Yong Hui Torske watched a river edged in trees roll past the car windows. She asked her friend to pull over and snapped photographs before they continued toward a quilt festival in Houston.
A piece depicting the roadside scene, titled “River’s Edge,” hangs in her quilt show this month at Art 321. Torske’s show feature a variety of colors and patterns in quilts depicting flowers, birds and trees. Her quilting is often inspired by nature and scenes she encounters in her day-to-day life. She’s always loved autumn most since growing up in Korea.
“These bright oranges and yellows — and in Korea, it’s just so beautiful,” Torske said. “It’s just hung with trees, so this time of year everything is orange and red and oak trees and maple leaves and all that kind of stuff. I grew up with that, and of course, the rivers.”
Torske was a newlywed and barely spoke English when four decades ago her sister-in-law said they should join a quilting class in their small Montana community where she lived at the time.
“I said, ‘OK, I didn’t even know what a quilting class is,’ so I went,” Torske said.
Today, she runs her own quilting business. Her pieces have won many awards, including the master’s category best of show for 2010 at Quilting in the Tetons. She’s also taught quilting classes at Casper College for more than 20 years as well as for various groups across the country.
Torske keeps a camera handy to capture scenes that inspire her, like a flower in a garden as she walks by or a landscape along a drive.
A small quilt in the show reveals another side of her affection for autumn. A moonlit cypress tree she depicted in patches of wool felt is titled “Moonbeam.” The moon sinks into clouds while stitching represents its light cast across the scene. She created the piece for a challenge among her quilting group for a fantasy-themed project. Instead of a beach or fairies, she created the ghostly scene.
“Halloween is my favorite holiday,” Torske said. “I like those spooky, eerie things.”
She also draws inspiration from Korean folklore, and a show last year featured a dragon stretched across a quilt. Her children call her “dragon lady” because she was born in the year of the dragon. It’s said that dragon year babies born in January’s new moon are the most powerful personalities, she said, and that’s when she was born.
“My grandmother would tell me, ‘You’re never going to find a husband, because your spirit is too strong. Nobody can put up with you,’” she said, laughing.
Her grandmother told her she’d better find something she’s good at to support herself. Her quilting money may only cover her fabric habit at times, but she did find a husband, she added.
These days, much of her inspiration comes from the natural scenes that surround her in Wyoming. One quilt in the show was inspired by sunflowers her husband planted in their yard, with yellow petals set off against a burgundy background. She also loves wildflowers and scenes on Casper Mountain, where she finds something new every time she visits.
Besides her works inspired by her experiences outdoors, a book or pattern will sometimes spark her creativity, too. But she always makes her quilts a little different, adding her own touch, she said.
“That’s the fun part, is when you don’t just create what everyone does,” Torske said.