Melissa May quilts surprisingly realistic portraits of beloved pets.

➼ It may seem a little early to think of the winter holidays, but this is a gift that’s so personal and so handcrafted that it needs a little extra lead time: Melissa May, in Fairmont, stitches pet portraits from photographs.

“I’m primarily a painter—I went to school for fine art, and I’ve painted most of my life,” May says. “Just within the last year, I’ve taken up the fabric and quilting. It’s a new endeavor for me, but I’m enjoying it very much.”

She learned traditional quilting in a class, but quickly started doing it like the artist she is. “I’d seen examples of contemporary artists working in fabric,” she says. “Once I found a technique that worked for me, I did my own pets and showed them to people, and I started getting orders right away for them.”

It’s easy to believe she’s enjoying it. In the short time she’s been quilting, May has stitched numerous images of dogs and cats as well as six full-size bed quilts and a couple of art pieces that are displayed at Tamarack.

May charges $100 for one pet on an 11×14 quilt. To commission a quilt, send her a high-resolution photo of the pet. She’ll piece the portrait together from her large stash of fabrics. “If someone wants a certain color palette, I try to accommodate that. Then, when I put the collage together, before I actually sew it down, I’ll send a snapshot and make sure the person’s comfortable with it and that it looks like the pet—it’s one thing for me to see one picture, but I don’t live with the animal. I haven’t had anyone say, ‘You don’t quite have it.’”

Expect the quilt to take about a month.

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written by Pam Kasey

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Pam Kasey
Written by Pam Kasey
Pam Kasey has traveled, brewed, farmed, counseled, and renovated, but most loves to write. She has degrees in economics from the University of Chicago and in journalism from West Virginia University. She loves celebrating Morgantown and West Virginia as executive editor at New South Media.