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Sioux Center artist displays works at Nobles County Art Center

Joanne Alberda, a fiber artist from Sioux Center, Iowa, has 29 pieces on display for her show at the Nobles County Art Center. An opening reception is Sunday, and the show will remain up through Oct. 19. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — A retired art teacher who taught everything from art history and ceramics to design theory and photography has found her niche in transforming the nature that surrounds her into colorful quilted masterpieces.

Joanne Alberda finds inspiration all around her hometown of Sioux Center, Iowa — from the coffee shop to the city park. She’s been so busy in retirement that she can boast the completion of her “80 by 80” — 80 pieces of art made in the 80th year of her life.

It’s Alberda’s “I Walk” exhibition that is now featured in a show at the at the Nobles County Art Center in downtown Worthington. An opening reception is from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the center, with a gallery talk to begin at 3 p.m. The nearly 30-piece exhibit will remain in place through Oct. 19.

Alberda’s exhibit was inspired by one she saw two years ago by England quilter Pauline Burbidge, which also worked off nature to inspire beauty in quilts.

After seeing that exhibit, Alberda picked up her camera and started capturing images of flowing water and tangling vines, potted plants and farmers’ crops.

“I walk, I look, I see, I stop, I photograph,” she said quoting a book she compiled from images she’s taken. Those photographs have sparked ideas for quilt projects that range from small, square pieces to large rectangular and very colorful wallhangings.

Not only does Alberda photograph her inspiration and then abstract it out for her quilt projects, she also hand-dyes the fibers she uses — from linen to wool.

“I like to play around with different techniques,” she said. “I started buying old clothes and dying wool. My niece gave me some linen curtain samples, and those are probably the most vibrant in the show.”

A couple of her wallhangings feature fabric taken from suit coats she purchased at Goodwill.

Once the pieces are stitched together, Alberda does free motion quilting to create patterns in her fabrics.

“I’m working on my free motion skills,” she said with a grin. “I have a whole lot to learn yet in how to be loose.”

Alberda finds the wavy lines in her quilting make her pieces more interesting.

“Everybody kind of has their own way of quilting,” she added.

Alberda said she was a quilter before she knew what a quilter was, getting her start in the 1980s. During her 30-year teaching career, though, she didn’t have a lot of time to devote to quilting.

“When I retired I got involved with a quilting group,” she said.

Today, Alberda is a member of her local quilt guild, as well as the Studio Art Quilt Association. One of her pieces in the Nobles County Art Center exhibit, featuring morning glories, spent a couple of years on tour. It was shown at three different venues, including the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Marion Center, a quilt museum in Marion, Ohio.

In 2015, one of her quilts was selected to be in the Quilt National show in Athens, Ohio, and years ago she had a quilt displayed at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Ky. She also competes in quilt shows with some of her pieces, including the regional SAQA and the International Quilt Study Museum, both in Nebraska.

In addition to her exhibit in Worthington, Alberda currently has her “Tales from a Ghost Town” show on display at the Octagon Center for the Arts in Ames, Iowa (it’s coming to Windom next summer). She also has an upcoming exhibit at The Pearson Lakes Art Center in Okoboji, which is the Highway 71 Artist Roadshow. That show will be the second weekend in October.

To learn more about Alberda’s works, visit

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at The Farm Bleat

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