Stillmanites Make Quilt in Commemoration of Brown Memorials 130th Church Anniversary
Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church is celebrating their 130th anniversary this year in a very unique way. Lifelong member Yvonne Wells had an amazing idea to comprise an assortment of quilts, made by several church members, about the size of a large picture frame together to come up with an even larger commemorative quilt.
Wells had the idea to start quilting in 1979 while in the churches game room. She was cold and the fire in the room would sometimes give out, she decided to use available materials such as curtains and “anything I could stick a pin in,” she said to make quilts for warmth.
Wells had been asked on previous occasions to use her quilting skills in the church but felt that this was the right time to put her craft in action. She contributed one square along with other families of the church to the large quilt, which she says is “story telling in snippets.” Wells says that this is a heartfelt way of honoring the legacy of the church.
Wells is a nationally known quilter and folk artists. Wells is completely self-taught artists and quilter. She is best known for her pictorial quilts that express narratives of personal and political significance. Her quilts depict events such as the Civil Rights Movement. Using appliqué, Wells creates quilts with ingenious materials and innovative visual designs. Three of her quilts were reproduced as greeting cards by Hallmark Card Company.
From her first efforts at quilt making in 1979, Wells moved rapidly in the direction of picture quilts. Without patterns or templates, armed only with fabrics and a pair of scissors, Wells cuts freehand material required to construct the images. Whereas some artists require paint, Wells uses fabric.
Wells said she couldn’t have done any of it without the church seamstress Nancy Fairley, who is an accomplished tailor. Fairley took all of the pieces and sewed them together to make up the quilt.
Nancy Fairley and Yvonne Wells are both graduates of the neighboring Stillman College. Collectively they both decided to make the quilt’s common color purple. Family members of another Stillman College graduate, Moses K. Pruitt, contributed the in memory of him.
The quilt is being displayed at Brown Memorial for members and others to take a glimpse into some of the history of the church. She says that the quilt is getting more attention than she had expected and that it has become a “conversation piece” within the church. The quilt is a memorabilia of deceased members of the church.
Wells says that the quilt will be displayed at Brown Presbyterian Church until it is taken down for preservation purposes.
Brown Memorial is the oldest black Presbyterian Church in Alabama, having been established in 1880. Reverend Gregory Bentley serves as pastor. Bentley graduated from Stillman College in 1990. He describes the church as a well-balanced group in terms of ages of its approximately 120 members.
Photo L-R: Wells, Fairley
Photo: (l-r) Yvonne Wells and Nancy Farley stand in front of the memorial quilts in Brown Memorial.
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