This was my second year of teaching at Art Quilt Tahoe (AQT) in beautiful Zephyr Cove, Nevada, though I suspect that for my student Gail Dunning (above) it was but one of many. Here she is pictured with her chameleon—started in my class last year and bringing it back to show her progress—before beginning a new project of a large and decorative elephant. Even though I’m only a two-timer at AQT, I can feel the camaraderie and the atmosphere of a large class reunion as the 5-day event opens on a Sunday evening.

For me, the previous Saturday night never really ended. Packing luggage merged right into leaving the house at 2 a.m. to catch a 3:15 a.m. bus from Portland, ME, to Logan Airport in Boston in order to catch a 7:30 flight to Seattle, WA. Coast to coast. Part of me is still amazed that travel like that is possible in a mere few hours—another part of me just gets exhausted thinking about it. Luckily for me, I’m one of those people who can sleep on planes or busses. It’s a bit of a Pavlov’s Dog effect. The engine revs up, there’s movement, and my eyelids get very heavy. I try to remember to tuck the travel pillow under my neck before I start to tip to one side or the other, hoping my mouth doesn’t fall open or I snore or drool.

I reminded myself that this two-week journey would be my final travels of the year, and buckle in.

Some in-flight photos above: Seattle lived up to it’s cloudy reputation with about 20 minutes of in-cloud descent. On the connecting flight to Reno, a weather delay while planes got deiced—watching snow start to melt off my window. I was grateful the Seattle airport had a variety of food to keep a vegan going—the spring rolls with peanut sauce were so good I went back for a second order. Rising above the cloud cover—sunny skies—and then a landscape that doesn’t look like Kansas anymore, Toto.

At Reno airport I caught the last shuttle to the Zephyr Point retreat center, along with a few more late arrivals. The sun set as we drove from city to winding rural roads, climbing to an elevation of 6000 feet. We arrived in time to drop our bags and join the rest of the attendees in the dining room and the opening of a week at Lake Tahoe. I slept well that night.

So it was Monday morning before I got my daylight look at this beautiful location. The retreat center is made up of an assortment of wooden buildings spread out over forested acreage with a narrow road connecting all. In the photos above, a building to the left of the dock housed many of the bedrooms, mine included, and the building to the right held three of the classrooms, mine on the upper floor.

The view out my bedroom window. It was beautiful even on the couple cloudy days we had that week.

Views of my classroom: (above left) looking up from shore-line to our windows; (above right) looking out those windows; (below) interior shot with my students well on their way and well engrossed in the week.

I had seven returning students out of a total of 20 in this class. All but one of the seven were in last year’s AQT class. Some came to continue on work they had started then and some began new work.

Pat Eyler brought back the portrait of her late husband, Bob. The photo below left, shows where she left off last year, the right photo shows it after some “tweeks” were added this year, but she had done a lot of work on her own as well. We talked about adding a little extra in the background of “Saint Bob” (Pat’s nickname, not mine). She decided to complete the portrait later, starting a new collage in the remaining class time instead.

Nadia Klukovitch, pictured below right, returned to my class to complete her fanciful sun/moon face. You can see by the photo that it’s a large image. Nadia picked up where she left off. It was fun for me to see it again—it’s big and bold and makes you smile.

This year, Nadia gave her sun/moon a background that sparkles with a lovely piece of sheer fabric embedded with glittered circles. She added many fun and flowery details, focusing on the rays but flowing into the faces as well. Plus, she had the time to add even more details with bits and pieces of glittered tulle and sheers in select areas on the image—emphasizing highlights, shadows, and the features. At the end of the week, Nadia triumphantly held up the collaged, glued, layered for quilting, and safety pin basted quilt sandwich—in all its shining glory—ready for quilting!

The beautiful portrait emerging below belongs to Randa Mulford and is an image of her daughter with a friend. Randa is another student who had attended last year’s class. You may remember the big purple dog face, “Winnie”, that I showed not only in the blog post from AQT 2016, but also in another teaching post when she showed the finished quilt at Empty Spools Seminar in CA this past March. Well, “Winnie” was accepted to this year’s International Quilt Festival juried show—congrats Randa!—and Winnie’s mom (a.k.a. Terri Wanke) came with Randa to attend this Art Quilt Tahoe class. Got that straight? Anyway, see the unfolding of Randa’s portrait of her daughter, Terri’s blue elephant, and all the other impressive class projects in the student work slide show below.

Student Work Slide Show

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My class—pictured left to right: standing in back—Diane Kubiak, Joey Connolly, Deborah Levas, Randa Mulford, Gail Dunning, Bambi Reile, Kim Gill, Katherine Reader, and me; seated middle row—Dorothy Bennett, Pat Bergeron, Terri Wanke, Missy Merriman, Nadia Klukovich, and Linda Bingham; seated front row—Sandy Fisher, Sheilah Capurro, Pat Eyler, Cyndy Rymer, Paulette Hawkins, and Candi Smith.

Though not an official member of the class, this feline visitor—who visited last year as well—wandered through the classroom and settled onto some comfy piles of fabric a few times during the week.

And also like last year, a few of us got up early to be out and walking at sunrise. I love spending some extra moments with teaching buddies Sue Benner and Katie Pasquini Masopust (Katie PM), joined once-in-awhile with other attendees (below right)—students past and present—Pavana Bohegian and Katherine Reader.

I think we all appreciated this sunrise, the first of the week!

There’s a lot of walking involved at Art Quilt Tahoe, even without our morning walks, so I brought along a nice new pair of waterproof walking shoes, called them my “teaching shoes” for the week, and prepared to get in some exercise over the course of each day.

A little walking tour from classroom to lunchroom…. Immediately outside my classroom door is this impressive stairway (above), dubbed the “stairmaster”. But luckily, to get to the dining room, you turn left and head down to the water.

When the light hits it right, Lake Tahoe water is a beautiful shade of aqua green. Parallel to the shore is the narrow access road. Turn left and it winds along past small cottages to the larger conference buildings.

The dining room is where you see just how many other attendees there are. In the center of this photo are instructors Velda Newman and the aforementioned, Katie PM.

Lunch and evening programs are provided by the teachers—there were 10 of us total. This evening, Rosalie Dace is giving a presentation.

Sue Benner and I may like each other so much ’cause we appreciate how the other dresses—we had a bit of a legging war going on. She won.

Walking back from breakfast on a damp morning, a rainbow over Lake Tahoe.

You don’t often hear a sewing machine in my classes, it tends to be all about the fabric collage itself. But in this AQT class, sewing machines came out twice! First was Bambi Reile (above left), who took my class a few years ago in California. Her big and beautiful black cat was begun there, tweeked and quilted here. Bambi then went on to get quite far along on another big cat of hers. Check it out in the student work slide show.

Linda Bingham (upper right) was hard to keep up with as I made my rounds through the class. She had a great idea to celebrate a certain bass fishing competition with the fish leaping over a particular bridge in a colorful and fanciful way. She just took off and had some fun, using fabrics in a very nicely collaged way (detail below).

A few of the Art Quilt Tahoe classes each year are are given the option to stay on for an extra two days of instruction. This year ten students stayed on in my class. Even after six days of plugging away long hours into the nighttime, Kim Gill and Missy Merriman both had great smiles for me.

“Oh darn, can’t drop an eyeball, will never find it again.”—quote from Candi Smith (of the pink sea turtle). Those are her tiny scraps on the floor shot below. I’m so proud of my students when creative messes happen. It shows that concentration is on the image they’re working on and not their surroundings. Even when there’s a “walk through” where conference students are invited to tour the classrooms, I try to catch my students before they tidy up too much—a bit of messiness expresses the energy of the class.

But then, the time comes for all good things to end and fabric does pack better when it’s re-folded and stacked into luggage to return home.

In the student slide show, you may have noticed all the lovely fabrics that went into Sherlock, the mini-schnauzer. Sheilah Capurro (below) concentrated on his portrait for the full six days. When Sheilah held him up for me to see, I noticed how Sherlock seemed to reflect the sunset colors from outside on this last evening at Lake Tahoe. How fitting.

Final sunset and final goodbyes at Art Quilt Tahoe 2017. A big thank you to all who make this conference possible including: organizers Judy and George Fenzel, their assistant extraordinaire Betisu Serno, the instructors who came from far and wide, my students and all the other attendees. It was a good week.

Morning Walks Slide Show

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After years of hearing about South African quilt teacher Rosalie Dace, I finally got to meet her. Gauging from what I had heard of her and saw of her work, I thought I’d probably like her—and did I! She is such a sweetie and now a new quilting buddy of mine. And notice how well our luggage looks together! We had an extra hour or so to chat in the shuttle back to Reno airport—not nearly long enough—I look forward to the next time our paths cross.

Inside the airport, Rosalie noticed that the South African flag and United States flag were hanging next to each other from the ceiling. A parting shot with my new friend.

And finally, I will end this post with airport slot machines in Reno, NV (something I don’t usually see in my travels), a very good tofu scramble for a late breakfast at my Salt Lake City, UT layover, and an impressive sunset from the air on my way to Minneapolis, MN for a second week of teaching in WI. But we’ll talk about that next week.



  • your Saturday morning posts bring me so much joy. Not pleasure, but joy! I love travelling vicariously, enjoying the travelogues. Your student work slide shows give me hope for achieving this skill, and they reinforce the concepts you’ve so generously shared. Thank you for sharing your gifts, energy, and spirit!

  • Love the shots of the progression of the pieces. Thoroughly enjoyed learning the process of making fabric collages and I know I will use this method again and again. I’m hooked. Thank you Susan for a great class and for your very thoughtful suggestions. You take a deep interest in each persons creation. Thank you for this posting!

  • Susan, so glad you enjoyed our beautiful Lake Tahoe at Zepher Cove retreat. It’s a favorite of mine since it is driveable from any town in California including mine. You had two of my friends in your class Bambi and Sandy. Enjoyed seeing all the progressive work from your students. Loved to see “Dobbins” the House cat as we named the cat who hangs out at Dobbins Hall. I’ve taken many retreats there with Donna Greenwald whom you will meet at Asilomar in March, as she will be the Featured Quilter. Looking forward to seeing you then and showing you my finished “Iggy the Iguana”.

  • I had such a wonderful time at your class, learning from you and my fellow classmates. The amount of talent & creativity in that room was inspiring! Everyone at the retreat was welcoming & giving of time, skills & materials.

    “Kailani” is coming along … The monkey pod tree is finished, but still tweeking her back. Since your class I’ve ordered more fabrics!

    If anyone reading this post hasn’t had the opportunity to take a class with Susan, beg, borrow or steal your way into one … You won’t regret it!!

  • I love the blog. I want to learn to do this. But can not find teachers in my area. Any suggestions would be appreciated. It is beautiful!

    • Stay tuned for an online class. But start with the “Kissin’s Cousins” blog posts. You can find them by using the search bar in any blog post. They explain the technique in quite a bit of detail.

  • It’s lovely to relive our time at Art Quilt Tahoe through your writing and photos. Thank you, Susan. You captured it beautifully!
    Also, thank you for your online contribution here in this blog to our art form, and the community it has created across the miles.

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