by Patricia Belyea
VANCOUVER WA You would think that Bonnie Bucknam’s favorite letter in the alphabet would be “B.” After visiting this accomplished quilt artist, I’ve decided she owns the letter “G.” Here are some of the remarkable things I learned about her:
Before Bonnie started kindergarten, she sewed little drawstring bags for her toys. By Grade 5, Bonnie was making all her clothes. In high school, Bonnie started her first quilt.
At that time, her sister prodded Bonnie into sending one of her tote bags to Seventeen magazine for an issue featuring “original creations by talented teens.” The listing of Bonnie’s fringed burlap bag (priced at $3) created orders over a five-year period that paid for her freshman year in college and first car.
Every year Bonnie likes to travel somewhere distant, keeping an eye out for indigenous crafts. Countries visited include South Africa, Germany, Peru, Australia and Brazil. All around her home, global treasures shine with hand-touched details.
Bonnie’s mementos also inform her art—such as this beaded bag from Thailand that inspired one of Bonnie’s early quilts, Hill Tribe.
So far Bonnie has visited Guatemala twice, the first time on a Nancy Crow Craft Tour. After visiting an orphanage there, Bonnie chose to send 100 quilts to the young children—made by herself and friends.
The charity work continues, now with quilts for Mayan Families’ Children At Risk program. So far 60 quilts have been shipped to this new group. When we visited Bonnie’s long-arm room, one of the teen quilts was mounted on the machine. And at the top of her stairs, hung over the railing, piles of tops and finished quilts were collected for the project.
Bonnie’s degree is in Archeology with a minor in Geology. This educational focus gained her a job on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline in 1975. For 31 years Bonnie lived in the Far North—a major influence in her life story. While working in Anchorage, Bonnie met Judy Hopkins who encouraged her to make one-of-a-kind improv quilts. Subsequent studies with Nancy Crow solidified Bonnie's improvisational approach to design.
Recently Bonnie created a series of art quilts titled Geology. The first quilt shown below, Crater, took Best of Show at Quilt National in 2011. The second one, Seismic Activity, radiates with layers of energy.
On Saturday, April 18, Bonnie will be participating in StashFest—a fundraiser for La Conner Quilt & Textile Museum She’ll be selling some of her hand-dyed fabrics at this fun gathering of the quilting community.
Also, Bonnie loves to make bags. She buys belts and strap materials on her travels and enjoys adding these embellishments to her unique tote bags. Some of these eclectic bags will be available at StashFest.
Bonnie gets involved with many projects at one time. In addition to her other endeavors, she created a series of 50 paintings in the last two years. These multii-media works were exhibited as a one-woman show at The Second Story Gallery in Camas, Washington earlier this year.
Not a tsunami type, Bonnie’s waters run deep and thoughtfully. She states "My quilts are my celebration of diversity, craft, and history.” It was my pleasure to spend an afternoon with an understated, hard working and authentic artist.
To visit Bonnie’s website +click here
To see more quilts in Bonnie’s Geology series +click here