“When we concentrate on a material object…the very act of our attention may lead to our involuntarily sinking into the history of that object. Transparent things, through which the past shines! Objects, inert in themselves but much used by careless life, (you are thinking of a hillside stone over which a multitude of small animals have scurried) are particularly difficult to keep in surface focus: novices fall through the surface, humming happily to themselves, and are soon reveling with childish abandon in the story of this stone, of that heath. A thin veneer of immediate reality is spread over natural and artificial matter, and whoever wishes to remain in the now, should please not break its tension film. Otherwise the inexperienced miracle-worker will find himself no longer walking on water, but descending upright among staring fish.”  – Vladimir Nabokov

These expressions represent three recent themes: personal and universal journaling, the simplicity and transparency of a single textile, and my conviction that we scorn and discard what will prove to have mattered most. Calligraphy, storytelling, and the quilter’s love of texture combine with a new commitment to the design of the page, the book. The signature is a printer’s term, and I redefine it here to link book and quilt forms. These are quilts in structure, but they are about the content rather than the surface. 

We have what we need. It has comforted me as an artist to forego the nearly limitless material resources that tempt us at every turn. I choose to limit my palette to humble, random debris, and I delight in the study of those trimmings and findings that have taken on a life of their own. While we are looking the other way, they have become a kind of compost, and they will fertilize the future if we let them.

Ghost Quilt

26″ x 60 ”

Silk organza, cotton batting and threads from an old plantation quilt.

Primary Colors

Circa 2009

A gift for Ginny Grose from her husband Phil.

Primary Colors, by Ellen Kochansky
Words Are Seeds


47”w x 35”

12 panels, silk organza, tea-stained, bookbinder glue, found materials.

In honor of my father’s life in publishing, and my own fascination with the design and formation of pages. The things we inherit through our DNA often conflict with the things our culture tells us. It is our constant battle to reconcile the two stories and to shape an individual conscience in the process. This is a reference to the unit of a book as it comes off the printing press, and to the history of quilts as vehicles for storytelling. The notes are a journal of my recycling journey through old studio debris. My constant attention to the creative process over the past 30 years has led me to ponder how seldom we can learn without sacrificing what we originally assumed.

Disintegration Folio

48”w x 36”

Silk organza, brown wrapping paper, beeswax, chile peppers, mail correspondence from World War II.

My father collected my mother’s letters, written every day during WWII, including the ones the army shrunk for lighter weight shipping to France. After he died, she shredded them in a fit of emotional housekeeping, a profound lesson to me in letting go. Their mysteries are honored here.

Pattern Language


38″w x 50″

Teabags, hair, grass, shreds of my mother’s letters, dress patterns, my calligraphy, a fragment of disintegrating flat from Chicago Lyric Opera ca. 1890.

Homage to a profoundly influential book on the social implications of architecture. The background is made of patterns I acquired during research for my first job as an assistant editor for the Vogue Sewing Book. This is where I applied and honed my skills at writing, re-writing, and page layout, and where I made my first efforts at textile collage.

Tree Language


48”w x 38”

12 layers of silk organza, bookbinder glue, found materials, and linen thread. 

Scraps of old projects seem to form the most fertile compost during this era. Many inspiring leftovers are captured here, part of the handwritten saga. The many layers of glued silk approximate parchment, but no goats died, only silkworms.

Tenuous Threads


36″ x 72″

Silk, bookbinder glue, and found objects. 

This is a commission for Cynthia Boyer’s window, looking out over the Potomac from Alexandria, VA. I included several fragments from her studio, including some actual “chads” from the 2000 election.

The Margins 
Conversations III
Nature / Nurture
Random Sample