In these quilts and textiles from the Second International Art Competition, Latter-day Saint artists have expressed their testimonies using needle and thread.
Lyn Daugherty of Sandy, Oregon, read the story in Genesis 37:3: “Israel loved Joseph … and he made him a coat of many colours.” [Gen. 37:3] Recognizing that this coat symbolized a special bond between father and son, Sister Daugherty created a coat for her mother, which represented the special bond between them as a modern-day parent and child. Sister Daugherty explains that the “coat of many colours” she pieced and quilted for her mother is an outgrowth of her American culture, since pieced quilts are a traditional American art form.
In creating a utilitarian artwork with religious and cultural significance, Sister Daugherty is representative of many artists who express themselves using fabric and a needle and thread as their medium. Using what they find in their own home environment, individuals—usually homemakers—create clothing for their families and use fabric to decorate their homes. As soon as a person begins to embellish a utilitarian creation, it becomes art. Traditionally, textile arts were most commonly created by women, but men are now exploring these media.
From this type of embellishment, a variety of elaborate traditions have appeared in virtually every country: needlepoint in England and Europe; heavily embroidered costumes in Scandinavia, central Europe, and the Orient; and tapa cloth in Tonga.
Like other types of folk art, textile arts often draw their subject matter from images found in existing artwork. Folk artists consider this a compliment to the original artist. Especially in religious art, Latter-day Saint folk artists are likely to express their faith using images that are familiar to them, such as those we see here: Christ, temple, family, missionaries, and stories from the scriptures. Though the creative viewpoint of each artist is different, the familiar images allow the artist to say through his or her work, “I’m a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, too.”
Each time an artist recreates a familiar image, using another medium in combination with elements of his or her culture, a new image evolves. The Philippine embroidery titled Families Are Forever (page 45) is an example of this. Here we see the familiar image of the Salt Lake Temple, but the artist’s culture is reflected in the palm tree and bright colors.
As the Church continues to spread throughout the world, Latter-day Saint art will reflect artists’ testimonies of the gospel with an increasing diversity of cultural expression.
The textile arts featured here were among the eight hundred entries from forty-one countries in the Second International Art Competition, sponsored in 1990 by the Museum of Church History and Art. A six-member jury presented the awards. Among these were three winners of awards of distinction and twenty-four winners of awards of merit—both cash awards—as well as twenty-two purchase awards. All awards were funded by an anonymous donor.
A Sower Went Out to Sow, needlepoint, 1988, by Katharina Bulla of Aalen, Germany. “He spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow.” (Matt. 13:3.) Needlepoint is a type of embroidery done on canvas using simple, even stitches across counted threads. The process is time-consuming, and the result is a tightly woven design or picture with great durability. Therefore, Sister Bulla’s choice of needlepoint reflects how strongly she feels about Christ. This needlepoint won a purchase award.
Dedication, quilted clothing, 1988, by Lyn Daugherty of Sandy, Oregon. “Israel loved Joseph … and he made him a coat of many colours.” (Gen. 37:3.) Sister Daugherty made this quilted coat for her mother’s seventieth birthday. First, she gathered a variety of fabrics and cut them into small pieces, then sewed them together, following a patchwork design. From this patchwork yardage, Sister Daugherty cut out the sections of the coat—the front, back, sleeves, etc. Then she quilted each section of the coat before sewing sections together into the finished article of clothing. This process of piecing yardage together in a patchwork design has its roots in early American history. Pioneers made the most of their resources by cutting the usable fabric from worn-out clothing and sewing the scraps together to make yardage that could be quilted into blankets or clothing. Intricate patchwork designs eventually developed.
Abraham, Father of the Faithful, appliqué, 1990, by Ruth Dubrez of Englewood, Colorado. “I will bless them through thy [Abraham’s] name; for as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father.” (Abr. 2:10.) Appliqué is the process of sewing various-sized pieces of fabric onto a larger piece of fabric. Sister Dubrez has captured the feeling of Abraham’s nomadic life-style by her use of fabrics with a wide variety of textures, colors, and patterns. This appliqué won an award of merit.
A Virtuous Woman, quilt, 1990, by Karen Searle, Shelley, Idaho. “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.” (Prov. 31:10.) The design of this quilt incorporates symbols of virtue—home, family, and love—into its pattern. Thousands of tiny, even stitches create another pattern in the fabric of a pure white that is also symbolic of virtue.
Aaron and the Golden Calf, embroidery, 1970, by Sven Spersberg of Stockholm, Sweden. “The Lord said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.” (Ex. 32:7.) Embroidery is the process of creating decorative patterns with hand stitching. Brother Spersberg has used a variety of stitches and knots to create an original design. It represents the moment when Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments and found the children of Israel worshipping a golden calf of their own creation. This embroidery won an award of merit.
Nauvoo Temple, needlepoint, 1986, by Helga Steffel of Ostfriesland, Germany. “Let this house be built unto my name, that I may reveal mine ordinances therein unto my people.” (D&C 124:40.) This needlepoint is a version of a painting by Steven T. Baird, “The Nauvoo Temple, Rendering No. 1.” Sister Steffel stitched this artwork with both wool and synthetic thread. The tight, even stitches of needlepoint capture the angular details of the building design. This needlepoint won an award of merit.
Even to the Isles of the Sea, three-dimensional tapa cloth, 1989, by Fanga Tukuafu of Nuku‘alofa, Tonga. “They shall be gathered in from their long dispersion, from the isles of the sea, and from the four parts of the earth.” (2 Ne. 10:8.) Tapa cloth, which is made from beaten mulberry tree bark, is used in almost all South Pacific islands for ceremonial occasions. Brother Tukuafu used only natural dyes, made from the roots of a variety of trees, in the creation of this piece. This tapa cloth won an award of merit and a purchase award.
Families Are Forever, embroidery, 1990, by Lourdes D. Samson of Bataan, Philippines. “The Prophet Elijah was to plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to their fathers, foreshadowing the great work to be done in the temples of the Lord in the dispensation of the fulness of times, for the redemption of the dead, and the sealing of the children to their parents, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse and utterly wasted at his coming.” (D&C 138:47–48.) Sister Samson’s work reflects her joyous feelings about the sealing power of the priesthood, a power available in the temple, and about the aspect of being together with one’s family forever. This embroidery won an award of merit and a purchase award.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, embroidery, 1990, by Pilar Sanchez de Muñoz of Santiago, Chile. “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:10–11.) Sister Muñoz has used embroidery to create this picture of Jesus as the good shepherd. Sheep know their shepherd’s voice and follow him. As we come to know Christ’s voice, we will follow him as he guides us toward truth and happiness.
The Miracle of the Sea Gulls, by Marva E. Dalebout, quilt, 1990. “I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me.” (Ps. 3:4.) This design represents the preservation of the pioneers’ crops from the crickets by the miraculous appearance of the sea gulls. This quilt received an award of merit in the Second International Art Competition sponsored by the Museum of Church History and Art.
Joy in the Journey, quilt, 1990, by Carol Johnson of Nibley, Utah. “Let the mountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud … and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King! And ye rivers, … flow down with gladness.” (D&C 128:23.) In her quilt, Sister Johnson captured the joy of this modern-day scripture based on her memories of the Grand Canyon.
By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them (3 Ne. 14:20), quilt, 1990, by Ruth Johnson of Riverside, California. The artist combined elements from Zenos’s parable of the vineyard (see Jacob 5) and Lehi’s vision of the tree of life (see 1 Ne. 8) in the design of her quilt.
Marjorie Draper Conder, a curator at the Museum of Church History and Art, serves as Relief Society Spiritual Living teacher in the Midvale East Fourth Ward, Midvale Utah East Stake.