Friday, September 23, 2022

Joy of Handwork: The Quilts of Zena Thorpe

Explore the beauty of award-winning quilts from the artist Zena Thorpe. Her hand quilted and applique quilts have been exhibited around the world and she has been recognized as one of the hundred best quilters in the twentieth century. In 2003, Zena was inducted into the Master Quilters Guild, an institution of the National Quilting Association.

Zena's work was featured at the recent 2022 International Quilt Festival in Salt Lake City. Here are some exquisite quilts from the Joy of Handwork exhibit.

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Out of the Strong Came Forth Sweetness by Zena Thorpe

This original design was inspired by a tapestry in Lincoln Cathedral, England. The quilt is in the style of the medieval French Mille Fleurs (thousand flowers) tapestries. The flowers are all wildflowers, and many are featured in Zena Thorpe's book, Beautiful Wildflower Applique.  Zena explains that the French medieval tapestries usually had a life form of some sort in the work.  In the detail photo below you can see the magnificent lion surrounded by bees.

Renaissance by Zena Thorpe

Renaissance was inspired by a sixteenth century embroidered valance shown in a Dover book.  Adonis was the Greek god of rebirth and renewal of vegetation each spring, and this he quilt symbolizes the annual renaissance. Some of the amazing details of the hand applique, quilting and embroidery can be seen in these closeup photos.  



Exuberance by Zena Thorpe

Exuberance is hand appliqued, embroidered, and quilted, and the name fits the feeling you get from admiring this quilt.  Zena says that she appliques fantastical flowers because they are so much more exciting to her than real ones. "I think nature does a wonderful job of creating her flowers and I cannot compete with nature, so I make up my own flowers." You can see Zena discussing this award-winning quilt during a 2016 AQS interview on YouTube.


 A Quilters Crest by Zena Thorpe

This little quilt is so much fun! Since many organizations have a coat-of-arms or crest, Thorpe felt the quilt world should have its own. A Quilter's Crest design incorporates all of the components of an official coat-of-arms but adapted to the art of quilting. The "charges" on the shield represent some of the tools of the trade, i.e. pins, thread, scissors, and also the hazards of the trade, drops of blood or "gouttes de sang." The motto on the scroll is Latin for "Always Quilting."

Sunbonnet Sue is shown in a sweet crocheted dress and carrying a quilted bag. Another of our favorite details was the hand, below, wearing a thimble and holding a needle pulling thread. The ends of the "bolts" of fabric are even embroidered with the words, "100% cotton" (shown below).

Kells - Magnum Opus by Zena Thorpe

This quilt was inspired by the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript produced by Celtic monks around 800 A.D. The quilt was given the NQA Masterpiece Award in 2003.

The book of Kells records the gospels of the four evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, with an ornate title page for the beginning of each of the gospels. Thorpe used the title page from the Gospel According to Luke as the major inspiration for the quilt. All of the Celtic knot interlacing strip designs were taken directly from the Book of Kells, requiring many yards of bias strips to create.

Fun and Fancy by Zena Thorpe

Fun and Fancy is another original design, inspired by various books and magazines. Zena Thorpe says, "When I was a small child, I would ask my mother as she was working on her projects, "What are you making that for?" She would reply, "For fun and fancy!"  This quilt was fun to make, and it turned out fancy." the circles in the inner border add to the playfulness of this outstanding design.

Pageantry by Zena Thorpe

Upon completing To England With Love, which we featured earlier this week, Thorpe realized she had not included the art of heraldry in it. Pageantry would be the remedy. The Oxford Guide To Heraldry defines heraldry as "...art with special rules and methods, a system of symbols denoting prominent families and institutions, a display of pageantry and an invaluable aid to understanding history and genealogy." The quilt is covered with hand appliqued motifs, each one rendered in great detail to bring the art of pageantry to life.



Image credits:  Photos were taken by Quilt Inspiration at the 2022 International Quilt Festival in Salt Lake City, Utah.

 

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