Coupling Photography and Quilting


As a former paralegal, Patricia Kennedy-Zafred understands the importance of research and how that background material can make or break a case. Deep research is also the foundation in historical story-telling—whether the story is told on the page or through photographs. In telling stories via her art quilts, Kennedy-Zafred uses slikscreening, vintage photographs, dyes and ink to create a narrative based on history and memories.

When Kennedy-Zafred first started quilting more than 20 years ago, Kennedy-Zafred created traditional Amish-style patterns, but eventually began experimenting different techiniques and unconventional materials. “Most peoples’ concept of a quilt is what we’ve seen for hundreds of years — three layers of fabric stitched together in some way and bound on the edges,” she says. “I work within that basic context, but I try to break all the rules. I like pushing the boundaries,” she said in a 2013 interview in TribLive.

Her procress includes multiple steps—from acquiring the images and background information to hand-dyeing the fabric she has seleted with the appropriate palette to set the mood. “The images are silkscreened onto the fabric; the language is added with photo transfer papers” she said. “My favorite part of the process is dyeing the fabric and the printing process. Both have sort of a magical quality,” she said in an interview with the Schweinfirth Art Center in Auburn, New York.

Kennedy-Zafred uses images found in the Library of Congress, including those of Louis Hines a photographer employed by the federal government in the 1900s who photographed underage workers during that period. Her quilt series “Tagged” easily produces a lump in the viewer’s throat; the series depicts images of mothers and children in Japanese internment camps. The title comes from the identification tags that were attached to each individual.

After viewing each of the quilt series, viewers might find themselves inspired to

For more information, please visit