COLOURFUL FABRICS Barb Gillespie of Cherry Tree Quilts in Summerland shows some of the many colourful fabrics on display at the store. (John Arendt/Summerland Review)

Summerland quilter creates art using fabric

Barb Gillespie operates Cherry Tree Quilts

The Summerland Review is running a series featuring profiles of business people in the community.

This week, we met with Barb Gillespie of Cherry Tree Quilts.

When Barb Gillespie was growing up in Summerland, she dreamed of becoming an artist — a dream that started when she took art lessons.

“When I was in Grade 4, I wanted to be like a Renoir or a Picasso,” she recalled.

She also has a love for sewing, which began when she was seven.

“I wanted to create art using fabric,” she said. “I want to do more art quilting.”

Her artistic dreams eventually led her to open Cherry Tree Quilts, a quilt supply store which also offers instruction for those interested in quilting.

Opening the store to pursue her artistic dream was a big risk, but the store has grown over the past seven years. Initially, she operated Cherry Tree Quilts from a small location on Main Street, but when she outgrew that space, she moved to the larger present location. She now has seven part-time employees who share her love of quilting.

Gillespie said there is a large community of quilters of all ages in Summerland and the surrounding area.

The youngest quilter she knows is 10 years old, while the oldest is 95.

She hopes to have people of all ages discover the joy of quilting.

The joy of quilting runs deep within her family.

Her son and daughter have both made quilts, and her husband helps at the store.

“The best part of my day is when someone new is in the shop and they are overwhelmed by what they see,” she said.

On the walls of the quilt shop are plenty of quilt samples. Gillespie said the designs have changed over the years.

“We don’t do a lot of traditional quilting here,” she said.

Instead, the designs are modern and many of the quilts are made using machines rather than stitching by hand.

Some of the samples displayed in the store tell stories of Summerland.

One shows the clock tower at the corner of Main Street and Victoria road. Another shows an orchard scene, which she said was inspired by her grandfather’s orchard.

Other samples show a family of quail and the legendary Ogopogo, swimming in Okanagan Lake.

In many of these samples, images of cherries or cherry trees can be found.

Gillespie is a fourth-generation Summerlander with deep ties to the community.

Her family, the Dunsdons, are featured in street names and on the mural on the packing house on Jubilee Road East. The man featured on the packing house wall mural is her grandfather, who also had an orchard in Summerland.

Gillespie said she believes in giving back to the community and last year, she contributed a quilt to the Summerland Food Bank.

She said she will probably provide more quilts to charities.

“They’re meant to be used and they’re meant to be loved,” she said of the quilts.

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