by Victoria Hurst
The Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail, in Upstate, SC, is celebrating its 200th quilt square at the Greater Pickens Chamber of Commerce on April 7, 2017, at 12:30pm. For eight years, the Quilt Trail has grown, block by block, into a meaningful part of Upstate South Carolina’s landscape for locals who want to preserve the history and traditions of the area. While the Quilt Trail is built, perpetuated, and maintained by locals with a passion for their history, it is also a unique experience for visitors to the area. The Trail appeals to those who enjoy art, nature, history, crafting, story-telling, and even just taking a car ride through the countryside
As the UHQT has grown over the years, it has forged a path through the lives of so many in its surrounding communities. The members of the Trail are comprised of people who have had the tradition of quilting passed down to them, those whose created the tradition for themselves, and those who are not quilters but still help make the trail possible in various ways. There are now two teams of over 20 volunteers in Anderson and Oconee Counties. This art form has woven its way into the hearts of this community.
Martha File is the one of the founding members of the trail and continues to work with the UHQT from her current home in Athens, OH. Martha was living in Seneca, SC, when she began working with the Quilt Trail and usually comes back to her home in Seneca for a week or two every month. Her favorite square is mounted there, which is based on a quilt made by her aunt. Martha is passionate about organizations that promote community service and fellowship, and “the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail would not be where it is today without all the community support it has received. This is truly a collaborative effort by many organizations, businesses and individuals in Anderson, Oconee and Pickens Counties. Some of our quilts have been painted by students in the schools, community groups, families, as well as by our volunteers.” Martha has been on this journey since 2009 and has watched as quilt squares have been added to homes, historic buildings, destination venues, and businesses in the Upstate.
Nancy Warmath, who lives outside of Seneca, had both a grandmother and mother who quilted, and she has a quilt that her mother made at the age of 12. She also has a quilt square above her mailbox, #139 “Dogwood Quilt,” based on one of her grandmother’s. Nancy is in the process of making a quilt herself for the first time in 30-something years. After getting involved through Gil Huggins on the Walhalla production team, she has worked on painting several of the quilt squares, beginning with #80, “Wedding Ring” in Central. She also did work on the 200th Quilt, which will be unveiled April 7th. She loves the stories behind the quilts and hopes to see wider promotion of the trail, as it brings more visitors to our area and inspires residents to learn more about their heritage.
One resident of Seneca, Lyn Geibens, has a quilt square on her home (quilted by Gil Huggins) and got involved in the quilt trail through her friend, Jane Bolling. Lyn and Jane worked with the students at Keowee Elementary School to paint their quilt square, #10 “Compass Rose”, and recalls how proud the students were to write their names on the back of what they helped create. Lyn also finds it gratifying to work with a group of “strong willed woman…there is very little criticism and loads of encouragement.”
Oconee County Production Team Leader Chris Troy is an artist based in Bountyland, between Seneca and Walhalla. She also has a quilt square on her house, which represents the first and only quilt that she actually created herself. While Chris’s medium of choice is ceramics rather than textiles, she really values being involved in the UHQT and says “the hands on, face to face interaction of people of diverse backgrounds coming together for the purpose of creating public art has always been a positive endeavor.”
Jim and Barbara Schoonover of Wynward Point in Salem are a husband/wife duo that have been involved with the UHQT since 2009. Barbara is a quilter, and she is on the production team for painting the quilt patterns. Jim cuts the board, paints the primer, and draws the patterns. At this time, he holds the title of only man on the team. He and Barbara both enjoy working with an organization that they see as a great asset to the community and a great “way to connect with locals who have grown up here and those who have moved to this area for the beauty of the Upstate.”
Abby Heid is another resident of Seneca, SC, who finds a strong sense of identity and community from being involved in UHQT: “The people who participate in the UHQT have a strong camaraderie…[they] bring together their individual skill sets with each new quilt project. The talents of artists, quilters, crafters, and those who want to learn come together to turn someone’s hand or machine-sewn quilt into a fantastic work of art. The teamwork is amazing. It is the people, who come weekly to the studio and contribute their talents, laughter, and chatter that make you feel welcomed and come back to learn more.”
The members of the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail put in over 7,000 volunteer hours per year, giving presentations, painting quilt squares with members of the community, and finding ways to improve and promote this priceless resource. As these proud members reveal their 200th milestone along a winding, scenic, and sometimes uphill road, they also have announcements about how this project will continue to grow and reach even more people across the region and beyond. Join the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail at the Pickens Chamber of Commerce at 222 W. Main St. in Pickens, SC on April 7th at 12:30pm to see where the trail will lead!
Victoria Hurst is a writer, traveler and Clemson native who is now based in Charleston, SC.
For further information visit (www.uhqt.org).