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.

Listen to each quilt’s song below by clicking the "Works in the Exhibition" tab.

Click here for a short virtual, animated tour of the gallery.

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.

Works in the Exhibition

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

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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

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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.”

Bury Me Beneath the Willow, 2017
Eliza Hardy Jones
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Cotton; Machine-pieced and -quilted
Collection of the artist
Sung by Alex Caton, Gordonsville, Virginia, 2017

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Born in England, Alex Caton came to live in the US when she was 12. A lifelong violinist, Caton encountered Irish fiddle music for the first time in college. This discovery was her gateway to old-time Appalachian music, which has roots in traditional British, Irish, Scottish, Bavarian, and African music. Caton has also mastered guitar and banjo, the instrument she plays on her rendition of the classic Appalachian song “Bury Me Beneath the Willow Tree.”

Eliza Hardy Jones:
“The root color of this song is a rich navy with a palette inspired by colors typical of colonial Virginia. I quilted this with a simple chevron pattern, the same pattern found in the wood tiles of Alex's music studio, which her husband built for her.”

Aunt Dinah’s Quilting Party, 2017
Eliza Hardy Jones
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Cotton; Machine-pieced and -quilted
Collection of the artist
Sung by Carol Phillips, Mineral, Virginia, 2017

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Carol Phillips lives on the same Virginia land her ancestors settled in the 1700s. Phillips first learned piano from her grandmother, before moving on to guitar and then autoharp. Of her signature autoharp style she said, "One day in '93, after my dad died, I pulled it out and I started foolin' with it, and then it all came to me, my style of playing."

Eliza Hardy Jones:
“For the song quilt’s predominant color, I picked a sunny orange to pay homage to Carol’s band, Sunny Side, with whom she plays at area music festivals and senior facilities. I was inspired by Carol’s connection to her family land to use a Virginia Star-style quilting pattern.”

КАТЮША
Katyusha, 2018
Eliza Hardy Jones
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Cotton; Machine-pieced and -quilted
Collection of the artist
Sung by Virginia Bartow; Hope, New Jersey, 1982

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Eliza Hardy Jones’s great-aunt Virginia Bartow (1902-1985) was a semi-professional light opera singer. During her long-term relationship with Russian-born composer and arranger Andrei Salama, Bartow learned to sing in the Russian styleperforming such folk tunes as “Katyusha,” which tells the story of a young girl who longs for her absent soldier lover. After coming to America to escape the Russian Revolution, Andrei Salama purchased a dacha (country house) in New Jersey that was filled in summers with dancers, composers, painters, costume designers, actors, and singers. After his death, Bartow took ownership of the dacha and continued its function as an artistic retreat into the 1960s.

Eliza Hardy Jones:
“This is the only recording in the Song Quilts project I did not make myself, but I have many memories of Aunt Virginia singing this song. The root color of the quilt is a brilliant red inspired by traditional Muscovite dresses. The quilting design is based on the weaving patterns found in those same dresses.”

ГОРЮН МОЛОДОЙ
Goryon Molodoy, 2019
Eliza Hardy Jones
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Cotton; Machine-pieced and -quilted
Collection of the artist
Sung by Anna Akimova, Arkhangelsk, Russia, 2018

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Anna Akimova is a jazz singer who teaches voice at the College of Music in Arkhangelsk, a Russian city near the Arctic Circle. Arkhangelsk has a thriving Jazz scene and boasts two international Jazz festivals. Although Akimova and her band play mostly original jazz fusion compositions, for the Song Quilts project she shared “Goryun Molodoy,” a folk song from Russia’s southern Belgorod region that tells the tale of a young monk drinking by a mountain river.  

Eliza Hardy Jones:
“I hope I managed to capture some of the song’s spirit with these bold mountain colors. In the 10th and 11th row of the quilt you can see where Anna modulated the melody up a whole step, thus shifting the colors ‘up’ as well. The quilting design is inspired by a weaving pattern that is typical of Belgorod.”

СВЕЧА
Svecha, 2019
Eliza Hardy Jones
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Cotton; Machine-pieced and -quilted
Collection of the artist
Sung by Nadezhda Mironova, Moscow, Russia, 2019

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After receiving a degree in choir conducting from the prestigious Gnessin Music Academy in Moscow, Nadezhda Mironova spent eight years as the Chief Chorus Master and Northern Folklore researcher with the State Academic Northern Russian Folk Choir in Arkhangelsk, Russia. She says she loves the old songs “because they have ancestral wisdom and depth—they are filled with natural images.” The song “Svecha” is from the Pinega River Valley, which, like Arkhangelsk, is in far northern Russia near the Arctic Circle. It is meant to be sung as a bride prepares for her wedding.

Eliza Hardy Jones:
“I quilted “Svecha” with images found in traditional northern weaving: the elk-horned Mother of the World riding a Sun Chariot, symbols of fertility and harvest, and of the life giving power of the sun to the living and to the dead.”

ВДОЛЬ ПО ТРОВКЕ
VDOL PO TRAVKE (WALKING IN THE GRASS), 2018
Eliza Hardy Jones
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Cotton; Machine-pieced and -quilted
Collection of the artist
Sung by Tatiana Khvastunova, Tatiana Panova, Ekaterina Kharlanova, Tatiana Golvskaya, 2017

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The State Academic Northern Russian Folk Choir was founded in 1926 to preserve and perform the folk songs of the Russian Arctic, eventually expanding to include an orchestra of Russian folk instruments and a dance group. Based in Arkhangelsk, the choir has not only preserved the folk traditions of northern Russia, but as one of Russia’s top folk choirs also has shared them with international audiences.

Eliza Hardy Jones:
“While visiting Arkhangelsk in 2017, I was invited to tour the choir’s building and in-house museum with four of its leading members. They also performed a few songs for me, singing, dancing and telling stories. It was such a beautiful experience. They were kind enough to share one of their CDs, which I play with great pleasure in my home. I chose the quilt’s colors based on the CD album art and the quilting pattern is inspired by a traditional northern weaving style.”

Works in the Exhibition

Gallery Photos

Gallery Photos
Gallery Photos

Recording of Virtual First Friday Program

Recording of Virtual First Friday Program
Recording of Virtual First Friday Program

Virtual Tour of the Exhibition

Virtual Tour of the Exhibition
Virtual Tour of 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, August 4, 2020 to Sunday, February 7, 2021