Jane Burch Cochran is an academically trained painter who started making small bead and fabric collages in 1978 and has been a full time artist since 1980. The first fabrics she used were painted canvas and her father’s neckties. She made her first large quilt in 1985 and says she has been “completely obsessed with making art quilts since then –quilts both large and small but always for the wall." Cochran's distinctive, heavily embellished quilts are represented in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Renwick Gallery, the University of Kentucky Art Museum, the Kentucky History Center, and the National Quilt Museum as well as in numerous corporate and private collections. She completed her largest quilt to date—a 7 foot high x 10 foot wide commission for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati—in June 2004; at the other end of the spectrum, her most recent work is a series of abstracted face quilts that measure just 25 x 20 inches.
"Once I had more time to spend on my work," Jane Cochran explains, "instead of making more quilts, I made quilts that took more time. I love doing labor-intensive artwork –it is an odyssey. In my art quilts, I try to combine my art training in painting, my love of fabric, and the tradition of American quilting. I unconsciously combine the loose, free feeling of abstract painting with the time consuming and controlled techniques of sewing and beading.
"Although my work has its roots in Victorian crazy quilts and Native American beadwork, the nostalgia is off set by my interpretations as an artist living today. I continue to use common symbols and quilt patterns and to recycle old gloves and other materials to create a new narrative. The gloves (hands) are reaching and searching for both questions and answers about race, the environment, and the human psyche. My quilts are highly embellished with beads, buttons, and paint to enhance the narrative with a personal texture.
"I use strip piecing to make my patchwork. I do not measure but just start cutting and sewing strips usually in combinations of three strips. I then cut these apart into smaller pieces and just keep sewing and adding until it grows into large enough patches to use. I love to create the patchwork. It's like making lots of small paintings. I then appliqué the patchwork and other pieces to a background using bugle beads or seed beads.
"After working several months on a quilt, if I don’t think it is working, then I must not cast it aside but ‘fix it.’ I often do this by building up and adding more embellishments and paint rather than taking it apart. I do have patience and a vision –which keep me going."