Quilt Queen: Jamaican artisan creates gems in treasured art form

She is a third-generation artisan for whom creativity is a part of her DNA and though her formal training is in early childhood education, quilting has become both a passion and a career as she re-purposes fabric and gives clients items with renewed purpose and value.

Tracey Jackson-Blake proudly displays one of her quilt pieces.

Canadian by birth, but Jamaican by marriage and mentality, Tracey Jackson-Blake is on a mission to not only get more people to appreciate her one-of-a-kind items but also subscribe to a more environmentally friendly way of life.

Custom quilt coin bag

But quilting? This is such a unique art form, most Jamaicans do not have a clue as to what a quilt is, even though most may have grown up sleeping on their grandmother’s quilts as toddlers.

Those items are not only nostalgic but evoke that sense of family and tradition in us.

Tracey understands this only too well, hence her career as a quilting queen. She can take practically any meaningful item and transform them into modern-day gems, turning old fabric into fabulous works of art which then can be passed on to another generation.

“My core value is being green and environmentally responsible as we are representing the earth and our resources are limited.”

Tracey Jackson-Blake

With quilting, one man’s trash really becomes treasure and Jackson-Blake gets excited about old fabric because she can visualise what it can become.

Quilting, basically, is the process of sewing two or more layers of fabric together to make a thicker padded material and it is typically done with three layers: the top fabric or quilt top, batting or insulating material and backing material.

The styles of quilting may evolve with time but the process requires a sturdy needle and thread to join the layers and the action is repeated across the entire area where quilting is desired.

Her nimble fingers create handmade, customised products for children as well as family lifestyle quilts and bags from repurposed fabrics. “My core value is being green and environmentally responsible as we are representing the earth and our resources are limited.”

“I gravitate towards family-related products and art themes. I enthusiastically celebrate the Caribbean family life in my art while respecting the earth and the environment, I do my best to repurpose fabrics in my works where possible.

Reusing materials in interesting and creative ways is important to me because we all share just one earth. Let’s keep it healthy and beautiful. I tend to develop practical items that I and my family would use. My fabric pieces are made to be one of a kind. Each one is made to be specific and special because it is for you.”

“Back then there was no YouTube tutorial so I relied on other women for guidance.”

A self-taught quilter, she began making different, useful products that she wanted but couldn’t find in the stores. Her interest in quilting was sparked many years ago in Canada, but little did she know that it would germinate into a passion and then a career.

“Back then there was no YouTube tutorial so I relied on other women for guidance. There was a women’s group that had a quilting club comprising 50 per cent Jamaican, 50 per cent expatriate membership and because they mainly lived up in the hills, it could get from chilly to cold at nights.

“Love is a recurring theme in all of my work”

Tracey Jackson-Blake

Her quilts are generally 5 ft by 5 ft in diameter brought together into a really beautiful blend.

“People will bring their fabric or I shop for fabric or use recycled clothes. I usually find inspiration fabric and draw from the colours to make it pop out to let the fabric shine,” Jackson-Blake shared.

Other than quilts, Jackson-Blake who has been living in Jamaica for 16 years, shares that she also creates backpacks, drawstring bags, yoga bags, coin purses and recently added self-closing bags – these are all signature pieces so no two pieces are ever the same.

“My goal is zero waste as we have limited resources and more people need to shift to that way of thinking.”

Tracey Jackson-Blake

“Love is a recurring theme in all of my work in addition to earth consciousness, so it is really a celebration of life, humanity and the world around you and about living in the present,” Jackson-Blake emphatically declared.

— By C.W.