Photo Galleries: Birds and Art: Memories of Papua New Guinea by Beverly VanDyke Barry Lyon

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As birders find new ways to express their passion for birds and birding, VENT tour participant Beverly VanDyke has raised the bar to an unparalleled level. Bev is a veteran of 11 VENT tours and has found a way to mix her passion for birds with her other great love, quilt-making. After four of her excursions she has created quilts depicting birds and scenes that commemorate her recently completed trips. Her first three quilts were created following tours to Alaska, Costa Rica, and El Triunfo, Mexico.

In 2001 Bev joined David Bishop and Dion Hobcroft for an epic trip-of-a-lifetime to New Guinea. The adventure clearly left its mark on her, for when she got home she started work on a monumental project that, for most, would represent the work of a lifetime. The end result was an incredible quilt, approximately 12 ft x 12 ft in size, entirely hand-embroidered and sewn. The quilt features over 100 species of birds from Papua New Guinea, all species that she saw on the tour.

The mammoth project, a grand total of 4,191 hours of work, took three-and-a-half years to complete! Bev put in time on the quilt anywhere she could find it. Because she holds a full time job, evenings and weekends were mostly the only time she had. She even put in time between bites of food on her lunch hour! Her co-workers were amazed at her dedication, as she carried the hefty quilt to and from work daily.

Do not think for one moment that any part of the project was carried out without plan. Bev did her best to accurately portray bird distribution in a tropical forest ecosystem. All the bird species represented in the quilt are purposely arranged, with birds of the understory at the bottom and birds of the canopy at the top. The wondrous birds-of-paradise rightfully earned their own full row right in the middle of the quilt.

Referring to several field guides for accuracy, she painstakingly embroidered each panel, sparing no detail. Her love of the birds and wildlife of New Guinea is readily apparent. Close inspection reveals rich scenes of brightly colored birds, beautiful butterflies, and lush vegetation. Lifelike in pose, the birds appear to us the way they must have appeared to Bev in the field.

Upon completion of the final panel, Bev set to work quilting them all together. Truly a titanic job in itself, it would be another six weeks before the masterpiece reached completion. Tour leader Steve Hilty went to Kansas City to see the remarkable quilt and passed along his images to VENT.