Selected as semifinalists, the Etowah Valley Quilt Guild members will be among 377 entrants -- 11 of whom are from Georgia -- competing for $120,000 in cash awards. Currently in its 28th year, the show will be held in Paducah, Ky., April 25 to 28.
"I went to Paducah [about four years ago] as a beginning quilter and I was just so impressed," said Raptis, who is looking forward to her AQS contest debut. "It was just amazing to me. I thought all these people up there that had been chosen to have their quilts [displayed] were almost like movie stars.
"To me, I've already won, whether I win anything or not. ... [At this show] quilts come from all over the world and when I saw them [as a spectator] I was amazed. So I'm thrilled to be picked. I really am excited about going up there, just seeing [my] quilt hanging amongst all of those. They really are works of art."
Titled "Return Home," Raptis' machine-sewed quilt was inspired by a trip to Canada that she and her husband took for their 40th wedding anniversary. Describing the 49-inch-wide-by-73-inch-long piece as an art quilt, the creation features a bear emerging from the brush to view salmon swimming upstream.
"It was just representative of me returning home and the salmon returning home, I guess," said Raptis, a former resident of British Columbia who presently resides in White. "It's a very West Coast scene. It reminded me of my home. I, of course, have never seen a bear like that thankfully.
"There's actually not [a pattern]. I have a little bit of a checkerboard [but] it's more of an art quilt."
Echoing Raptis' sentiments, Bonnie Browning, AQS executive show director, emphasized the high caliber of quilts that will be featured in the April show. Expected to attract more than 30,000 people to the Paducah Expo Center, the Quilt Show & Contest drew submissions from 45 states and about 11 countries.
"Normally the quilters think they're a winner if they just get juried in because the competition is very stiff in this contest," Browning said. "We have quilts that come from all over the world entered into our Paducah contest."
Like her fellow Etowah Valley Quilt Guild member, Reker also is delighted to have her quilt displayed at the upcoming show. Her entry, "Behind Closed Doors" is appropriately named since it features houses around its border, with animals and people looking out the windows and doors.
"I've been in this show several other times but I haven't had anything in since 2007 because I've been taking care of a couple of grandchildren," Reker said, adding her entry is hand-sewn and machine-quilted. "So I finally got some time to myself again, got a quilt together. It's a really nice feeling. I go to the show every year and it always makes it more special when you have a quilt hanging there.
"I think I've had, counting this quilt, probably seven quilts in the quilt show [in the semifinalist round]. No, I've [never won]. The competition's too stiff. It's huge," she said, describing the Quilt Show & Contest. "It's at Paducah, which is a little town, and it's just a very friendly area. Quilts come from all over the world ... and they're gorgeous. [It is] just breathtaking what comes in, especially like from Japan and those areas. So to me, it's just an honor to get one in."
Intrigued by her mother's quilts as a child, Reker avidly picked up the craft after taking a class in 1978. While the Cartersville resident has been perfecting her skills for more than three decades, Raptis was introduced to quilting about six and a half years ago.
"I went to a quilt show in East Cobb in Marietta and I went with my sister-in-law who is a quilter," Raptis said about the East Cobb Quilters' Guild show. "She actually is the one that got me [addicted]. It doesn't take much once you get exposed. You talk to just about any quilter and they consider it pretty much addictive.
"To me, [I enjoy] the creativity. I'm more of [a], I wouldn't say free-spirited, but they call me the artsy one because I will follow patterns on traditional quilts and do exactly what I'm supposed to but I love the freedom of just making things work with fabrics and colors ... and just having visions of it in my head. It's very fulfilling."
For more information about the AQS' Quilt Show & Contest, visit www.americanquilter.com. Further details about the Etowah Valley Quilt Guild can be obtained at www.etowahvalleyquiltguild.com or by contacting Kelly Nagel at Kellykkn@gmail.com or 678-535-8256. The group meets on the third Tuesday of every month at the Cartersville Civic Center.