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From Scraps to Quilts


Shea Stanfield
Arts Columnist

There’s an old saying, “When life gives you scraps, make a quilt!” For local artist Rita Chester, a 5th generation quilter, quilting is the magic she performs, not only as a family tradition, but also in creating her own magic in today’s genre of Art Quilts. Rita uses traditional quilting techniques, mixed with her imagination, to transform beautiful fabrics and glistening threads into enchanting “paintings” of textile.

Rita draws on a lifetime of inspiration and global travels. Her father, as a member of the U.S. Army, required the family to move a number of times from Berlin, Germany to Hawaii, and points in between. Rita remembers going to 13 schools during the years she was growing up. She credits her Mother as being the most influential in getting her started with the art of quilting. Rita remembers, “Quilts were very important to my Mother, so many generations of her family had a natural talent in creating exquisite and interesting patterns crafted into everyday useful items. I was the watercolor artist, and never considered quilting as an art form.” But one day, Rita’s Mom proclaimed her daughter as the “artist in the family” and insisted she take up the family tradition and learn the craft. That was 30 years ago. Today, Rita is widely recognized as an accomplished Art Quilter, a satisfaction that reaches deeper than awards and plaques, far into her American roots.

Art Quilts were not always on center stage in the art world. Rita recalls when she started few people considered quilting a recognized art form, let alone a “fine art.” But she feels fortunate to have met and worked with some of the foremost Art Quilt creators over the years. Rita’s studio holds a prominent place in her Arizona home. She works primarily from photographs of plants, landscapes, and Native People, with a focus not only on the form and composition of her subjects but the colors that evoke strong emotion and excitement for her subjects. She credits her time in Hawaii for the nurturing of her strong color sense and fascination with the native arts and culture. Rita Chester is a master of design, form, composition, color and the art of “wow.” Each new Art Quilt is an original inspired by a life of keen observation, constant learning, skillfully creating, with a vivid imagination.

To see a selection of Rita Chester’s art quilts visit, On The Edge Gallery on 5th Avenue in Scottsdale,, or Fountain Hills Artist Gallery in Fountain Hills, Selecting an Art Quilt as a gift for family, friends, or yourself, is a gift of American Cultural Heritage.

Contact Arts Columnist Shea Stanfield at