Fiber Arts Show Featured Artist: Carolyn Wiley


Ted Olinger, KP News

Carolyn Wiley, quilter extraordinaire. Photo: Lisa Bryan, KP News

The Fiber Arts Show has named Carolyn Wiley featured artist for its 2018 exhibit at the Longbranch Improvement Club in conjunction with the Key Peninsula Farm Tour Oct. 6.

Wiley is a lifelong artist, a retired public school teacher and an award-winning quilter (and frequent contributor to the Key Peninsula News). 

“The Fiber Arts organizing committee gets together very early in the year to select the featured artist,” said committee member Nancy Carr. “We have picked people like Carolyn for years, and we just looked at each other and said ‘Why are we going outside of our community when we have a perfect choice right here?’ Carolyn is a juried artist, she has won many ribbons, and her work is just fantastic.”

Barb Floyd, another committee member, said the role of featured artists is to show their wares and educate the public on what they do. “It’s the first thing that people see when they come in,” she said. “It’s somebody who does beautiful work and is accomplished in their field in fiber arts. I think Carolyn is just such an accomplished artist, whether it’s her quilting or her jewelry—what she does is just magnificent. And then when we asked her she was just thrilled.”

Describing her own reaction, Wiley said, “In the past, you were chosen because you’re extremely talented. In my case, it means I didn’t run fast enough or that I’ve been around so long it’s time to retire.”

Examples of Wiley’s work will be on display with some for sale at the Fiber Arts Show. Her farm tour-inspired quilt will be the raffle prize at the show this year, with proceeds going to the Longbranch Foundation.

“All of us quilters have UFOs (Unfinished Objects); Carolyn has been working for the last two or three months to get all of her UFOs done, so she’s going to have all kinds of stuff to show,” Carr said.

“When I first moved out here, 20 years ago, I was going to devote myself entirely to jewelry design,” Wiley said. “I like to use natural stones and I was going to call my business ‘Naturally Stoned,’ but then I thought that name might attract a lot of disappointed people.” 

A few months later, Wiley happened to be volunteering at the Key Center Library, cleaning books, and discovered a quilting group meeting there. “There were no dues, no minutes, you just show up, and so I hung out with them and that’s pretty much where I learned all of my quilting skills,” she said.

“I’m really not a quilter; I’m a fabric collector,” Wiley said. “My ‘Let’s see if you can do this’ quilts are usually based on what happens to be in the closet and on top of the fabric that I have collected.” 

One of Wiley’s best-known works, a Japanese-design-inspired quilt, will be on display at the Fiber Arts Show. “I adapted a Japanese design in shashiko stitching,” she said, referring to a traditional straight running stitch that creates a line drawing in thread. 

“We’d been using this quilt for guests and, after I stripped the bed the third time, instead of remaking it, I thought, ‘Hmm, maybe I’ll just take this over and enter it into the Puyallup fair,’” she said. Her quilt won first prize in 2010.

Wiley was also instrumental in developing the Fiber Arts Show in 2007. 

“The reason there is a fiber arts show is that Danna Webster was organizing the second farm tour and asked the LIC, ‘Can you open the building for the tour? We have no more money for portapotties and we need a place for people to stop and flush. And you could hang a few quilts.’ If you’re going to hang a few quilts in a room like that you might as well try to make money at it,” Wiley said. 

She enlisted the help of librarian Barbara Coldene from the Key Center Library and Lois Henderson of the Allyn Knit Shop, both of who had experience organizing shows, and with donations from The Angel Guild and the LIC the first Fiber Arts Show joined the KP Farm Tour in 2007.

“Our goal is to show fiber in all of its applications, from utilitarian to artistic and from traditional techniques to modern adaptations,” Wiley said. “Even though it’s not a farm, fibers also come from farms and we want to show people what you can do with them. It’s something I feel rather passionate about.”