“People would come into my store and order a custom quilt,” recalls Kari Morton. “Then they’d come back in six weeks to pick it up. If they needed a lawyer, we’d take care of that, too, because my law office was in the back.”
Morton’s rather unusual career path has come together much like a handmade quilt: she took unrelated pieces and stitched the patchwork into a fulfilling and well-planned creative design. “As a teenager,” Morton recalls, “my goals were to have a law practice, a designer clothes store, and a restaurant.” So she studied law in Tennessee, where she and her husband owned a BBQ restaurant for a while. Then she started offering the down-home combo of legal and quilting services in 2002, when they resettled in Kentucky.
Since then, she’s made more than 600 custom quilts. But she retired from the legal profession in 2013, when she moved to Marshall — apparently two years too soon.
“I would have kept my law license active and continued doing that. But when I moved to North Carolina, they told me that unless I had practiced law for 30 years, I’d have to sit for the bar exam again. I had been a lawyer for 28 years, and I certainly didn’t want to do that. So I decided I’d let it go.”
She may not practice law any more, but she’s an exceptionally active retiree. Morton is one of five partnering owners of Flow Gallery in downtown Marshall, which represents about 65 local artists. She still makes and sells her own custom quilts, as well as jackets, coats, and handbags.
“These days sewing is almost a dying art form,” she observes. “But my mother taught me to sew when I was ten and made my first apron. She taught me the basics, and with practice, I got to where I could see a picture in a magazine of a dress or a pair of slacks, and go make it myself. In high school I’d sit up at night and make an outfit to wear to school the next day.”
Morton also enjoys touring the country to attend quilt shows, where she teaches the craft while selling her work. For a while, she was on the road for 32 weekends per year, before cutting back to about a dozen. “I grew up as an Air Force brat,” she explains. “About every two years we moved. Then I got married and continued the tradition. Travel has influenced my quilting in ways, because lots of quilts I’ve made define the places where I’ve lived. One of those is a three-dimensional quilt, depicting a tree with birds, a wolf, and a bear. Now that I live here, that’s a scene I see almost daily when I’m driving to Marshall.”