Translating art and imagery from one medium to another can often be challenging, so when Zoë contacted me from England and asked if I could interpret her late husband’s tree painting into a memorial quilt, I proceeded carefully. John painted the tree while he was in college and had kept it with him ever since.
The first thing I noticed in the painting was how John had played with light and dark through the gradations in the abstracted shapes surrounding the tree – they seemed to be both leaf shapes as well as negative space shapes. My quilt work relies on pattern and structure, so I decided to start with a ground of abstracted leaf shapes that were built out of the gradation in John’s collection of clothes. (I would tackle the tree shape later.)
And so I worked with a few clothing gradients, starting with this one.
Keeping each section in the correct order, I had to be organized while laying out the pieces and sewing them together.
Putting the bigger leaf blocks together allowed the gradients to emerge.
Zoë had also asked if I could somehow work in a small label she took out of one of John’s shirts. It was fun to find a nice place for it to land.
Figuring out how to integrate the tree took, well, some figuring. I felt that the tree shape contained so much expressiveness, and I wanted to retain John’s original “hand”. The only option then, was to trace the tree form in the computer, enlarge it, and create a pattern piece to be appliquéd onto the ground.
Luckily, Zoë had sent two matching black shirts that gave me enough fabric for the big tree.
And with careful pinning and pressing, I sewed the tree to the base layer.
Here is the final quilt, complete with a quilting pattern that evokes the wind blowing through the tree.
This detail shows the quilting and appliqué stitching.
I absolutely love this quilt. Thank you, Zoë!