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WSU English professor combines text with textiles


(Lindsey Parkinson / The Signpost)
Detail of one of Professor Judy Elsley’s quilts. (Lauren Porter / The Signpost)

English Professor Judy Elsley presented her talent of combining the visual with the verbal in her presentation “Text(ile)s” on Nov. 5 at the Kimball Visual Arts Center Shaw Gallery.

In this presentation, Elsley discussed the way in which she combines two of her passions, writing and quilting, into one artistic work.

Elsley brought in a series of quilts to show the process of writing and quilt-making to show how the two are parallel. “I love reading, writing and language,” Elsley said. “And on the other hand, I love quilts, fabrics and tactile things. So I’m trying to pull those two things together.”

Relating the art of quilting to the art of writing, Elsley explained that the two processes are similar in that both start out with a blank canvas and go through several revisions until they finally become a finished product.

For Elsley, though, the process is more than just writing on her quilts. “For me personally, it is a part of being completely who I am because it pulls together the different parts of me,” Elsley said.

During the presentation, Elsley showed some emotionally-charged quilts, one of which was entitled “The Dead.” On top of the work, she placed fabric flowers for each important person who has died in her life. One of the dead things she included was her first marriage, which got a laugh from the audience.


Two other quilts Elsley presented had two autobiographical essays she had written incorporated into the quilts. The first of these essays was about memories and how sometimes we have our own memories, and other times, we have memories that we sort of make up based on what other people tell us.

Taylor Deem, an English major emphasizing in creative writing, said she thought it was good that Elsley focused on writing down memories. “When Elsley was talking about her memories, I was thinking that we need to write down our memories, so we can make things like this,” she said.

These essays are “angry little pieces” Elsley said after reading both of them aloud. “I can say outrageous things in quilting that get muted in the presentation,” Elsley said. “They are not soft and gentle.”

Members of the audience also expressed their impression of Elsley’s presentation. “It was awesome,” said English major Tyler Hortin, adding that Elsley’s honesty struck him the most.

English major Brandon Jackson agreed with Hortin. “I liked the emotion of her writing,” he said.

For this particular presentation, Elsley said that she was excited for the opportunity to share what she does. “I hope it’s interesting for them to see what I do, maybe help them think about different things they can pull together,” she said.

Jackson said that he wasn’t sure he could do something like this but that he thinks it’s interesting when other people can.

“We’re reading Terrance Hayes for one of my classes,” Deem said. She explained that Terrance Hayes is a poet who sometimes takes photographs that he will then write poems about. “I think that’s cool because I like to draw, and I think I could combine it that way,” she said.



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