SONGQUILTS: A celebration of stitch and song

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The “Song Quilts” project visually interprets folk music from four distinct regions of Russia and the United States: Appalachian Mountain Music, Cowboy Music of the Western Plains, Moscow Music, and Music of the Russian Arctic. Over the last year I have traveled across the United States and Northwest Russia interviewing women, and gathering their songs. From these field recordings, I created transcriptions of the folksongs shared with me and transformed them into quilts. I have developed a notation method that translates pitch into color and rhythm into shape. The quilt notations are direct transcriptions as they were sung to me by the women who participated. The actual quilting designs on each quilt are specific to the region, or the woman who sang the song. Each quilting design is meant to bring the person and the place into the room, to recreate the spirit of the singer, so that even if you can't hear her singing, you can feel the song. The result is a synesthetic meditation on the power of women's voices and folk traditions across diverse peoples. The Song Quilts celebrate the contributions of “women’s work” to national identity and global culture, and challenge audiences to revisit their own conceptions of fine art and folk art, the visual arts and music, and the people who create them. During the webinar I will share the creative process behind creating the Song Quilt series, along with stories and songs of the women I met across the US and Russia and how the textile and music traditions of each region have influenced the project. 

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Eliza Hardy Jones is a musician and quilter from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She began her musical training as a classical pianist, and after graduating from Vassar College began playing professionally in folk and pop bands. She has performed internationally, on festival stages, and on radio and television, with artists including Grace Potter and the grammy-nominated band Iron & Wine. Eliza grew up in a family of folk musicians and spent the summers and holidays of her youth teaching and playing traditional Appalachian music with her paternal grandmother. Her maternal grandmother and great-grandmother were seamstresses, and she inherited their love of sewing. She has also recorded 4 full-length albums of original music, including her most recent Because Become released in 2016 under her own name. It was that album that caught the attention of Ekaterina Sharova of the Arctic Art Institute. After speaking with Ekaterina about the rich music and textile traditions of the Russian Arctic, Eliza began work on an ambitious project that would marry her love of folk music and quilting by creating “Song Quilts” from interviews of women across the US and the Russian Arctic. Eliza gathers songs and stories from women and transforms them into colorful quilts. While completing her field work in the Russian Arctic, Eliza lectured at the Music College of Arkhangelsk, and presented her preliminary works at the Barents Bird Fest, an international cultural festival in Murmansk. She also met with traditional and modern quilters across the Arctic.

This project was possible in part from a grant from the Puffin Foundation.