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Willmar artist Laura Deleski tells her life story through quilting and art

Deleski's work is on display at the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council gallery in Marshall through Feb. 24.

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Laura Deleski greets visitors to her solo art exhibit at the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council office in Marshall. Deleski was awarded a SMAC grant to complete a family tree quilt.
Contributed / Krystl Louwagie-SMAC Accessibility and Marketing Coordinator

WILLMAR — Looking out of a quilted cream and ivory fan background, surrounded by feathers, lace and buttons, are photos and silhouettes of various individuals, a few dating back to the 18th century. They represent the many generations of Willmar artist Laura Deleski's family, sewn into her creation, a family genealogical quilt called "Life is a Story."

The project, funded through an Individual Emerging Artist Grant from the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council , brought together two passions of Deleski — quilting and family history.

"I love finding different people's stories," said Deleski, who has uncovered unknown family members through her own genealogical research.

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Deleski speaks with an exhibit visitor about the family tree quilt, the star of the show at the SMAC office in Marshall.
Contributed / Krystl Louwagie-SMAC Accessibility and Marketing Coordinator

The quilt is the star of Deleski's first solo exhibit of her art work, which also includes photography, traditional and digital scrapbooking, locker hooking and, of course, quilting. The exhibit is housed through Feb. 24 in the art gallery of the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council office in Marshall.

"I dabble in a lot," Deleski said. "Anything creative, crafty, artsy I like to try."

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It is a drive that Deleski has had since she was young. As child she liked to draw, and in high school she started learning photography.

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"Batick Beauty" by Laura Deleski is an example of locker hooking.
Contributed / Laura Deleski

"Grandma taught me how to cross stitch," Deleski said. "I got the art gene, the crafty genes."

About 25 years ago she started teaching herself how to quilt. Deleski has learned various different techniques — including traditional piecing, English paper piecing and needle turn applique. Her very first quilt actually took on a familiar theme.

"My very first quilt, I didn't have a sewing machine and I sewed it by hand; it was also kind of a genealogy quilt," Deleski said.

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"Life is a Story," by Laura Deleski, is a quilted genealogy chart of Deleski's family.
Contributed / Krystl Louwagie-SMAC Accessibility and Marketing Coordinator

Going full circle, Deleski decided to make a second family tree quilt for her SMAC project, after being urged by friends to apply for a grant. She was awarded $2,500 in February 2021 to create her quilt.

"That was a new experience for me," applying for a grant, Deleski said, and it's a process she could be interested in doing again if the right project came up.

In addition to the quilt, Deleski also added digital and traditional scrapbook pages to the overall genealogical-themed project, focusing on individuals from the quilt. That way she was able to share some interesting facts about her ancestors.

"I tried to put something on there to humanize each person," Deleski said.

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The exhibit of her work at the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council office in Marshall is the first solo show of Deleski's work.
Contributed / Krystl Louwagie-SMAC Accessibility and Marketing Coordinator

It also allowed her to stretch her artistic wings. For years Deleski did most of her quilting from patterns, though she did like to add her own touch to the plans. Recently she has been trying to do more original designs, including the fan pattern of "Life is a Story."

"I'm trying to grow in my creative expression," Deleski said.

While Deleski has been creating her arts for decades, she is nowhere near done learning new skills and mediums. One day she hopes to learn to watercolor paint. For the past few years she has been working on an American flag made out of handsewn hexagon pieces. She literally has a quilting to-do list, a book with the various projects she is working on and those she would someday like to tackle.

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A traditional scrapbook creation by Laura Deleski is on display at the SMAC gallery in Marshall through Feb. 24.
Contributed / Laura Deleski

"I'm always thinking of things I want to make and do," Deleski said.

Advice Deleski has for those interested in starting an artistic or craft project but are afraid of not liking it or not being good enough is simple and straight-forward.

"Just try it," Deleski said. "Don't be afraid to try something new or different."

That creative bravery might lead you to even more projects or a new passion. While designing and creating the family fan quilt, Deleski decided she wanted to add antique buttons. She has found the small pieces of clothing history to be both unique and gorgeous.

"I have buttons now. I want to make something out of buttons," Deleski said, adding that when you start one project it could definitely lead you to something totally new. "You just never know."

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Examples of Deleski's photography on display at the SMAC office. The exhibit will be available to the public through Feb. 24.
Contributed / Laura Deleski

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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