Crown of Thorns

Creative ideas can flow from things we see and know, but what about things we can’t see and don’t yet know? Do they have a role to play? That’s where this story begins.

Wanting to make a contemporary medallion quilt, I started with a modern variation of a “bear paw” block. I liked the look of the spikes shooting outward like a starburst. For the fabric I chose a Kathy Deggendorfer design from her Wild by Nature collection for Maywood Studio. The orange tonal circles and dots were fun and dynamic–just what I needed for the medallion block. Things really started shaping up when I added bordering fabrics suggestive of flowering plants, river currents, and wild animals.

About this time, news broke about COVID-19. After seeing enlarged images of the spikey virus plastered across the media, I lamented, “Oh no! My quilt looks like that!” I put that unpleasant thought aside and kept going.

I auditioned several fabrics and designs for the outer border and didn’t like what I was coming up with. Who said that creativity is easy? I asked my husband for his opinion and ended up taking his suggestion. (I am really surprised he is so good at this. Years ago, I concluded that he was colorblind based on the clothes he thought matched.)

For my corner blocks, I chose purple, not thinking at the time about its symbolism in art to connote royalty, divinity, and spirituality. I then experimented with the “friendship star” block. My husband said it looked like one of those medieval weapons of war that soldiers would throw at their enemies. So much for friendship!

With the piecing completed, I started quilting straight lines through the center medallion. It didn’t look quite right until I intersected the grid with wavy lines.

Quilting my way to the outer edges, I added denser quilting in some borders and swirls in others, creating a satisfying variety of visual effects and textures.

We were now well into the Easter month and news of COVID-19’s global devastation had intensified. We all feared the worst was yet to come with a rising death toll in Italy, Spain, and now the United States.

It was during this time that my quilt’s name came into focus: Crown of Thorns. Most people will recognize this term as an instrument of suffering in Christ’s Passion. As an art student, I had seen many paintings of crucified Jesus bearing the thorny “crown” (corona in Latin), which his tormentors had thrust upon his head to mock and torture him.

Detail from Crown of Thorns, 2020 – Sharon Carrier

Later, I learned that virologists who studied earlier coronaviruses under a microscope had named them for their identifiable spiked projections that create a halo effect, like that of the solar corona.

I plan to keep this quilt. Besides its visual attraction, it will remind me—especially in moments of self-doubt—to trust the creative process. By persisting through each creative decision, eventually I will end up with something meaningful to me and, I hope, to others.

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