Fiber artist Joan Skalbeck dyed fabrics to create vivid colors that brought quilts and other fiber works to life.
"Her fantastic fabrics blend beautifully with my style of work," said professional quilter and friend Susan Cleveland of West Concord, Minn. "My quilts with her fabrics are winning international level awards."
Skalbeck's hand-dyed fabrics are prized in the quilting community, said friend Tina Hughes of St. Paul, who participated in some of her quilting retreats on Lake Superior outside Duluth.
Skalbeck's husband, Charly, traveled with her across the country to quilting shows to sell her dyed fabric bundles. "We made many friends in the quilting world," he said. "Textile artists admired her vast color knowledge and innate color sense."
Skalbeck, 49, died from complications related to pancreatic cancer on June 9 at her home in Apple Valley.
Born in Duluth, she moved to St. Cloud at age 7 to live with her aunt and uncle, Verna and Dick Rieder, after her parents were killed in an auto accident. She graduated from Apollo High School and earned a fiber arts degree from St. Cloud State University in 1985.
She married Charly in 1983, and the couple operated Balsam Street Child Care from their Eagan home for nine years. Skalbeck did needlepoint, quilting and weaving on the side, but turned her passion for dyeing fabrics and fibers into a business with the encouragement of renowned quiltmaker and color artist Jan Myers-Newbury.
In 1998, Skalbeck launched the home-based Primrose Gradations, which sells a collection of her hand-dyed fabrics for quilters and fiber artists. The Skalbecks moved to Duluth to expand the business, but returned to the Twin Cities and settled in Apple Valley in 2005.
Charly has her dye formulas and plans to teach the dye techniques to their daughters in order to continue the business.
Last year, Skalbeck was honored with the Spun Gold award for lifetime achievement in the fiber arts by Textile Center, a national center for the fiber arts in Minneapolis.
"Her amazing array of fabric colors gave quilters a much vaster color palette than they had before," said Margaret Miller, the center's executive director.
Skalbeck was a member of the Minnesota Contemporary Quilters, taught dye and fabric design at Twin Cities fiber arts shops and volunteered at many of the quilting guilds in the state. She also was an avid gardener and gave her fabric collections botanical names.
"Joan was a renaissance woman," said Charly. "She even won a blue ribbon at the Dakota County fair for her bread-and-butter pickles."
In addition to her husband, Skalbeck is survived by two daughters, Hallie and Hannah Skalbeck; a brother, Michael Rieder, a sister, Renee Rieder, and two grandsons.
Visitation will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at J.S. Klecatsky & Sons Funeral Home, 1580 Century Point, Eagan. Services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at Easter Lutheran Church, 4200 Pilot Knob Road, Eagan.
Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619