by Thomas Roach & Sheila Wex (Project Coordinators)
It all began as a project to dampen the acoustics and add colour to the Parish Hall of Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver. We planned to engage the community and share our love of textiles and indigo dye. To visually link the quilts, a red band signifying community would sweep around the room.
From the first dye days, through open studios and workshops, we saw artistry and community blossom. The enthusiasm, creativity and commitment was simply astounding.
Indigo is as ubiquitous as blue jeans, and yet has a profoundly spiritual dimension. Natural indigo derives from a variety of plants common throughout the world, but getting the dye into solution requires patience and mastery. White fabric immersed in the dye vat first appears pale yellow. As it emerges and is exposed to oxygen, it magically turns blue. Repeated dips create deeper tones.
During ten dye days in early 2013, we stitched, clamped and tied more than 50 metres of cotton, linen and silk to create an array of pattern and texture in blue and white. This palette was enriched with red, solid darker blues and a selection of other indigo fabrics.
After creating templates of each quilt panel and designing the red band, everyone gathered in the hall for a conversation about design. As we looked outward, the panels became lenses to view our landscape, community and ministry. Individuals and teams then took on the design and construction of many of the quilts while others contributed a few hours at a time on a community panel. Quilters and textile artists from outside the Cathedral were drawn in by the excitement the project generated.
We were awed by the creativity and commitment of the artists as the quilts came together; each is uniquely the creation of its maker, yet clearly belongs to the whole. Birds and fish, especially salmon, occur frequently. Unique fabrics make unexpected appearances in multiple quilts. The final 26 quilts and one art panel (considerably more than the 18 quilts we originally planned) are so much more than we could have asked for or imagined.
We are deeply grateful to all of the 118 people who gave over 4500 hours of their time to this project. Whether it was dyeing a piece of fabric, stitching a block, or making a whole quilt, they found a way to participate that suited them and made the project happen. Their keen interest and creativity was always infectious and uplifting.
The project wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Cathedral’s 125th Anniversary Committee, 125th Anniversary Sponsors and Donors, Cathedral Staff and Trustees. We especially thank the building and custodial team who created space for us, set-up and cleaned-up – and always with a smile.
We would never have finished this without the incredible assistance of Elsie Sands and Janet MacKinnon, two mentors from Vancouver’s quilt community. We are grateful beyond measure for your mentorship, friendship, experience, determination, technical skill and artistry. Thank you.
We know the Cathedral Community and all who pass through the Parish Hall will treasure this gift of creativity.
And the acoustics have been changed, so people stay for longer with their friends; more than the hall has been transformed.