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ARTIST PROFILE: Klotzko uses people’s clothing to make her unique quilts

February 8, 2019
By STEVE LESTER - Correspondent ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID-The art of quilting can have a therapeutic effect on a quilter such as Bethany Kraweic, who told the News for its Jan. 25 issue that the benefits include the notion that "it's cheaper than a therapist."

But then there are those such as Dawn Klotzko, of Upper Jay, who take the opposite tack and become the therapist for the sake of those who order quilts from her.

Klotzko began her professional career in New Jersey, where she was a pediatric physical therapist, but she developed a passion for quilting after taking an evening class in it with her mother in South Plainfield.

Article Photos

Dawn Klotzko poses in front of one of her quilts.
(Photo provided — Steve Lester)

"That was my chance to enjoy colors and fabric and putting them together to create something new," she said.

Her mother's life would come to an end three years later, which strengthened Klotzko's passion for this new pastime.

"I guess I felt a closeness to her when I'd use the fabrics she'd selected for some of her own work," she said.

Then a friend approached Klotzko about making a quilt out of clothing belonging to her child who had recently committed suicide.

"It was really powerful to both me and her," she said.

In time, other friends were coming to Klotzko with similar requests about making quilts out of family members' clothing.

"It's like a piece of history," she said. "I'm honored each time I'm asked to do something like that."

One such friend asked Klotzko to make a quilt out of her mother's clothing in honor of her passing.

"Every time she wrapped that quilt around her, she said it felt like her mother was giving her a hug," she said. "That was really powerful."

Klotzko draws on her own mother's experience and advice to motivate herself in two ways toward making exceptional quilts that offer therapeutic value for her clients. The first way involves how her mother had waited too long in life before attempting to fulfill certain dreams. Therefore, while still relatively young, she was determined to check off the box on her bucket list marked "become an expert quilt maker."

The other factor involves how she wants to help people tell their stories and share memories through clothing, which is something her mother would have liked to have seen, she said.

"I think my mother would be pretty proud knowing that she had affected someone's life like this," Klotzko said. "Mom was not a performer but preferred the backstage life."

Her quilts often contain hidden messages such as lyrics to the client's favorite song, or favorite sayings between family members such as "Love you to the moon and back" that two sisters often shared with each other.

One mother who had two teenaged daughters asked Klotzko to make her a quilt out of the old pajamas the girls wore as toddlers.

"I would not have expected a request like that, but it's very therapeutic for all of them," she said. "I've been passionate about making a difference in people's lives, and I'm happy to have the opportunity to do that through quilting."

When asked if she's working on any quilts at present she said, "Yes, several."

One of them is made of running clothes worn by a couple during the marathons they used to run together and the hiking clothes they wore while climbing the 46 Adirondack High Peaks.

Although Klotzko holds no degrees from any art schools, she said, "I definitely feel like I'm on a new journey."

She and her husband, Eric, moved to Upper Jay in 2008 because they found the area attractive, and Eric is self-employed in a field that requires little more than an internet connection.

"So we chose the Adirondack Park," she said.

Despite her affinity for quilting, she maintains that "being a stay-at-home mom is still my number one priority. But now that the kids (Madison,12, and Hunter, 14) are in junior high school I'm looking to explore a little. Quilting has been a wonderful thing to discover, and I find I'm very passionate about it."



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