Life Long Friends Art quilt by Allison Wilbur of Japanese Crane, Turtle, Peonies and wisteria

Lifelong Friends

An old Japanese tale tells the story of two unlikely friends, a turtle and a crane, who stand by each other throughout life’s trials and tribulations. During a flood, the turtle lets the crane rest on his back and later, during a drought, the crane picks up the turtle and transports him to a lake. Both are symbols of long life and also have connotations of heaven (the crane in flight) and earth (the turtle). Early on in life, I learned the value of friendship and the importance of cultivating and maintaining true friends. At times this was challenging because I have lived in many countries, states and towns. Yet these friendships sustain me, bringing not only laughter and happiness, but also solace and support in difficult times.

Black and gray kimono fabric with large peony flowers and pink wisteria
Pencil drawing of Japanese crane with head and beak extended upward

The fabric on the left is kimono fabric, which is 14 inches wide. I love the large peony flowers, the wisteria and the dark background. I sketched a Japanese crane and translated the sketch into a full size drawing scaled to fit next to the kimono fabric. Next, I needed to do some test painting to see whether I had paints that would work on a dark background.

ProChem Pearlescent Fabric paints worked beautifully. They are opaque and so cover even the darkest background. The brights remain bright and the darks of the background do not show through. I stitched the outline of the bird first and then painted. The stitched lines give an easy definition to the paint. 

Gray and black fabric with uneven horizontal stripes and half outline of Japanese Crane
Painted songbird with bug in beak on dark striped background and opaque fabric paint and brushes

With a strong light box I could see through the fabric to trace my design using a bohin pencil and chalko marker. I also filled out the flower forms and added the turtle and wisteria in the upper right hand section to pull the design together.

Gray and black fabric with chalk drawing of crane being stitched on a long arm quilting machine
Gray and black fabric with painted Japanese crane in silver, black, red and white

Next I loaded the three layers on my long arm quilting machine and stitched the design. Once the design was stitched I used the pearlescent porches fabric paints to paint the crane, turtle, flowers, leaves and wisteria. I also used stamps to add texture and stitched some plant forms in near the turtle. Background quilting was kept to the horizontal lines of the background fabric. 

Life Long Friends hung in the New England Quilt Museum

This quilt was created as my piece for Explorations, an exhibit highlighting art quilt techniques at the New England Quilt Museum which I curated with Nancy Turbitt. A catalog of the exhibit (Explorations: Journeys in Creativity: Inside the Quilt Artist’s Studio) is available on Amazon.

Lifelong Friends was purchased and is now in a private collection. I love when my art resonates with someone so much that they want it in their home. My own home is full of art reflecting my life’s journey and setting the mood for my daily life. 

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