Sunday, November 9, 2014

Jane Burch Cochran - Art Quilter

Hi KY and TN SAQA! In case you don't know her and her work, let me introduce you to one of our artists, Jane Burch Cochran. Jane lives in Rabbit Hash, KY. That is in the north of KY on the Ohio River and if you look across it you are looking at Rising Sun, Indiana. She was trained as a painter and started making small bead and fabric collages in 1978. She made her first large quilt in 1985 and says she has been “completely obsessed with making art quilts since then –quilts both large and small but always for the wall." Cochran's distinctive, heavily embellished quilts are represented in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Renwick Gallery, the University of Kentucky Art Museum, the Kentucky History Center, and the National Quilt Museum as well as in numerous corporate and private collections. She completed her largest quilt to date, Crossing to Freedom—a 7 foot high x 10 foot wide commission for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati—in June 2004.

Crossing To Freedom    7'x10'

As with many of her quilts, Jane incorporated a personal item in this quilt: a button she wore when she marched along with 10,000 other people and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Frankfurt, KY in 1964. She worked almost daily for ninth months to complete this quilt.
Jane says,"Once I had more time to spend on my work, instead of making more quilts, I made quilts that took more time. I love doing labor-intensive artwork –it is an odyssey. In my art quilts, I try to combine my art training in painting, my love of fabric, and the tradition of American quilting. I unconsciously combine the loose, free feeling of abstract painting with the time consuming and controlled techniques of sewing and beading."

Jane may work for months on a quilt and if she feels it is not working, she does not give up on it. Rather than taking it apart, she "fixes it." Her patience and vision keep her going and also lots of embellishments and paint. Her work owes a lot to the style of Victorian crazy quilts and Native American beadwork. She also uses cast off gloves in her quilts. This trend began when people started giving her gloves and she could not resist incorporating them into her work.

One of her very moving and intriguing quilts is entitled, "Last Suppers.
She says, "In most prisons in the United States, a prisoner who is about to be executed is allowed to make a final meal request. The meal is usually served the night before the execution. This is a strange and haunting ritual but perhaps these people are the only ones who know what their last meal will be. I have selected twelve meals that were requested."

Last Suppers  66"x 69"
Last Suppers Detail

Last Suppers Detail

On her process, Jane says, "I use strip piecing to make my patchwork. I do not measure but just start cutting and sewing strips usually in combinations of three strips. I then cut these apart into smaller pieces and just keep sewing and adding until it grows into large enough patches to use. I love to create the patchwork. It's like making lots of small paintings. I then appliqué the patchwork and other pieces to a background using bugle beads or seed beads." Jane summers in Montana and due to limited space there, she has started making smaller works too. Her new series, "Faces" can be seen on Bob Shaw's website

Jane is currently putting together a one woman show and she also has a quilt in a show in Oulu, Finland next summer.  You can see more of her work at her website
And in case you missed the SAQA Journal for Winter 2013, go to and check out the great featured artist section they had on Jane in there.