Eliza Hardy Jones: Song Quilts

Eliza Hardy Jones: Song Quilts

How can the ephemeral, short-lived experience of a musical performance be expressed in a tangible, enduring artform? Musician and quiltmaker Eliza Hardy Jones explores this question in her Song Quilts project.

Jones traveled across the U.S. and Northwest Russia recording folk songs sung by women, which she then transcribed into written music. Next, she developed a notation method that translates pitch—the highness or lowness of a sound—into color, and rhythm into shape. The resulting quilts are “read” from top left to bottom right.

Jones selected predominant colors and quilting patterns to reflect her impressions of the song, the singer, and the experience of sharing music. With each quilt, Jones materialized the women’s voices as they sang to preserve their communities’ traditions and identity.

About the Artist

About the Artist
About the Artist

Eliza Hardy Jones is a quiltmaker and internationally touring musician, singer, and songwriter from Philadelphia. She currently tours with Grammy-nominated artists Iron & Wine and Grace Potter, in addition to releasing her own original music. Jones has given talks on her quilts across the U.S. and in Russia, and her work has been featured in various quilt publications. According to Jones, she “inherited a love of stitch and song from a long line of wild women, musicians, and seamstresses.”

Click here for more information about the Song Quilts project.

Select Works in the Exhibition

Select Works in the Exhibition

Cowboy Jack, 2016
Eliza Hardy Jones
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Cotton; Machine-pieced and -quilted
Collection of the artist
Sung by: Marcella “Sally” Woerman, Oakland, Nebraska, 2016

Listen Now

A lifelong resident of rural Nebraska, Sally Woerman has always loved making music. As a child, she learned to play the piano, mandolin, button accordion, ukelin (a combination of a violin and ukulele), and autoharp, picking out tunes by listening to the radio. She often performed locally, sometimes at Farmer’s Union meetings and also on the West Point (Nebraska) Radio station. Popularized by the legendary Carter Family folk singing group in the 1930s, “Cowboy Jack'' is likely derived from a traditional nineteenth-century tune.

Eliza Hardy Jones:
“The root color of this song is a pale blue sky, like the one that hung over the farm when I visited Sally. A handmade Double Wedding Ring quilt on Sally’s couch was my inspiration for the quilting pattern.”

A Little Stream of Honey, 2018
Eliza Hardy Jones
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Cotton; Machine-pieced and -quilted
Collection of the artist
 Sung by Vernyce Dannells, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2018

Listen Now

Vernyce Dannells is a quiltmaker, artist, writer, poet, and storyteller. Born to immigrant parents of West Indian and Uzbek descent, she faced racism as a young woman and found solace and strength in the religion of Baha’i, which preaches the fundamental equality of all people. After she first learned the hobo song “A Little Stream of Whiskey,” she changed “whiskey” to “honey” because, as a Baha’i, she does not drink alcohol. 

Eliza Hardy Jones:
“The song’s patchwork grid breaks down in the last two lines as Vernyce freely sings a coda (closing musical passage). I picked a regal purple as the root color, because Vernyce shines purple in my eyes—and we both like purple shoes! The backing fabric and quilting are honeycombs, for obvious reasons.”

Select Works in the Exhibition
Eliza Hardy Jones would especially like to thank Ekaterina Sharova of the Arctic Art Institute, who was her generous host and translator during her field work in Russia. Without her, this project would not have been possible. Support for this exhibition has been provided by the following sponsors, and by contributions from visitors like you. Additional support from the Nebraska Arts Council and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment and Friends of the International Quilt Museum. The Nebraska Arts Council, a state agency, has supported this exhibition through its matching grants program funded by the Nebraska Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment. Visit www.artscouncil.nebraska.gov for more information.
Event Date
Tuesday, April 14, 2020 to Sunday, September 20, 2020