Quilt artist Marva Dalebout isn't one to rest easy with conformity.
Faced with a pattern that's been done a hundred times before, she adds a row of sequins or a pair of buttons. She tosses in a bit of metallic fabric. She may cut up a square into shapes that go every which way and piece it back together, or add a cockeyed look to the roosters on her African quilt.Told she can't paint the door on her condominium anything other than the same color as everyone else's, she creates a quilt replete with condos decorated to the max with polka dots, stripes and color.
"I have to do it different. I never do the same thing twice," says the St. George artist who spends her summers in Orem. "I've always been like that. I would take a traditional quilt design and change it. I draw on my imagination."
Dalebout's work is on display at the SCERA Art Center at 745 S. State Monday through Saturday from noon to 9 p.m. this month.
The 46 panels are not really quilts, although she's an accomplished and respected quilter - with 16-18 meticulous tiny stitches in an average inch where most quilters put in eight to 10.
Her quilts are fabric paintings, each telling a story or depicting something from Dalebout's life experiences that she wants to com-mem-o-rate.
The one titled "Miracle of Seagulls" ran as the cover of the June 1992 Ensign magazine, published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"The Morning Breaks" hangs on the wall, encased in glass in the church's Relief Society building.
One of the two she absolutely will never sell is "Down Hollyhock Lane," a fabric illustration of two young girls playing dress up with the baby. It won first place in the Great American Quilt Festival and traveled the world for three years.
The other is her "Grandmother's Picket Fence" and is a riotous display of hundreds of flowers among the white rails.
"Hilltop Town" is a depiction in patchwork of Park City. "Entrada" is a quilted picture of the Great White Throne in Zion's National Park.
"The Vision" is her centennial quilt. "Indian Working Women" is a series of pieces that tell stories of the women she believes haven't had adequate attention for their place in history.
Some of the quilts feature Dalebout herself in the picture, painstakingly hand stitching her art together while others run by with their sewing machines, teaching others at quilt shows how she creates her artwork.
Another is a set of four "doodles" of ladies she used to sit and sketch in high school.
"These are my journal," Dale-bout said. "There's a story behind every one."
She hasn't always painted with bits and pieces of fabric, only for the past 18 years. She originally worked in oils but became allergic to the paints.
"I believe women should create and leave new and creative art for the next generation to cherish. I do it all by hand. I think it looks softer."
All of her work is done on a hardwood $8 hand loom.
She's probably created more than 100 original designs thus far, including her famous butterfly series that are admired by quilters all over the country.
She's now 70 and brimming with ideas. "There'll never be enough time to do them all," she said, especially since she's contracted a kind of muscle disease that's slowly but consistently robbing her of strength.
"I've always said if my hands and eyes hold out, I'll be OK," she said, determined to make the most of each day.
She creates in a vast workroom in her home in St. George, saving scraps and fabrics as she goes for future projects. Right now, she has a pile of fabrics stacking up to go into a jungle quilt.
She stocks "African fabrics," "Indian fabrics," "flower fabrics," a whole variety of possibilities.
She creates not just original designs but innovative techniques that build on quilting, cutting, applique and reverse applique - like that used in "Hawaiian Potpourri" hanging, a piece that took her an entire year to complete.
She invented a type of construction known as curved patchwork and teaches people her technique. She's interested in seeing patchwork art live on as an art form long after she's gone.
"I consider quilting my legacy. I am at peace with patchwork. Stress and problems seem to fade away when I have a needle and thread and a piece of fabric in my hands," she said.