Devils Lake's Eldeen Geist never thought one of the many quilts she has made over the years would end up traveling through China in an art exhibition. However, that is precisely what happened as one of her quilts called "Falling Leaves" is currently part of an exhibition called "The Sum of Many Parts: 25 Quilters from 21st Century America."
"The Sum of Many Parts" includes 25 quilts from quilters throughout the U.S. and will appear in five venues throughout China from 2012-2014. It is being commissioned by the U.S. Embassy-Beijing and was developed and is being managed by several U.S. groups - Arts Midwest and South Arts, with additional assistance from the Great Lakes Quilt Center at Michigan State University.
Having her quilt accepted by the exhibition came as a complete surprise to Geist as was one her sons, Troyd, who lives in Fargo, surprised her by entering one of her quilts for consideration approximately one and half years ago. Geist says she "felt awfully humbled" to have her quilt in the exhibition, saying she doesn't always follow some of the traditional quilting tactics.
"I do things my own way," Geist said.
Geist estimates she has made at least 50 quilts over the years. She decided to make "Falling Leaves" with wool she bought at a bag sale at the Dakota Boy's Ranch Second Chance Store. She said she washed the wool and tie died some of it and then painstakingly cut out each of the some 100 leaves by hand.
She grew up with a mother who liked to sew and started sewing at nine years old. She started quilting as an adult and makes them primarily for family but also makes some as gifts. Some of the more memorable quilts Geist has made include an iron cross quilt for one of her son's professors at North Dakota State University, Dr. Timothy Kloberdanz, when the two discovered they shared interest in iron crosses found in cemeteries across North Dakota."
Geist also made a colorful quilt for renowned North Dakota storyteller and historian Mary Louise Defender Wilson that featured images that brought to life some of her Native American stories. Unfortunately, the quilt was destroyed in a fire in Wilson's home. She also made a very special quilt for her sister, who was only 1 1/2 years old when their father died at age 37, out of his silk ties.
Geist and her husband, Gerald, have five children and two grandchildren. She is originally from Steele, N.D., and she and Gerald moved to Devils Lake 46 years ago so their oldest son, who is deaf, could attend the School for the Deaf.
In addition to Geist, another North Dakota woman, Patricia Renault Stuen from Wahpeton, has a quilt in "The Sum of Many Parts" exhibition.
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