Tecumseh by Allison Wilbur 2021


“Tecumseh” is a commission for a woman living in New Hampshire. Susan recently purchased her home  and wanted artwork that reflected the beautiful scenery outside her windows and would fill a large space created by a cathedral ceiling. Susan knew of my work through her brother, Jay McKay, a painter who had a studio in my building. Jay paints beautiful, atmospheric city scapes. Susan sent me this photo of Mt Tecumseh to give me an idea of what she had in mind.

View of Mt Tecumseh

When I make an art quilt, most of the time involved  takes place in the designing phase. As I thought about this quilt, I thought about why she chose me to create a piece. Certainly one element was size – the cathedral ceiling in the room means there is a large space viewed from above and below. We agreed to use 5 feet wide x 3 feet tall as a starting place. I also thought about the distinction between a painting and a quilt, which for me meant that piecing would play an important role. Finally, we spoke a bit about seasonal changes, and I suggested somehow including the full range of the seasons in the piece.

watercolor sketch of Mt Tecumseh
small art quilt sketch with blue sky, tree and green grass area
art quilt sketch of two green mountains coming together next to water Moon shining between mountains and reflected in water.

I started with a sketch of my concept and shared this with Susan along with two small landscape pieces so she could have an idea of the textures added with quilting.

rectangle shaped fabric pieces in a grid forming a color wash of autumn color
diamond shaped fabric pieces in a grid forming a color wash of autumn color

I knew I wanted to use a color wash format and experimented with scraps to previewstrip piecing vs diamonds. The diamonds work better to blend the colors.

Batik fabric in autumn, summer, spring and winter colors
Cutting diamond shapes from colorful batik fabrics

I shared a photo with Susan of the fabrics I planned to use and began cutting diamonds and grouping them by color

color grid of diamond shaped batik fabrics
color grid of diamond shaped batik fabrics

Next I began creating a grid using the batik diamonds and started to form the shapes of layered hills.

Two fabric diamonds each made of 4 smaller fabric diamonds
design wall with groupings of colored diamond fabric swatches forming color washes to look like mountains

As the color wash grew, I spent many days making adjustments. First the adjustments were large scale. Gradually they became smaller tweaks. Finally, I declared it ready for piecing. Even with all this planning, I still ended up unstitching many pieces!

Design wall with color wash of batik fabric diamond shapes blending together to look like mountains and sky

Once everything was pieced together, it was time to add quilting. The stitching adds texture, defines shapes and helps blend the colors even more. I cut out some paper tree forms to get a feel for what scale to use when adding tree shapes.

pieced quilt top depicting mountains in full color of seasons with pale sky

With quilting I added trees, clouds, and other textures to suggest and define the mountain shapes.

Machine quilting in tree shapes
Machine quilting creating cloud forms

The quilt now hangs in a room with a cathedral ceiling, reflecting the view from the window that overlooks Mt Tecumseh.

Mt Tecumseh quilt hanging on a high wall

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