K C Willis Fabric Collage Artist
n a way my life has always been about Cowgirls. As a child growing up in a small midwest town in the 60's, I was surrounded by my father's love of the old west. We listened to Sons of the Pioneers and watched Roy Rogers, John Wayne and every western that made its way across the screen of our little black and white t.v. While other little girls played with Ken and Barbie, my sister and I played with Jane and Johnny West dolls and the sheets from our beds were used as covered wagon tops more than once. My idea of the perfect life was to be the only daughter of Ben Cartwright (imagine being Hoss and Little Joe's kid sister!) and spend my days riding around the Ponderosa. As I grew older, I immersed myself in the stories of western life and fell in love with Annie Oakley, Calamity Jane, and the idea of heading west. When I did head west at the age of 25, it was to Los Angeles and my covered wagon was a U-Haul-not exactly what I had in mind. I set about making my place in the world. At first glance, it seemed the grown-up version of me had stuffed the spirit of the cowgirl in a box and packed her away-my life seemed so far removed from those long-ago attachments. But when I began to do fiber art recently, it was the Cowgirl who came riding into the forefront of my imagination. It was then that I realized I had never really left her behind. In my 20's I was a professional singer and I sang country music. In my 30's I wrote a novel (it was published by HarperCollins) and it was a western with a sharp-shooting cowgirl leading the way, and in my 40's I moved to the southwest and now I'm surrounded in my studio by the faces of Annie Oakley, Sadie Austin and Pearl Heart. In my art the bond now grows stronger than ever. They were tough, strong, beautiful and brave. They were the Women of the West. They are my heroes.