I noticed recently that Grayson Perry has been influenced by Elizabeth Roseberry Mitchell’s Graveyard Quilt whilst creating his ‘Tree of Death’ 1997. This was his first quilt and he later went on to create several others before his tapestries.
I have recently finished ‘Elizabeth Roseberry Mitchell’s Graveyard Quilt: An American Pioneer Saga‘ and had become fascinated with the story. The idea of creating something as a way of working through mourning, using fabric that held memory. Elizabeth Rosebery Mitchell had also created hers as a way of reemebering where her children had been buried, as an American Pioneer they had constantly moved in a time when child mortality was high. It is a beautiful quilt but does have a very sobering message with little named coffins of her living children waiting on the edges of the quilt to enter the graveyard.
Grayson Perry’s ‘Tree of Death’ having been influenced by The Graveyard Quilt also references the quilts that were made in the mid 1980’s in memory of the people who had died of Aids.
Quilting has a strong American traditional history. What has particularly interested me is that traditionally all of life happened near quilts – birth, sleep, sex, illness, death. They were created as heirlooms, precious items handed down through generations of families and often they held significant memories and meaning.