University of Mobile Professor of Chemistry Dr. Gail Shelly unveils another side to her normally analytical persona when her quilting exhibit “From Designing to Binding” premieres at the school’s Marilyn Foley Art Gallery on campus.

An instructor in general and organic chemistry at the school since 2008, the Ph.D. from the University of California can trace her sideline love to her childhood.

“I was a seamstress long before I became a scientist,” Shelly said in a press release.

Starting at age 10, her mother and grandmother taught her needlework. Through observation and tutelage, she became an expert at embroidery.

“My grandmother taught my mother how to piece quilt tops from the fabric scraps of sewing projects,” Shelly said. “She also quilted with a group who worked together to sew the top, batting and backing at the same time in a ‘sandwich’ using decorative designs. They taught me the technique of hand quilting.”

She hasn’t left the lab behind, though. It comes through in her art.

“One of the areas of chemistry that has always fascinated me is how molecules interact with light to produce colors,” Shelly said. “As a quilter, fabric is my medium – it is far less messy than mixing chemicals together, although that can be quite satisfying too.”

The variation is a constant challenge that keeps her sharp.

“Quilters use color and color value like any other artist – to define form and create spatial illusions. I love to use both color and design to create quilts that show dimensionality and movement,” she said.

“Dr. Gail Shelly’s quilts exceed the definition of craft; they are beautiful works of art,” Gallery Director and Associate Professor of Art Phillip Counselman said, “The works are highly designed with exquisite colors. It is apparent that Dr. Shelly is a keen observer of nature based on her organic designs. This exhibit is a great example of how art reveals science.

The exhibit is cross-disciplinary, which makes it perfect for our campus experience.”
A true Southerner, family legacy is always at play.

“Using my hands to create stitched designs allows me to honor the women in my family that worked with needle and thread and who took the time to show me how to continue a time-honored tradition,” Shelly said.

The exhibit runs through Dec. 5. Admission is free. The gallery is open Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. ­until 4:30 p.m. in the Ben May building on campus. The art department will host an Artist Talk, Nov. 20 at 1 p.m. in Weaver Hall Auditorium.

For more about this or other exhibits at the University of Mobile, visit or call Phillip Counselman at 251-442-2283.