Zen and the Art of Quilting

In the mid-1980s, a corporate downsizing at U.S. Bank and a diagnosis that one of her three daughters had Rett Syndrome, a degenerative neurological disorder, led Sally Sellers to leave behind computer programming work and take up quilting contemporary textiles. “I scraped myself off the floor after the confluence of those two events, and really listened to the social worker who advised me, ‘You’re not going to do too well with all this unless you work something that really gives you pleasure in your life,’” says Sellers, 58, who has a degree in horticulture therapy from Michigan State University in Ann Arbor, Mich., where she was raised. “I’d been sewing my whole life—I’ve always found touching and working with fabrics so tactile, so soothing—so I started taking classes at the Oregon College of Art & Craft to learn how to make art quilts.”

Eleven years into her new profession, the Vancouver, Wash.-based artist pieces together amazing works such as Approximating Pi, a 38-by-39-inch homage to the mathematical ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. “I love the whole mystical thing going on with transcendental numbers,” says Sellers, who definitely inherited a DNA helix or two from her electrical engineer-father and her homemaker-mother, who loved to sew. White, beige and blush pearls top squares of cotton, silk, satin and organza in The Logic of Snowflakes (not shown), her “almost scientific study” of pearls.

So how important is quilting to Sellers’ well-being? “No question: Quilting is my therapy,” she says. “When I work on a piece, I go from a zen state to tedium, but anytime life gets rough, I just sit down and stitch.” Approximating Pi costs $5,000. The Logic of Snowflakes sells for $1,800.

Contact textile artist Sally Sellers via