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The fabric artistry of Terrie Peets

by Lisa Gavon
R-C Alpine Bureau
Terrie Peets holding her quilt "A Walk through Markleeville"--Photo by
Dave Peets/Special to The R-C

You can actually feel the generosity and love that infuse her art and life. Terrie Peets paints with fabric, and her quilts are created as gifts to give to the people who are special to her. Everything she does is rooted in the strength of her family.

It took her a year to complete A Walk Around Markleeville, the quilt she made in honor of her husband Dave. She stitched together the memories she has of strolling with him around “Laramie Loop,” the favored daily walking route of many who live right downtown.

First Terrie took photos and observed, piecing a vision together in her mind. She discovered the fabric most difficult to find was what she needed for the two buildings designed by famous architect Frederic DeLongchamps. She ended up ordering the cloth from England and used an “interlaced raw edge” technique that is particularly difficult.

All the effort involved in making one of her quilts lets Terrie enter into what she calls her “calming, happy place.” Her focused concentration “lets the world go away.” She finds herself surrounded by the same feelings she had when she was taught to sew by her mother and grandmother.

Growing up in Petaluma and Santa Rosa, she was “up at dawn, back at dusk,” falling in love with the beauty of the natural world at an early age. Her father and mother took Terrie, her brother, and sister camping, fishing, and hiking in the wilds of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, including Alpine County. Terrie never imagined that one day she would live in this remote location.

Like her grandmother, Terrie has a meticulous temperament and is very organized. They took a quilting class together when Terrie was in the eighth grade. It was that quality time that has inspired a lifetime of fabric artistry.

Her first big project was a quilt made out of the scraps from all the clothes she had made for herself in high school. It evokes an era, and she still uses it to this day.

Terrie graduated from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, Calif., with a degree in Business Administration and a concentration in marketing. This allowed her to take a core of classes in graphic design and art.

Moving home to Santa Rosa, she found her perfect job with the Press Democrat newspaper. Terrie found she couldn’t wait to get to work, and became the second head artist.

It was when she moved back to San Luis Obispo that she “fell in love forever.” Dave Peets was an appraiser working out in the field, and Terrie had accepted a position as Administrative Assistant in the Assessor’s Office. Although the office employed over 85 people, they still managed to find each other, and have been married for 31 years now.

When an ad came across Terrie’s desk for an Assessor position in Markleeville, Terrie told Dave it would be like living in a “ski vacation.” The couple decided to make the big life change. Dave was appointed and then elected to six terms as Assessor, and they brought up their daughter Dena and son Justin here.

Choosing a job as Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent at Alpine County Unified School District, she advanced to Human Resources and Administrative Services Coordinator. Terrie also designed every graphic and poster that came across her desk. The family found the most perfect house up on a hill, and settled into happy and productive lives.

She started quilting again when she was pregnant with her son. Terrie feels it is important to have a passion and to act on it. Over the years, she has taken many classes, studying different ways of doing things and opening up her mind to new and creative ways to look at interpreting the world through her art.

Many quilt groups will do “challenge quilts.” Each member is given two pieces of fabric that have to be put into the finished composition. Inspired by a 100 year old National Parks poster, Terrie created Wildlife; Stars Above the Sierras. This quilt earned her the National Association of Certified Quilt Judges Award of Merit. She had moved outside her comfort zone and began making landscape (or artistic) quilts in earnest. She started “painting with fabric,” making her own patterns and designs.

Since she retired six years ago (after 26 years at ACUSD), she has become very prolific. When daughter Dena, along with her husband and three daughters, lost their home in the Santa Rosa fire, Terrie was able to recreate the 60 year old Swedish crewel-embroidered advent calendar and the hand-stitched Christmas stockings that were so precious to their ancestors. Tradition is a cornerstone of the family ethos.

Terrie is currently Vice President of the Carson Valley Quilt Guild, a local organization with over 150 members. She is co-chair of the National Speaker presentations and classes that they host. She is also a member of a small Fabric Art Group. Since this is limited to a maximum of seven people, it is only when someone moves away that a new member is invited.

Her second entry into the Pacific International Quilt Festival in Santa Clara has been accepted. Always willing to try new subject matter, it is a piece with a lyrical image of an Anime character that she made for her son Justin. Many other entries have earned her ribbons in the Carson Valley biennial Quilt Show.

“This is a beautiful place to raise children,” Terrie says of her mountain community “They can play outside and be safe.” She doesn’t mind that everyone knows your business, “We all help each other if we need it, and you know when there is a stranger in your midst.”

The seasons in the Sierras are inspiring to her, as are the bear, deer, and wild turkeys that surround her. But Terrie is equally at home in the city, finding new ways of seeing in art museums and larger cultural events she so enjoys.

Everything about Terrie Peets and her life have made her ideally suited for working in this unusual medium. She is naturally detail-oriented, patient, skillful, and has a deep connection with the people and places around her.