Carol Bruce’s creations biggest quilts at Ozark Quilt Fair

Carol Bruce’s creations biggest quilts at Ozark Quilt Fair

Say the word “quilter,” and it’s easy to picture a nice little granny lady in an apron, stitching while a homemade apple pie bakes in the oven.

It’s a lovely image. But it isn’t Carol Bruce.

Yes, Carol Bruce makes quilts. And she learned from her mother, her grandmothers and, as she says, “at least one” great-grandmother. But she’s also been a photographer, a ceramicist, a painter, a belly dancer, a costumer, a muralist — and she designs and sells quilt patterns. Her large wooden quilt blocks hang on the barn at the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History in Springdale, where visitors to this year’s Ozark Quilt Fair can see them Sept. 9.

“Every spring my mother would hang the quilts outside on the clothesline to air out,” Bruce says of her childhood in Tulsa, Okla. “I was fascinated with the colorful quilts, and learned that the workmanship and fabrics told about our family.”

Bruce says she started her creative journey sewing doll clothes and doll quilts.

“In a short time, I was probably sewing more on [my mother’s] Kenmore machine than she was, using up a good chunk of her fabric stash, which then had a large proportion of the printed flour sacks,” she says. “Mama encouraged me to create, and stepped in only when I asked for help. By high school I was making my own clothes.”

Bruce says that later her husband, Olen, was also supportive of her creativity — as wildly varied as it was!

“After the Air Force moved us to Las Vegas I ended up sewing and crafting at the ‘Siegfried and Roy’ show for nearly 10 years,” she explains. “Roy loved my photography and used some of my cat photos in their calendars. Then I found myself repairing and creating new wall murals at their Jungle Palace — and later, room size murals for the Viva Las Vegas themed wedding chapel/bed and breakfast.”

It was during that time period that she also photographed and marketed thousands of desert wildflowers and belly danced with a boa constrictor at a Caesar’s Palace toga party. But “somehow,” she says, “no matter how much I enjoy other crafting, painting, photography, I always go back to quilting.”

Looking for a career of sorts after “Siegfried and Roy,” Bruce knew selling quilts was not going to work. But patterns might be the answer.

“I put together a group of my pieces to show, asked some quilt shop owners, and began creating and selling patterns in 2001,” she says. “I asked the shop owners for ideas of patterns people ask for that they don’t have. Chickens! So I’ve done several chickens patterns. And my family is into fantasy and dragons, so of course there are dragon patterns. I’ve released a few pieced quilt patterns, but my fusible applique designs have been most popular.”

Bruce’s quilts have been shown in exhibits as prestigious as the International Quilt Festival, and her 9-by-12-inch art quilts have raised money for Alzheimer’s. She’s in demand to teach her technique for three-dimensional trees and is currently working on a “serious English hand paper pieced quilt using small hexagons assembled with micro hand stitches.”

“It was begun before the pandemic and is maybe three-quarters finished,” she says. “Of course, there are mounds of other UFOs (unfinished objects) in my sewing room as well. I bought my house in Farmington specifically for the large craft room — plus gardening space — but it is already out of room.

“What makes quilts special? They speak to us of warmth, comfort, a comforting hug from granny or mom, memories of home when we are away at school, of nurturing and kindness, of connections to family,” Bruce concludes. “Quilts are probably the items most passed down through generations.”


Ozark Quilt Fair

WHEN — 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sept. 9

WHERE — On the grounds of the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History in Springdale

COST — Free

INFO — 750-8165;

BONUS — The event will also include music by the Sons of Otis Malone, a food truck, children’s activities and more.

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