Melanie Marder Parks has illustrated 17 of the Elm Creek Quilts novels by Jennifer Chiaverini. There are 20 books in the series and the publisher decided to add illustrated endpapers with the fourth book. Michael Accordino at Simon and Schuster had seen a quilt based book jacket Parks had painted and hand lettered “and thought this job would be just my thing.” She’s been making quilts for the endpapers ever since. I asked her about reviving the art of endpapers in this way.
When you design these quilts are there any strictures from art director or author?
As the series progressed I worked with color that echoed the cover art. The author was quite specific about color placement, which affected the meaning of the quilt patterns.
Obviously the Elm Creek Quilts title influenced the quilts you’ve drawn. But why did the endpapers become the “identity” of this series?
The endpapers serve to enhance the reading experience of the hard cover books. They are not the “identity” of the series. Seeing the quilt patterns that appear in the stories adds to the reader’s pleasure. The editor said my endpapers contributed to the success of the series and that the readers looked forward to seeing them. The author and her fans are very involved with quilting. I am not a quilter. For me, the inspiration was in painting the patterns with gouache, a medium that lends itself beautifully to flat and vibrant color. I’ve always loved pattern and texture. Working the design, illustration and lettering together was very satisfying.
Regrettably, I haven’t read the books. Does each quilt have a special significance?
The novels weave together stories of families, friends, history, and quilting. The quilts have special significance for each of the books. For instance, some of the novels take place before, during and after the Civil War when quilt patterns were used as signals by the Underground Railroad to help fugitive slaves find safety.
What is your favorite quilt?
The “Elm Creek Album” from The Sugar Camp Quilt book gave me particular pleasure as I was able to paint folk art motifs in the context of a quilt.
Having done so many begs the question, have these been made as real quilts?
Oh yes. The author and her fans all make the quilts and meet at quilt events.
What’s on the quilted horizon?
The Elm Creek Quilts series has come to an end, so I’m doing a lot of work with maps, combining illustration, lettering and design.
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