Can’t make it to the International Quilt Festival in Houston to visit my “Specimens” exhibit?

Well, don’t fret. I’m thinking of you. Here are some photos from the show.

I know it’s not exactly the same, but I’ve also created a virtual version of the show. I don’t think I’ve shown all eleven quilts (plus one: Polka Dodo, who is traveling on his won with an AQS show) in one place, either in real life or virtually before this week. Now both are happening at once!

I also include links to “Quilt Stories” where I’ve talked about each quilt at length.

To start let me quote the introductory text of the catalog I created for the show (which will be for sale in upcoming weeks through the new and improved website):


noun   an individual animal, plant, piece of a mineral, etc., used as an example of its species or type for scientific study or display.

With these quilts I hope to help the viewer see all creatures—great and small—with fresh eyes. Unlike those of a scientist, my specimens are not “lifelike.” A pink rhino, a polka dotted dodo, a much-larger-than-life-size golden toad: the liberties I take, the choices I make are intended to provoke a response. Typically, I hope to invoke a sense of wonder. I could have made my saltwater crocodile any size I wanted. It would have been much easier, trust me, to make it smaller. But I chose to make it twenty feet long because that is what is truly awesome about this species. The size of the quilt is the point.

In some ways, my images are simple. The ­compositions are basic, simple profiles displaying as much of the animal as possible, often mimicking the posed figures in museum cases. In other ways my images are complex. Seen up close, the sheer number of pieces of fabric used makes for a density of color and texture. That, too, is part of the point. Each of these creatures is easily recognizable. Because we think we know them, our familiarity may lead us to dismiss them too easily. It’s only when we look closer that we understand how unique each is and how irreplaceable.

However, political or ­social or environmental statements are not the main point of my quilts, or let’s say that the statements are of the most obvious kind: our world and its inhabitants are at risk. I make quilts because I love fabric for its color and texture. I make quilts of animals because I’m an unabashed animal lover. That’s it, really. If my “Specimens” can speak to others at a tactile level and encourage them to look at animals at a deeper level (make people more aware of these animals), then that’s a good thing, I think. I think that’s enough.

—Susan Carlson

Kaloli Moondance

Kaloli Moondance, 2016, 63 x 72 inches

In Progress: Introducing “Kaloli Moondance”

Crocodylus Smylus

Crocodylus Smylus, 2015, 21 feet by 6 feet


Making a 20-Foot Crocodile Quilt: Part 1 of 3Making a 20-Foot Crocodile Quilt: Part 2 of 3Making a 20-Foot Crocodile Quilt: Part 3 of 3

Golden Temple of the Good Girls

Golden Temple of the Good Girls, 2015, 50 x 58 inches

Quilt Stories: Golden Temple of the Good Girls

Dixie Dingo Dreaming

Dixie Dingo Dreaming, 2011, 48 x 48 inches

Quilt Stories: “Dixie Dingo Dreaming”

Million to One

Million to One, 2008, 29 x 51 inches

Quilt Stories: Million to One


Fructos, 2007, 36 x 40 inches

Polka Dodo

Polka Dodo, 2006, 40 x 44 inches

Quilt Stories: Polka Dodo

Though not at Houston, Polka Dodo is intended to be part of this show when it appears elsewhere.


Gombessa, 2006, 70 x 43 inches

Quilt Stories: Gombessa

Tickled Pink

Tickled Pink, 2005, 64 x 42 inches

Quilt Stories: Tickled Pink


Exuberance, 2003, 60 x 45 inches

Quilt Stories: Fire Beetle & Exuberance

Fire Beetle

Fire Beetle, 2001, 33 x 49 inches

Quilt Stories: Fire Beetle & Exuberance

Samuelsaurus Rex

Samuelsaurus Rex, 2001, 48 x 40 inches

Quilt Stories: “Samuelsaurus Rex”


7 thoughts on “Specimens

  1. Please send me more information on how to take one of your courses in line. Very interested. Especially in the turtle. Would love to get the patten. And take course. Please tell me how and where I can get ahold of you


    1. My classes for 2017 are full. I plan to announce my class schedule for 2018 in April here in this blog and in my newsletter. The best way to be in the know is to be sure you are signed up to receive both. There’s a sign up link in the sidebar of this page.

      Also, if you’ve been following the blog for a while you’ll know I hope to introduce an online course this spring.


  2. I’d be very interested in taking one of your classes. It looks like an online class would be the way to go as your classes seem to fill up immediately! Congratulations, that’s a great thing for you. I’ll continue to stay tuned for any and all class announcements.


  3. I loved reading your blog! I just spent 2 days reading every post, but where are the posts after the Houston 2016 show? I’m also curios to hear the story of how you began teaching! Would you share it in a future post please?


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