Tuesday, July 21, 2020

          Welcome to hot and sticky July here in Philadelphia. This month’s member project brings you Elizabeth Hardy Jones and her absolutely amazing song quilts. Read all about her and them below and prepare yourself for a real treat!
          Eliza grew up in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs, and after bouncing around for a bit, she returned to Philly after college. She’s lived in West Philadelphia for the last 16 years with her husband. She’s a professional musician and plays with Grace Potter, Iron & Wine, Martha Graham Cracker, and many other fabulous creative folks that invite her to sing along. She regularly tours which has given her the opportunity to travel all over the world, but in those in-between times she also has lots of time for quilting. 

Eliza’s nana Yolanda was an excellent garment maker, a skill she learned from her mother Antoinette who worked in a slip factory for 40 years. Eliza says she’s not the greatest garment maker, but her Nana did teach her how to sew, and to love sewing.  When Eliza settled back in Philadelphia in 2002, nana Yolanda bought her a Viking Emerald 116, and she started making quilts. She says she still uses that same machine and is very emotionally attached to it. 

          I asked Eliza what her favorite thing about quilting was, here is what she had to say:

“My favorite thing about quilting is the meditation of it. When I’m not touring, I don’t have a day job that I come home to, so I can spend all day in my studio with my quilts and get lost in the rhythm of it. I love that quilts are about marking a moment in time - a wedding, a birth, a death, a sickness, or a celebration. That feels powerful for me. I mostly machine piece and quilt, although I do the occasional appliqué or hand quilting. I’ve told myself that I have to make one garment this year. It hasn’t happened yet, but I’ve got time!”

          Eliza has spent the last few years working on an amazing project called the Song Quilts project. She developed the project in early 2016 as a way to explore how women’s voices and traditional “women’s work” connect us, challenge us, lift us up, and help us understand who we are. Each Song Quilt visually interprets folk songs from the American South and the Russian Arctic. She was lucky enough to travel across to Alabama, Virginia, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Moscow, Murmansk and Arkhangelsk, Russia interviewing women and gathering their songs and stories. From those field recordings, she created visual transcriptions of the folk songs shared with her, using a notation method she invented that translates pitch into color and rhythm into shape. The quilt notations are direct transcriptions of each woman's song. The quilting designs are reflections of regional textile traditions. The result is a series of quilts that are a synesthetic meditation on the power of women's voices and folk traditions across diverse peoples. In addition to the “official” song quilts she created for this project, she has also been commissioned to make Song Quilts for a few people, usually asking to have a quilt made of a favorite song, or a song of particular importance using her transcription methodology. She commented that It’s fun to see how different the folk songs look from the modern songs!

You can see all of the Song Quilts, along with recordings of each woman singing her song, pictures of the women that participated, local textile designs, and a few interview excerpts on her website: www.elizahardyjones.com/songquilts The Song Quilts are currently at the International Quilt Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska and will be on exhibit when the museum reopens in August!

With all her song quilts off on an adventure in Nebraska, Eliza has been working her way through a quilt bucket list. She’s just finished a peppermint wheel quilt and is nearing the end on a big pineapple quilt, and finally finishing a long abandoned appliquéd wreath quilt. Next up, she plans to make a leftovers quilt from all the cast-off fabrics (snowballs and such) from each of the song quilts. A wild menagerie of musical shapes!  And if that weren’t enough, she’s also hoping to finish recording a new record this year. 

          I want to encourage everyone reading this to check out Eliza’s website with all her song quilts, recordings of the songs and tons of great information. www.elizahardyjones.com/songquilts In the meantime here are a few pictures to whet your appetite:

In addition to being an amazing quilt artist, Eliza is also a professional musician.
Bury Me Beneath The Willow

A Little Stream of Honey

Cowboy Jack

Goryun Molodoy


Ne Bela Zarya

Steal Away to Jesus

Vdol Po Travke