The Art of Quilting: Creative punch boosts artist in battle against disease
Garnet Hoover is a fighter and her gloves rarely come off.
A fabric artist who lives in Clifton, her opponents are not of the human variety. She battles instead the constant, throbbing pain in her fingertips where ulcers form and fester beneath her nails.
Diagnosed in 2004 with scleroderma, a chronic, skin-hardening disease that affects her immune system, Hoover wages war daily against symptoms both internal and external.
Cloth gloves help buffer her aching fingers as she designs and stitches art quilts on her Bernina sewing machine. Through her home business, Material Matters, Hoover makes and sells her art, often through commissions.
Because her fingers are so sensitive to cold, she also wears gloves outdoors, even in the summertime, while shopping at the grocery store or dining in a restaurant, for example.
Not long ago, Hoover’s condition forced her to give up playing guitar, an instrument she had enjoyed since sixth grade. She says there is no cure for scleroderma, although she takes a variety of medications with varying results. Soaking her fingers in Epsom salts and bandaging them with antiseptic ointment seems to offer the most relief.
Determined to hold onto her talent for fabric art, Hoover, 55, pledges to be as active as possible this year and to accomplish all the design ideas she has in mind.
“This disease can pull me down, but I find that when I am busy creating, I don’t have time for it,” she says.
Her ideas for fabric artistry never run out either.
At this time, Hoover is making an art quilt with a Main Street theme, featuring a photo of her granddaughter, Jasmine, 2½. A children’s book is in the works, with illustrations to be based on her art quilts, and this past week, Hoover attended a multiple-day workshop by Sue Benner, a respected Texas textile artist who taught a technique for developing abstract imagery here in Grand Junction.
Also on Hoover’s list of projects are a series of art quilts portraying wolves from the Sawtooth pack in Montana and another grouping of apocalypse horses.
In 2011, she joined the Art Quilt Association in Grand Junction and has two of her pieces in competitions through that group. One of those, titled “Tuckered Out,” was one of the juror’s top picks in a Pacific International Quilt Fest in California in 2011.
Life on the Western Slope equates to more than a roof over their heads for Hoover and her husband, Rick. When the energy firm he worked for wanted to transfer him to North Dakota, the couple decided they didn’t want to leave their home. He was willing to take a lower-paying job locally and adjust their lifestyle accordingly, she says.
They choose to live “in this beautiful valley surrounded by mountains and mesas, plenty of oxygen, greenery and blue skies, where it’s sunny practically every day,” she says.
As for the health care Hoover requires, the valley offers doctors for “practically every situation,” except hers. She finds it frustrating that she must travel two to three times a year to National Jewish Health in Denver for testing and treatment of her scleroderma. Besides her numb fingers, symptoms include esophageal and gastrointestinal problems, and tests most recently revealed pre-pulmonary hypertension.
In an effort to reach others with scleroderma in this region, Hoover recently helped start a Western Slope support group, affiliated with the Scleroderma Foundation. She is co-leader of the group, which meets at Alpine Bank in downtown Grand Junction. About 12 members attend, some driving from Montrose and Rifle. She no longer feels isolated with the challenges of her illness, knowing others who live close by and being able to learn and share with them.
The next meeting is May 11, and the program is “Nutrition and Scleroderma” by Dustin McFarland, a nutrition health coach with Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage.
Hoover says her scleroderma makes her aware of her mortality and strengthens her spiritually. She tries to think positively, because she believes the state of mind has an effect on the body.
“I just have to trust God,” Hoover says. “I’m lucky to have every day that I get.”
Email Sherida.Warner@ GJSentinel.com.