Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Very Special Inspiration

The painted background:  acrylic on a bed sheet! After showing the clients the ‘big picture’, I cut this into 3 sections while they watched.  While I was painting the background,  they were busy sorting fabric scraps by color and cutting them into business card-sized pieces.

Adding fabrics to the tail section. Color beginning to build up. 
We’d work on the bird for 20 minutes or so every couple of weeks.

Earlier in the year I was contacted by Sher Harnish and she asked my permission for her School of Occupational Therapy to use my cardinal collage from the 2013 Lang Calendar as inspiration for a project for her clients with the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease. Of course I was more than happy to be the person she chose for artistic inspiration! 

Sher plans to enter the piece in the 2015 Dallas Quilt Show! How exciting is that for her project and her clients!

We have corresponded for the past several months as the project progressed, today she sent me the photos and a very touching e-mail, I wanted to share it with you.

Elizabeth, we had corresponded earlier in the year about Stepping Stones, our community-based socialization and activity program for persons with early stage Alzheimer’s Disease. This is a weekly program run by our Texas Woman’s University School of Occupational Therapy faculty and graduate students. We used your oriole paper collage from a 2013 calendar for our inspiration.  I thought you might like to see the final wall hanging and some pictures of the process.  The quilt is large, 76x82”, and heavy with all the acrylic paint and glue stick!  It’s been displayed at a local caregiver’s conference and currently as part of an exhibit of Memories in the Making, a watercolor painting group designed for persons with dementia.  Many of our Stepping Stones members overlapped with the Memories project.

Adding more  layers to the tail feathers.

Lots of fabric scraps, lots of layers: and a lot of glue sticks!

The process was an extraordinary experience for our participants, our volunteers and our occupational therapy students.  Several family caregivers related how much the clients enjoyed taking part in making the Cardinal, even though they may have had a hard time figuring out what it was going to eventually become!  Once they saw it in a finished form, however, they were so please with themselves and amazed at what they had accomplished.  The process of the activity was so satisfying that we’re thinking of doing another one this coming Spring semester with the group.  We mentioned your name on the quilt label as providing original picture inspiration.  I plan to enter the wall hanging in the Dallas 2015 Quilt Show in the non-juried group category.  I think the basic process of cut-n-paste to a colored background then stitching it together under the netting, is something that can be adapted to just about any group, from Alzheimer’s clients to girl scouts to church groups to summer camp.  I think fellow quilters will be interested in both the technique and the final product as well.  If we get accepted, I‘ll let you know! 

Sher Harnish, MA, OTR
Academic Fieldwork Coordinator
School of Occupational Therapy
Texas Woman's University

Early work on the mid-section.  Matching fabrics with the colors.  It was fascinating to watch as some just covered the section haphazardly, while others were so precise in their alignment or color selection.  We used glue sticks to hold things in place.

The 3 sections together spread on the floor in the early stages…a glimpse of what the final project might look like. There are still more layers to go at this stage, and some misplaced colors to be moved around.

The sections were layered over muslin backing & batting just like a regular quilt.  The edges of the 3 sections are butted together as they are rolled through a quilting machine along with a layer of bridal netting on top to hold all the loose edges down.  That’s my sister at the quilt machine stitching all the layers together. Although you can’t see much of the stitching in photographs,  there are loops and whirls and ‘feathers’ and texture  - from the back you can clearly see the cardinal and his branch!

The finished wall hanging in my backyard. The colors really sparkle in the sun.

I am honored and humbled to have been the artist chosen for inspiration in this project. To inspire others is quite a gift, and I thank the Universe for that. You just never know where art will take you.

Thank You
for being a part of
my Art Journey,



  1. How inspiring! And how proud you must be. I have worked with people who have Alzheimers in this capacity and it is so rewarding! To fill their days with purposeful activity is awesome! TFS!

  2. Cindy, it sure has made my day. I think it's great that they had the project available to them.

  3. this brought tears to my eyes Elizabeth. How wonderful to have the opportunity to inspire such special creativity.

  4. Sallianne, it sure was wonderful! I am so glad they shared so many photos and the story with me!


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