A carpenter by trade, Berry Blakley has made the transition from construction to that of “building” beautiful quilts and all the while becoming one of the area’s finest craftsmen. A resident of Coxton, Berry, 57, began designing and crafting quilts some eight years ago.
His talents will be showcased during the 51st Kingdom Come Swappin’ Meetin’ where he will be honored as the festival’s Quilting Artist. Several of his intricately designed quilts will be displayed in the gallery of the Godbey Appalachian Center Oct. 2-3 and located on the Cumberland campus of Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College.
The Swappin’ Meetin’, one of the oldest folk and arts festivals in Kentucky, has for its 51-year duration paid tribute to local craftsmen. “It is so wonderful that Berry Blakey will be at the 51st Kingdom Come Swappin’ Meetin’, and we are so pleased that he will be displaying his superb work,” said Lynn Cox of the festival committee. “Berry is truly a local treasure; those who see his quilts are in store for a treat!”
Some eight years ago, Berry, upon the urging and direction of his wife Glenna, a former quilting honoree at the Swappin’ Meetin’ in 2006, began working on his first quilt.
“I was my wife’s first student,” he said with a laugh while standing in the main room of the family business The Berry Patch, a quilt and cloth emporium situated next door to the family home. “It is late afternoon on an utterly perfect September day as he shows visitors around the store he has built by hand. Quilts created by him and his wife are stacked about the space. Sunlight pouring through the large windows heightens the vibrant colors of the quilts making for a stunning display. “I am extremely honored to be featured as the quilting artist. I am humbled by the honor and look forward to being at the Swappin’ Meetin’ and meeting fellows quilters.”
As he has evolved as a quilter, he has taken on more projects involving more intricate design. He uses templates to cut the fabric into the proper sizes and shapes and then uses a vintage sewing machine to finish the project. His work is best described as pieced work, but with a certain flair. For his favorite work, the Log Cabin quilt, he used 5,400 pieces of cloth. He said he got the idea after seeing a display in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Other works to be displayed at the Swappin’ Meetin’ will be the Hunter’s Star, Lone Star and his special Crazy Quilt. “I plan on bringing 10 to 12 quilts to display,” he said. “It will be fun, I am looking forward to being there.”
Additionally, he is known for his multicolored bindings that add to the overall individuality of his prize-winning work. “I enjoy being creative, and I hope the folks at the Swappin’ Meetin’ will enjoy what they see,” he noted. “As I said, I am very, very appreciative and happy to have been chosen for the honor.”
A quick worker, he crafted 12 quilts during the dreadful winter of 2015. “It kept me occupied as the snow piled up all around me,” he said with a chuckle.
Blakey will be honored at 11 a.m. Oct. 3 on the main stage, located near the lower entrance to the Appalachian Center.
The exhibition will coincide with the annual Swappin’ Meetin’ quilt contest. Area craftsmen are invited to participate in the competition. For more information, contact Lynn Cox, SKCTC Cumberland campus, at 606-589-3073 or 606-589-2145.