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Cartographic Quilts by Shelley Cords-Swanson at the Dickinson County Nature Center
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Cartographic Quilts by Shelley Cords-Swanson at the Dickinson County Nature Center

Map-making has moved from a tactile art form to a much-more technological one.

“I really missed that hands-on form,” said Shelley Cords-Swanson, a cartographer, geographer and environmentalist from Odin, Minnesota.

Instead of going back to the pen and ink form of cartography, in 1985, Cords-Swanson decided to try a different form --- making maps in quilts. And she has never looked back.

Her art quilts are true cartographics --- quilted maps. The lines represent contours of terrain, or even weather. Most are imagined representations of landscapes instead of re-creations of actual maps, and Cords-Swanson wants people to go beyond seeing a landscape to appreciating the flow of the contours on the quilts.

“I like to hand quilt,” she said. “It’s a really relaxing process, and it’s really tactile.”

A selection of Cords-Swanson’s art quilts will be on display October-December in the eARTh exhibit area at the Dickinson County Nature Center in Okoboji. An opening reception will be held in her honor 5-7 p.m. Thursday, October 5th.

Appetizers and wine will be served, and Cords-Swanson will give an artist talk at 6 p.m. Guests will also get to ask questions about how she creates her unique works of art.

Cords-Swanson will also teach a youth art class 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 21, at the Dickinson County Nature Center. Kids ages 9-11 will have the opportunity to make their own treasure maps during the one-hour class.

Cords-Swanson will provide different shapes of cut and painted plywood which kids can layer to create their own contours.

“I collected all kinds of little nature treasures they can put on it,” Cords-Swanson said. “They can mark trails.”

She also found some old topographic maps that she plans to give out so youth can make their own map projects at home as well.

The Treasure Island class will cost $5 per child and is limited to 10 participants, so call 712-336-6352 to pre-register. All materials will be provided.

Don’t miss Cords-Swanson’s exhibit at the Dickinson County Nature Center as her creations will help you to see quilting and cartographics in a new way.

“I think everybody is intrigued with maps in some way,” she said. “You get the bigger picture.”

For more information on Cords-Swanson and other art exhibits or programs at the Dickinson County Nature Center, visit our website or call 712-336-6352. You can also keep up with the latest happenings on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Leave a Comment

  1. Travel Iowa Team
    Travel Iowa Team
    What a fascinating process and a great exhibit! Thanks for posting!
    Log in to reply.
  2. Patrick Muller
    This looks like it will be a fantastic exhibit. I hope many take the time to see it.
    Log in to reply.


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