Star Quilting Came Naturally For These Sisters

Last Updated by Michael Zimny on

Sisters DeVon and Donna Bursheim, and cousin Shelly DuMarce, met recently in DeVon’s living room at Agency Village on the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, to quilt and talk, like sisters do.

Though their work is sought after in Northeast South Dakota, and recently received some national attention, the sisters first came to the art of making star quilts out of necessity borne by loss.

“Ten years ago, our father passed away, " DeVon recalled. "Some families will put on a memorial for their family member to remember them by, and they'll have a giveaway. Before Dad died he told us that he didn’t want a giveaway, because it’s a hardship on the family. Cause these giveaways are massive. I’ve heard of 100 star quilts being given away at a memorial. And they're spendy.”

“He told us he didn’t want a memorial, and we weren’t going to. Then our Aunt approached us one day and said, ‘I’m having a memorial with or without your help.’ So I talked with my sisters and I said, ‘The only reason Dad didn’t want to have a memorial was because he didn’t want to have a hardship on our family. Well, it won’t be a hardship if we made them.’”

“So we decided that we would make them. [A friend] that knows how to make star quilts came over one Saturday and layed it out for us. We started meeting once a week to sew. The closer it got to his memorial we were meeting almost every day.”

SQ2.JPGShelly DuMarce measures and cuts fabric diamonds with a rotary tool.

“So that’s how we got started.”

The sisters seem to have tapped into an innate knack for precision — cutting, sewing and aligning the diamonds of fabric to form a perfect star doesn’t look easy, but when the times demanded that, they learned fast, and haven’t slowed since.

The family operation, now five sisters and one cousin strong, continues to make quilts for memorials — and sometimes those come too soon. The work can be sad but also therapeutic. “For me, it's really a healing process,” says DeVon, “because we get together and tell stories, share memories. That’s what a memorial is all about is healing, and for us, that’s a big part of what we do.”

SQ1.JPGDeVon Bursheim's daughter tells jokes as her mother sews.

They also make quilts as gifts to honor people for achievements like time in service at a job, military service or service to the community, and they do a brisk trade in baby blankets.

Designs can run from traditional Dakota to Green Bay Packers.

You can see some of their work on display at the SWO tribal headquarters, where theirs comprise the autumn section of a four seasons quilt display that circle around the rafters above the lobby rotunda.

SQobama.jpgOne of DeVon Bursheim's star quilts was presented to the President during his recent visit to Watertown.

One of the sisters has a website, but word-of-mouth is enough to keep them busy. It didn’t hurt when one of their quilts was presented to President Obama on the occasion of his commencement address at Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown.

“I think our dad would be proud of us,” says Donna.

subscribe to sdpb email updates food blog link image learning blog link image living blog link news and information blog link science and technology blog link sports blog link image

Related content from SDPB Radio - Art

In The Moment ... Senator Mike Rounds On Cybersecurity

In The Moment ... May 24, 2017 Show 100 Hour 1 As top programmers compete in Rapid City at the International...

In The Moment ... Dental Forensics And The Deadwood Pioneer

In The Moment ... May 16, 2017 Show 094 Hour 2 "Deadwood Pioneer: A Face from the Past" is a new documentary from...

In The Moment ... Calvin Coolidge In The Black Hills

In The Moment ... May 3, 2017 Show 085 Hour 2 This week's Dakota Political Junkies features Roger Whittle, managing...

In The Moment ... Shifting Populations, Shifting Opportunities

In the Moment ... April 20, 2017 Show 076 Hour 1 We continue our look at how shifting populations impact South...

Books

In The Moment ... Children’s Literature In The Age Of Trump

In The Moment ... May 19, 2017 Show 097 Hour 1 We could all use a laugh right now, especially children. So says...

In The Moment ... Dental Forensics And The Deadwood Pioneer

In The Moment ... May 16, 2017 Show 094 Hour 2 "Deadwood Pioneer: A Face from the Past" is a new documentary from...

"Paul Goble, Storyteller"

Artist Paul Goble passed away on January 5, 2017. Biographer Greg Bryan worked with Goble for more than four years...

Michael Dirda: A Life In Books And The Pulitzer Prize

Pulitzer Prize-winning book reviewer Michael Dirda takes a look back at a career as a professional reader. From...

Music

In The Moment ... Shemekia Copeland

In The Moment ... May 22, 2017 Show 098 Hour 2 When Shemekia Copeland was eight years old, her father pulled her...

In The Moment ... Children’s Literature In The Age Of Trump

In The Moment ... May 19, 2017 Show 097 Hour 1 We could all use a laugh right now, especially children. So says...

In The Moment ... Moment In Sound With Aces & Eights

In The Moment ... May 12, 2017 Show 092 Hour 1 Today for Moment in Sound, we welcome Harland Allen and Kim Bachman...

In The Moment ... Levitt At The Falls

In The Moment ... May 4, 2017 Show 086 Hour 1 SDPB's Steve Zwemke sits down with Minneapolis indie band " Night...

Theater

In The Moment ... Alex Meyer's Scenic Design

In The Moment ... May 10, 2017 Show 090 Hour 2 Alex Meyer. He's a junior art and theater major at Augustana College...

In The Moment ... Remembering Vietnam On Horseback

In The Moment ... May 9, 2017 Show 089 Hour 2 Colt Romberger’s father served in Vietnam, and it changed his life...

Dakota Midday: S.F. Washington's "Wizard Of Oz"

South Dakota high schools produce a variety of plays each year. This week the Washington High School drama...

Dakota Midday: Lisa McNulty On Female Artists

The Off-Broadway Women's Project Theater is the oldest and largest theater company that promotes women artists in...