News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 12, 2011

‘September Souls’ a 9/11 story told one piece at a time

Brian Boyce
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Amid the mourning, artwork was born.

The resulting quilt, “September Souls,” will be on display in Indiana State University’s Cunningham Memorial Library through October, along with a short video about its creator, the late Rosemary England.

Her husband, Gene England, ISU professor of English emeritus, joined his family Sunday afternoon at the library’s events center where the quilt presently hangs. On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, they introduced the community to the piece, which commemorates the tragic attacks.

Rosemary, who passed away in June 2009, designed and created the 63-inch-by-77-inch quilt between March and September of 2002. The story of the 9/11 attacks is told visually in the quilt’s pieces. On the back, a representation of the Twin Towers is displayed.

Included among the thousands of individual images on the quilt are a ring, a teddy bear, an earring and a stoplight, all of which, according to a booklet, are “... things we as humans leave behind. We can’t take those with us,”

Gene England recalled how Rosemary labored for months on the project, which began as a very small picture. One by one, she cut out more than a thousand tiny colored squares, all of which would eventually find a place in the giant picture. Piles of the squares were all over the house, he recalled with a laugh, explaining how she’d separated them so make sure no two were alike.

“The two married in Austin, Texas, on Jan. 25, 1963, while Rosemary was completing an undergraduate degree in home economics, with a major in interior design at the University of Texas. Since 1969, the Englands were a part of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Terre Haute, where Rosemary spent 35 years in the choir.

Along the way, her 45 years of embroidery, needlepoint and quilting have been featured in publications including “American Quilter” and “Picture Piecing: Creating Dramatic Pictorial Quilts.”

Gene explained that “September Souls” has been a regular display inside St. Stephen’s during 9/11 commemorations, but during an interdisciplinary art presentation at the university, colleagues suggested bringing it to ISU for the 10th anniversary. The idea of hanging the quilt from the ceiling arose as people noted how difficult it is to appreciate both sides when one side is facing a wall, he added.

Reference and instruction librarian Marsha Miller produced a booklet and video which accompany the display. Both serve to introduce people to the artist, she explained.

“And it all came together really well with the work,” she said.

The facility will host its ISU Library Extravaganza Thursday, as well as coming exhibits involving “Constitution Days,” she said, adding the quilt will be a welcome addition for members of the community.

Meanwhile, members of the England family came to see the work of their matriarch displayed in the university where their father taught.

Scott England, Rosemary and Gene’s son, said his mother also did work in stained glass, as well as quilting and needlework.

“All of her works are amazing,” he said, standing in front of the display. “The beauty of Mom’s work has gone beyond anything we had thought.”

His 11-year old daughter, Lauren, said she’s not the artistic type herself, but the quality is easy to appreciate.

“I think it’s really pretty,” the Riley Elementary School student said.

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or brian.boyce@tribstar.com.