of $200 went to Meg Monahan for Queen’s Cross; second prize of $100 was awarded to Del Thomas for Cactus Flower; and Carol Nilsen won third prize for Convolutions.

The Art Meg

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

First-place winner Meg Monahan

Laguna Beach Seniors’ finance manager and Gallery Q art coordinator Judy Baker says that though she is an artist herself, she had no idea, before launching the exhibition, how creative and life-like fabric art could be. 

“I’ve got to try it someday. It was new and so interesting for me to read about all that goes into making a quilt, the number of hours it takes, and how many unique styles there are.

“We were thrilled to receive so many beautiful, imaginative entries. It wasn’t easy to choose winners. The judges are in awe of the talent on display.”

The Art Queens

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Meg Monahan’s quilt: “Queen’s Cross”

First-place winner Meg Monahan, a local resident who in the past served on Laguna’s Design Review Board, explains what attracted her to quilting.

“Quilting gives me the satisfaction and peace of mind I experienced when I practiced landscape architecture. It involves combining colors, pattern, and technical skill to create a functional art piece,” Meg says. “The Queen’s Cross quilt is made from a commercially available pattern designed by Jen Kingwell that involves several different techniques for combining fabrics. 

“The entire quilt is made up of fabrics designed by the Kaffe Fassett Collective, a fabric design group from the United Kingdom. I love working with their fabrics because they combine an abundance of colors that come together in unexpected ways.”

It’s been twelve years since Meg began quilting. She still sews almost every day and makes four to six quilts annually. She has donated quilts to local organizations to raise funds in silent auctions, made many for family and friends, and has her own collection at home.

Quilters also say they love quilting because much like cooking, it’s a creative endeavor that fulfills a basic human need. A quilt is truly a special gift because it is beautiful and also keeps the recipient warm. 

The Art Del

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Second-place winner Del Thomas

And inspiration can come from travel, photographs, or nature, to name just a few sources.

Second-place winner Del Thomas is a case in point. Her quilt Cactus Flower was inspired by Del’s frequent visits to the deserts of California and Arizona and seeing the beautiful cactus blossoms, so brilliant in the drab, dusty landscape, she says.

“I used Ruth B McDowell’s method of drawing the design and piecing the entire quilt on the machine,” Del explains. “The free motion quilting was done on a domestic Pfaff sewing machine. The center of the flower was enhanced with paints.”  

Del is no newbie when it comes to quilting. She made her first handmade dolly quilt in 1945 with instructions from her grandmother. 

“Over the years I’ve made bed quilts, baby quilts, commemorative quilts, art quilts, quilts for charities, and many, many blocks for group or friendship quilts. In 1981, the Orange County Quilters Guild was formed, offering quilters a group of like-minded women to share their love of quilting.

“I’ve been a member of that guild and a half a dozen others since then, and those friendships are a large part of my life,” she says.

The Art Cactus

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Del’s quilt: “Cactus Flower”

Some quilters enjoy the art because they feel tied to an American tradition that (aside from the invention of sewing machines) has not changed much since the 18th century. But while the tradition endures, the sense of what a quilt might represent beyond warmth has certainly changed.

For example, third-place winner Carol Nilsen’s exceedingly creative Convolutions quilt was inspired by an aerial photograph taken by Laguna Beach’s preeminent photographer, and her friend, Tom Lamb. 

“Tom has been most generous is allowing me to base fiber-work pieces on several of his photographs,” Carol says. “I distorted his photo of tractor tracks turning at the end of farm rows, adding more curves and turns until no sober farmer, or even Tom, could recognize the design. But Tom’s photo was my inspiration.

“It’s all about color and texture! I love fiber – from vintage or just up-cycled bits from rummage sales or charity shops, to new silks and linens that I dye myself. I love putting the pieces together, using widely differing techniques depending on the image I’m trying to achieve. 

I created this piece also from metallics found in used clothing, including a tattered old kimono.” 

The Art Carol

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Third-place winner Carol Nilsen

Now retired from teaching but still living in Laguna Beach with retired pilot husband Roger and dogs Magellan, Zephyr, and Higgs, Carol is happy to dote on grandson Rowan and focus on fiber arts. She has exhibited her work across the United States.

The three winning quilters agree: Quilting is an art form that is both pleasing and relaxing. They agree also that Susi Q is a blessing to the community.

“Laguna Beach is lucky to have Susi Q as our community center,” Meg says. “I have taken classes in everything from foreign policy to laughter yoga; exhibited quilts and mosaic art; and offered tax preparation services to our community members. Susi Q offers and brings out the best in our community members.”

The Art Convolutions

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Carol’s quilt: “Convolutions”

Carol is also effusive about the value of Susi Q to Laguna.

“Susi Q, to me, represents the best spirit of our town. First, of course, the vision and generous donation from the Quilter family, followed by their partnering with our city. That spirit of cooperation and civic generosity is as admirable as it is rare. 

“Second, the welcoming sculpture – the shoe collection beneath the street entrance bench – is a delightful invitation to classes and even a whimsical yet poignant sort of window into the souls/soles of Susi Q patrons.

“And I love the lighthearted, sweetly personal, gently quixotic name. It’s not the Quilter Memorial Civic and Recreational Center of Laguna Beach. It’s the Susi Q, and quintessentially Laguna. 

“Finally, I love the way Laguna uses the place. Lagunans from every demographic find their way to the Susi Q. From toddler movement sessions and voting places to city meetings, art exhibits, and senior computer classes – it’s all there. And so are most of us.”

Executive director of Laguna Beach Seniors Nadia Babayi is extremely proud of Gallery Q’s initiative to showcase the work of emerging and established artists in Laguna.

“This exhibition is spectacular,” she notes. “And it seems particularly apt, given the Quilter family’s involvement in the founding and continuing success of our Susi Q programs and outreach!”

Building a Beautiful World One Quilt at a Time, the virtual art exhibition, will be available through March 11 by going to and clicking on Gallery Q, or linking directly to

As part of a nonprofit organization, Gallery Q at The Susi Q is not able to assist in the sales process. All transactions and delivery are strictly between artists and buyers. Donations to Gallery Q or Laguna Beach Seniors at the Susi Q are greatly appreciated and are tax deductible.