The Creative Process: Designing for Threads of Life

“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air's salubrity."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, excerpt from "Merlin's Song"

We are thrilled to be one of fourteen designers from around the globe invited to design a quilt for the “Threads of Life” exhibit as part of this year’s Nantucket by Design. The exhibit, conceived and produced by UK luxury fabric house Christopher Farr Cloth, is a celebration of the craft of quilt making and the greater theme of legacy. The exhibit will take place at the Nantucket Historical Association’s Greater Light property, a fascinating architectural space in its own right. The quilts will be sold with proceeds to benefit the NHA. Don’t miss this special opportunity to see up close the creative process as interpreted by renowned designers and expert seamstresses. Read on to discover what inspired my quilt design.


I have spent my entire life living near the water, not with conscious planning, but just as it turned out.  This fact is an intrinsic part of my entire being; my soul is sustained by it.  Even my recent purchase of a second home on a farm in Kentucky is situated in front of a large pond that is fed by tributaries of the Elkhorn Creek and near to the banks of the Kentucky River.  So, it was without too much time pondering the theme for my quilt design: it would be inspired by the sea and the natural world.  It would also tie to my home on Nantucket and would emphasize that time on, and near, the ocean plays such a large part of life on the island and is the main backdrop.  It would incorporate colors that are reminiscent of days spent by the coast:  blues, whites, oranges, with a splash of yellow to represent the sun.

Although I have been a designer for decades, I am not known for my drawing skills.  However, I did manage to execute a child-like sketch of my concept for the quilt, clearly enough to impart my idea to my senior designer who would have the task of fleshing out my rudimentary design. I also wanted the design to capture a few of my favorite lines from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem Merlin’s Song, which have always inspired my own sense of how to live life to its fullest: “Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air’s salubrity.”

A few days after putting pencil to paper and getting my concept firmed up, I was scrolling the 1st Dibs website looking for product for a current interior project.  There I saw an original work incentive poster entitled “The Perfect Finish” printed by Charles Mather in 1929.  It is the image of a sailboat and crew racing to victory with the byline: “No jobs done till (sic) it’s ALL done; Only full days make full records.”  The posters were sold to businesses to motivate and encourage workers in factories and offices.  And the design was almost exactly what I had drawn in my sketch.  I almost fell off my chair with the synchronicity of it.  There are no accidents.

The discovery of the vintage poster while searching the world-wide web confirmed for me all the many inspirations around us each moment of every day.  We just need to stay open, be ready to recognize them, and raise our awareness of the beauty of them, be they small or large.  My quilt is ultimately a nod to Emerson’s transcendental principles of nonconformity, self-reliance, free thought, confidence, and the importance of nature. It is “declaring to enjoy nature for what it is, to value the idea of having the freedom of it, and to realize there is more to life than what you are living.” ( Now go, breathe deeply, and drink in some wild air!

Leave a Reply