4-H experience has lasting impact
February 12, 2023
Like many northwest Oklahoma farm kids, Chantry Banks was in 4-H. He grew up in Hamon, a small town in Ellis County. "The sewing arts have been a part of my life as long as I can remember," says Banks who now lives in Oklahoma City.
"My quilting origins began in 4-H Club when I was nine years old," he said. "The first project we ever did was making a pair of elastic waistband shorts. That was the first time I ever sat behind a sewing machine." He said of his 4-H instructor, "I will always be grateful and indebted to her for teaching me a skill that has stayed with me for close to 40 years now."
After a couple of years of 4-H, Banks didn't sew much until he started undergraduate school at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford. "I was involved in the theater department and started working in costume design while at Southwestern," he said. "Hence my sewing skills got put to use for many years at Southwestern – still no quilting, but sewing and learning all types of sewing skills."
In 2005 Banks moved to Florida to study acting in graduate school. "While I was there, to supplement my income I worked in several costume shops all over Orlando, Florida," he said. "From there, that's where I started as a site business, creating small quilted purses – clutch bags, I called them. That's when I first started getting into quilting."
Describing his first quilting efforts, Banks said, "The louder the pattern, the busier the pattern, the more interested I was in it. My signature, I guess, in my quilted bags besides the loud, busy prints, I loved giant vintage buttons. Those were a signature of my quilted bags, too.
"From those small quilted bags, I started branching out into potholders – basically just a tiny version of a quilt. From there my quilts got bigger and bigger."
Now in Oklahoma City, Banks makes crib size quilts, art quilts that hang on walls and full size and larger quilts.
"I consider myself a modern quilter. I consider myself an 'improv' quilter," he says. "That means I don't work with patterns very often. If I do use patterns, they are patterns I create myself.
"I love color very, very much. I think all of my work is represented by the color I use. I have recently started stepping away from the busy patterned fabrics that I have loved for many, many years. I still have a stash at home that I'm never going to get through, but I have started working in solids. Several of my pieces on display here in Alva are pure solids, and I am really, really pleased with how they are turning out."
Banks' quilted art pieces are on display at Graceful Arts Gallery in Alva this month. "My first gallery show ever!" Banks exclaims. A peek at the backing behind his quilted works will show the viewer he still loves those loud, busy patterns.
He is a member of the Oklahoma City Modern Quilt Guild which meets monthly. Banks describes the members as a mix of traditional and modern quilters. "I am highly influenced by the men and women that are part of the Oklahoma Modern Quilt Guild," he said. He's also a member of a small group of quilters who meet once a month to quilt. "We have a great time together."
Banks continues to make those popular quilted bags and has a shop on Etsy as well as a Facebook page. During the holidays, he also produces quilted stockings for sale.
"I would say my style is modern and 'improv', but I like taking traditional blocks and traditional quilts and kind of blowing those up and blowing those out to where they are modern and almost unrecognizable," he said.