Monday, September 19, 2016

Blogger's Quilt Festival: Eucharistic Prayer C: Convergence

It's time once again for the Blogger's Quilt Festival, hosted as ever by the indomitable Amy from Amy's Creative Side.  She does such a great job of hosting and gathering sponsors and it's really one of the premier online quilt shows anywhere.  I really encourage you to click through and see/comment on the fabulous entries.

This quilt is my entry in the Original Design category.  For my regular readers it'll be familiar as a recent finish, but I'm excited to have the opportunity to share it with a wider audience.

This quilt is one of my most long-running ever.  The first post about it was February 18, 2014, but the project had been bubbling in my mind since at least 2009.  It's construction has been a comedy of errors, so if you're interested in more details, you can check out its tag.

Eucharistic Prayer C: Convergence, Shannon M. Conley, c. 2016, 45"h x 62"w
The quilt is an exploration of the intersection of science and religion and is part of an ongoing series of liturgical quilts I'm completing.  The central text comes from Eucharistic Prayer C, from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.  It is a slightly more contemporary version of an ancient prayer used before communion.  I have always been drawn to the science/natural history feel of the text. It says:

Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give him thanks and praise.

God of all power, Ruler of the Universe, you are worthy of glory and praise.
Glory to you for ever and ever.

At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home.
By your will they were created and have their being.

From the primal elements you brought forth the human race, and blessed us with memory, reason, and skill. You made us the rulers of creation. But we turned against you, and betrayed your trust; and we turned against one another.
Have mercy, Lord, for we are sinners in your sight.

Again and again, you called us to return. Through prophets and sages you revealed your righteous Law. And in the fullness of time you sent your only Son, born of a woman, to fulfill your Law, to open for us the way of freedom and peace.
By his blood, he reconciled us.
By his wounds, we are healed.

I started thinking about God in the world, the evolution of life on our planet, and those who use their talents to study the world around us.  Thus instead of saints, the illuminated initials contain pictures of notable scientists.

Louis Pasteur

Galileo Galilei

Marie Curie

Barbara McClintock

Likewise, instead of depicting biblical stories or other scenes from the life of the church, the borders illustrate the evolution of life on our planet.  Starting along the top are "galaxies, suns, and the planets in their courses" along with sections of a Louis Pasteur quote expressing the idea that science can bring us closer to God. "par la science qui rapproche l'homme de Dieu"

The whole quote is: Le premier regard de l'homme jeté sur l'univers n'y découvre que variété, diversité, multiplicité des phénomènes. Que ce regard soit illuminé par la science, — par la science qui rapproche l'homme de Dieu, — et la simplicité et l'unité brillent de toutes parts.

Working counterclockwise, the far right border depicts early life: my interpretation of "primordial soup" (top), chemosynthetic bacteria at an undersea hydrothermal vent (middle), and stromatolites which helped oxygenate the earth's atmosphere (bottom) beginning in the Archean eras (~3.5 billion years ago).  

Working around the quilt counterclockwise, the bottom right border features a variety of creatures from the Cambrian explosion (~544 million years ago [Ma]) on the right.  These include everyone's favorite trilobite as well as examples ofHallucigenia, Opabinia, Pikaia, Marrella, and Aysheaia. 

The middle panel shows two examples of more advanced, later undersea life.  The bottom is a Eurypterid, which is basically a giant (up to 8ft) sea scorpion which first appeared in the Ordovician period (~505 Ma), but was present for an extremely long time (all the way into the Permian period ~278 Ma).  The top animal is a type of early jawless fish called Cephalaspis which appeared in the early Devonian period (~408 Ma).

The left panel is my very favorite of all the "creature" panels, and is meant to depict early life on land.  Life spread to land during the Silurian period (~440 Ma), and features an example from the order Trigonotarbida, a small spidery creature.  Of course life on land means early plants as well, so the little bug is pictured with a fern.

The skinny borders along the middle of the two panels effectively function as one set of animals, all from THE AGE OF DINOSAURS (that should sound like a deep resonating voice over a PA system).  At the bottom is my old friend the Helicoprion, a shark species with a round saw blade-like set of teeth. Definitely check it out if you aren't familiar. Helicoprion actually arose in the Permian period (~290 Ma), survived the great extinction event at the end of the Permian, and continued living on into the Triassic period.  The middle panels feature our old friend Coelophysisa carnivorous theropod dinosaur of the late Triassic and early Jurassic periods (~200 Ma).  The top is a Pteranodon, from the Cretaceous period (~144 Ma).

Back on the bottom (this time of the left panel) but continuing to work counter clockwise, I've included a Gastornis, a species of giant (up to 6 feet) flightless bird that lived during the late Paleocene/Eocene epochs (Paleogene period, ~60 Ma).  The center features a wooly mammoth from the Pleistocene epoch (first diverged from other mammoths ~400,000 years ago).  The final piece of the puzzle is people, and the bottom corner shows my version of Adam and Eve, sitting at the base of a symbolic tree of life.  They're reading On the Origin of Species, and the rest of the tree of life that runs all the way up the left side is filled with a variety of Darwin's finches.

I think most of the story of this quilt will probably not be evident to those who just view the quilt, but all the pieces were integral to my design idea, I wanted to explain them here.  After finishing this highly planned, quite precise/realistic/involved quilt, I'm looking forward to working on some other more abstract and free-flowing pieces.  I'll be called back to this series at some point though, so I'm sure there will be more illumination-style work in the pipeline.

What are your long-term-in-your-brain-forever projects?  Have you finished some of them?  How did that feel?  Were you happy with the outcome and how it matched what you had in  your head?

Thanks to all those who clicked through from the Blogger's Quilt Festival, and I encourage you all to check out the great quilts there.


  1. Simply amazing, and beautiful workmanship!

  2. Wow. Just wow. The detail; the time involved. You captured the feel of the illuminated text so well, and I am impressed with your combination of religion and science. So creative.

    I'm in the beginning stages of some long-term stuff. Nothing this complex!

  3. This is beautiful, a Book of Hours for the modern age. And your craftsmanship is at least equal to that of the monks of the medieval age who spent hours decorating their manuscripts, while you offer up praise in exactly the same way...