Artistic flair flows through Lucy Senstad’s fingertips at Aunt Annie’s

Lucy Senstad points out one of the variety of techniques and materials used in a quilted art panel hanging in her shop, Aunt Annie’s Quilts and Silks in Avon. After spending hours creating a series of three 10-foot high panels for a St. Cloud church and then having to part with them when the project was completed, Senstad made a smaller version of her favorite panel.


By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
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Creative flair flows through Lucy Senstad, manifesting itself in a variety of ways. Moving through different seasons in her life, from Raku pottery artist to executive chef to quilt artist and business owner, Senstad has owned and operated Aunt Annie’s Quilts and Silks in Avon since 1994.

“I always knew since I was five years old, that I wanted to make art,” Senstad said.

Her artistic interest was supported and encouraged by teachers all during her school years. She was often allowed to spend extra time — sometimes alone — in the art rooms during the school day.

When she attended the Minnesota Center for the Arts, she developed an interest in Raku pottery.

“Rougher clay is used for Raku,” she said. “When the piece is blazing orange hot, it is pulled out of the kiln and dropped onto combustible materials. It is later removed from that and dropped into water.”

When a move took Senstad and her family to Avon in 1984, she started a career as chef at the Sunwood Inn in St. Cloud (now the Kelly Inn). She was line cook and sous chef for five years, and then executive chef for five years, the first woman to run a major kitchen in St. Cloud, she said.

“I sometimes cooked for 1,000 people in one day,” said Senstad.

In 1994, Senstad moved into another artistic area entirely, partnering with her sister, Helen Frie of St. Wendel, to open Aunt Annie’s.

“We made up a name, since our aunts’ names were too complicated,” Senstad said.

While the shop initially carried only fabric and quilting tools, more fun fibers, paints and dry goods were added to the offerings. More art quilt-related supplies were stocked as the focus shifted.

“A couple years after we opened, we began to see that people were making art quilts like landscapes,” said Senstad. “Customers gave a very good response — there were not many contemporary quilt shops in Minnesota.”

Sole owner of Aunt Annie’s since 2002, Senstad has seen people drive from as far away as Fargo, Minneapolis and Willmar to visit her shop.

Senstad uses methods such as gelatin printing, ink jet printing and discharge dying to prepare materials for her quilts.

“I like to add all these different things to quiltmaking,” she said. “The different themes and elements keep the quilting alive.”

Senstad has given a number of classes in the gelatin method to groups in the area, including Waite Park, Albany and Swanville.

Because of her experience in the hospitality industry, and knowing the affect that listening to music has on people, Senstad has always played music in her shop.

“People always commented about the music, that it sounded so good because of the fabric on the walls,” she said.

One day she sent off an e-mail to Ron Bonneville, one of the musicians regularly featured in the shop.

“The interest in his performance was so high that we had to have two concerts; that many people were interested,” Senstad said. “He’s been here 11 times. He writes all of his own music and plays guitar and harmonica.”

The most recent musical artist featured was Radoslav Lorkovic, a Chicago-area resident born in Croatia. He will be performing at Aunt Annie’s again in June.

The modified “house concerts” are generally put on about once a month. The days and times vary. Evening concerts are held at 8 p.m. and Sunday concerts are at 4 p.m.

“I’ve been doing the concerts for six years. It’s always surprising and exciting when people say ‘yes’ that they will come here,” Senstad said. “The excitement hasn’t worn off. I feel privileged to do this.”

The shop’s cutting table legs are folded under and that becomes the stage. Some of the shelving filled with brightly-colored fabric is pushed back to make room for the audience.

“After the concert, I make the  performers dinner. I find out what they like and do that for them,” said Senstad. “My meals have even been mentioned on the radio. Ray Bonneville was on a blues program for KAFI radio in Minneapolis and raved about the Thai chicken salad.”

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