By Kristen Banks
There are times in your life when you meet someone and you just know that your life is about to change. Sometimes I think the good Lord planted Royce Prentice right here in Southern Oklahoma just for me.
Royce Hallmark Prentice started quilting in 1983 and it’s a good thing that she did or I might not be writing this article today.
In that first year she made 12 quilts. In case you didn’t know that’s a lot of quilts for someone with no former quilting experience. But from what I know of Royce, that’s pretty normal. She never half does anything. Within two short years of making her first quilt she had already started the Heritage Quilters of Bryan County.
The Heritage Quilters are a group of like-minded ladies who come together monthly to promote the art and heritage of quilting. And they still meet today with more than 40 members strong. But she didn’t stop there.
It was around this time that she entered her first national quilting contest. I recently tried to ask her in a nonchalant, round about kind of way, why she had thought she should enter a national contest with such little quilting experience at the time. Her response was something to the effect of “Why shouldn’t I?”
I think it’s that kind of confidence, drive, and fearlessness that has made “Roy-cee” (as she likes her friends to call her) so successful at her chosen craft. Little did she know with the completion of that first quilt in 1983, that she would go on to become an award-winning nationally recognized quilter…or maybe she did.
Royce’s accolades include, but are not limited to, quilts shown at the Houston International Quilt Show, the Pacific International Quilt Show, and the Good Housekeeping-Lands End Quilt contest just to name a few. Her award-winning quilt entered in the latter-mentioned contest is featured on a poster in the Library of Congress as the winner for the State of Oklahoma. Her beautiful originally designed quilt entitled “OK Album”, comprised of needle turn appliqué flowers native to the state of Oklahoma, hung for a time on display in the rotunda at the State Capital of Oklahoma. She was also featured in QNM magazine.
I could go on and on about her many awards and acknowledgments, but what I really wanted to write about was what she means to me. Royce is the person who taught me to quilt, and is the reason why I’m so passionate about quilting today.
I met Royce seemingly by chance, although I would call it divine appointment, at a free quilting class that I took on a whim. Although I was an experienced seamstress for someone my age, I had never made a quilt before that class. Royce and I spent about three years quilting regularly together with her putting me through the paces week after week and month after month.
I really never set out to learn so much about quilting, but she recognized something in me. She knew I was a “Quilter” long before I did. She was always gently pushing me and challenging me to do more. She brought out the best in me and helped me to be more comfortable with my own art instead of trying to be someone else or fit into a standard mold. She gave me the tools I needed to succeed and allowed me to do it in my own way and time frame.
I couldn’t have asked for a better education, for what I was interested in, and I couldn’t have gotten a better one if I had spent tens of thousands of dollars and attended an Ivy League school.
But the best gift she gave me wasn’t just the knowledge, it was the gift of herself. She gave me her time and she didn’t ask for a thing in return. It may seem strange that a single woman in her 30’s could learn from or would have so much in common with a Grandmother in her 80’s. But I’ve never met anyone that I have more in common with than Royce Prentice. It’s like we speak the same language.
If you’ve ever had that teacher growing up in school that could finally unlock that one subject you were really interested in, and explain it in a way that finally made sense, that is what Royce did for me with quilting.
But Roycee isn’t just my teacher she also became my friend, a friend that’s like family. In fact, she claims me as an honorary grandchild. I feel pretty honored about that one. Another interesting thing about Royce is that she’s as current as a People magazine.
When I first met her I was fascinated by how this “Grandma” didn’t seem like a Grandma at all. She had read the latest novels, she watched the most popular television shows, and could converse knowledgably about pop culture. She was aware of and had practiced most any sewing technique that I had ever heard of or could even imagine.
For someone like me, who was hungry for this kind of knowledge, she was a rock star. I can’t imagine Gwen Stefani standing in front of me and me being anymore mesmarized.
Royce moved to North Texas recently and although that’s not very far away as the crow flies, the distance can seem pretty far some times. Even though we don’t get to visit as often as we’d like to these days, there’s still no one I’d rather spend my time with outside of my own family than her.
In one of my favorite songs by Ed Sheeran there is a line that goes, “Your soul will never grow old it’s Evergreen”. The same can be said about Royce Prentice. It is a pleasure and an honor to call her my friend
She will never know how much she has given me. She changed my life in a good way, and I will forever be grateful for that. And Roycee will forever be Evergreen to me.
Every Quilter has a story and we’d like to hear yours! Send us your stories, tips, and ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.