I’m amazed at the different ways artists use their gifts to bring glory to God. In this guest post, Catholic quilter Noreen Borys, shares her passion for making sacred art quilts. When she sent me photos of her work, I at first glance thought she was sending me pictures of stained glass windows. The detail and color in her quilts is extraordinary, as is the inspiration and symbolism she incorporates into each.
Guest Post by Noreen Borys
I began making spiritual art quilts during the Lenten season of 2005. During this season, we as Catholics are called to prayer, fasting and almsgiving and to performing acts of kindness to others. Pope St. John Paul II had declared a Year of the Eucharist and this inspired me to make a quilt using the symbols of the Holy Eucharist— chalice and host.
I wanted to share my skills in quilting with my parish and hoped that they would be accepted. As I made the quilt, I experienced a wonderful sense of joy and peace and realized that this work in itself was a gift from God. I made a promise that whatever inspiration He provided, I would try to fulfill by making a quilt. Since then, many more quilt inspirations have come my way and I’ll probably be busy fulfilling them for the rest of my life!
My Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary quilts were created using a pattern by Angela Besley, published in her book “Rose Windows for Quilters,” Guild of Master Craftsman Publications, 2000. Angela developed the design based on a stained glass window in the Chartres Cathedral. I modified her design by adding my own images for the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary to the center of each quilt. (Angela’s design had no religious images in it).
The Hearts with the flames represent the great love Jesus and Mary have for us. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is surrounded by thorns symbolizing His passion and death. Mary’s Heart is pierced by a sword (see Luke 2:35) and covered with pink roses symbolizing her purity. The twelve spokes around the center circle represent the twelve apostles. Outside the twelve spokes, another row of circles represents the spreading of the gospel and the growth of the Church. The background quilting is a continuous vine with branches connecting us all (see John 15:5).
There are two quilt artists who I especially admire for their beautiful work and spirituality of their creations: Renae Haddadin and Lisa Ellis. Both are award-winning, professional quilters and teachers and masters of the art of quilting. Lisa is also the Director of the non-profit organization, Sacred Threads, a biennial exhibition dedicated to sharing quilts with themes of spirituality, joy, inspiration, healing, grief and brotherhood. I have been blessed to be juried into this exhibition twice.
I would love to see all my spiritual art quilts displayed where they can best make God known and give Him glory. I hope that they will engage the viewer and cause them to reflect on God’s great love and mercy for us.
“I believe that good spiritual art compliments the liturgy and speaks to the soul in ways that are directly personal to the viewer and their own life experiences.”
People respond to different art mediums, and as a move towards inclusivity, I wish the Church would be open to a wider variety of artwork, such as art quilts, mixed medium work and mosaics/tile. In my parish, a new church was constructed and the new artwork included only paintings, sculpture, stained glass and factory-made tapestries.
It is my prayer that in the future, spiritual art quilts will be accepted as a legitimate art medium in the Catholic faith community and even incorporated into the decoration of churches. In the meantime, I plan to continue making them because of the joy they bring me as I continue along my spiritual journey. I trust that God will one day find a good home for them.
Noreen Borys is a Houston area art quilter who has been quilting for over 30 years. She was educated as a civil engineer and worked as a construction and drilling engineer for the oil industry in Alaska and California before adopting two children and settling in Texas in 1994. She enjoys experimenting with a variety of quilt techniques and loves working with batik and watercolor fabrics. Her other interests include traveling, hiking, cooking, gardening and jigsaw puzzles. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.