The Illuminated Path

Art quilt by Allison Wilbur of a bamboo grove with a brightly colored stepping stone path.
The Illuminated Path by Allison Wilbur 2021

As a quilter, I think of our society not as a melting pot, where everything blends together and becomes amalgamated, but as a quilt. Each individual brings their own ancestry, cultural traditions, and view of the world. This multiplicity enriches our community by bringing a wide variety of outlooks, attitudes and wisdom. Our way forward is not to be blind to differences, but to celebrate them and appreciate how much better our lives are because of them. In a quilt, the combination of color an pattern creates a rich complexity of design. Our path as a community should be to value all the different voices, each with their own perspective.

Gelli plate printed and painted fabric with colorful patterns and textures
Gelli plate printed and painted fabric with colorful patterns and textures

This quilt began with fabric I had created in a class I taught at Meraki Stitch Studio. We layered many techniques together including gelli plate printing, fabric painting, stamping and rubbing from texture plates. I loved the fabric so much that for three years, I could not bear to cut into it. My art quilt group, Rhode Island Threads, had an exhibit coming up and so I decided I would use this fabric to make a quilt. The topic was the pandemic. Since I had been listening to books like How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi and thinking a lot about our society and how to go forward, I was thinking about a path with stepping stones. 

Pencil sketch of path with stepping stones next to bamboo grove
Ombre green fabric with folded fabric swatches to look like stepping stones
test sample of reverse appliqué and applique stepping stones on cloth

I began by making many sketches of paths and finally settled on a composition I liked which included a grove of bamboo trees. Next, I chose a beautiful hand dyed green ombre fabric I had purchased from Carol Eaton and folded the brightly colored fabric I had created to mimic stepping stones. I also experimented with different techniques for making the stones, with machine appliqué and reverse appliqué. I like the look of the machine appliqué better (fortunately!).

Art quilt in progress showing bamboo trees drawn with water erase pen being stitched.
Art quilt in progress showing bamboo trees drawn with water erase pen being stitched.

I made an actual sized drawing of the quilt, which I laid under the fabric and with a strong light box I was able to trace the bamboo onto the fabric. I used a water erase pen. With my long arm, I began stitching the three layers together (I used a wool batting for definition). Once the stitching was complete, I took the quilt off the long arm and began painting the shapes of the bamboo.

Fabric markers on in progress art quilt with bamboo
Finished art quilt detail showing shaded bamboo trees

The stones were machine appliquéd on using misty fuse.  An extra layer of wool batting was added behind each stone and trimmed to define the shape. Finally I stitched French knots to give the feeling of moss between the rocks and painted more foliage on the ground to the right of the path.

French knots onto an art quilt with a green background and brightly colored stepping stones

I love the serenity of this quilt. I spend a lot of time in my garden, when the New England weather allows, and visit the Japanese Garden in Portland every time we visit our son, who lives in Oregon. I try to bring elements of a Japanese garden into my own yard and have been tending an area of moss next to a stone stepping path for many years. Our path as a society forward will not be so peaceful or serene, but I am confident we will move forward. 

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