BARKLEY THIELEMAN/The Sun Freda Fairchild works on a fabric panel for the chapel at Lourdes hospital.
By Leigh Landini Wright
Layer over layer of fabric coupled with painstakingly perfect tiny embroidery stitches and quilting earn patience for Paducah artist Freda Fairchild.
Fairchild, who moved to Paducah last year as part of the Artist Relocation Program, is creating piece-by-piece a series of multimedia fabric panels for the new Lady of Lourdes Chapel, which is expected to open in June. Each panel features layers of blue, green, lavender and rose-tinged fabric on which Fairchild has printed the Latin, Greek, Aramaic, English and Hebrew translation of Isaiah 58: 8-11. On some panels, she is painting with gold foil for accents. On others, she uses gold thread. A close examination of one panel reveals tiny quilting stitches.
Friends and others who view the panels in progress tell Fairchild she has the patience of Job. "That's what everyone says to me, but I don't think I do," she said. "The only thing that's been time-consuming is the quilting. I've spent so many hours quilting that I want my stitches to be tiny."
Fairchild begins by fashioning a wave-inspired and color-infused print. Then, she uses a process known as "sumi" in which the fabric is dipped into paint. "Sumi is like painting on water," she explained. From there, she layers fabric to achieve the multidimensional feel. Details are added through printing the scripture, embroidering curves to resemble waves and quilting.
"My definition of work that's successful is one that draws your attention from across the room," Fairchild said.
The panel featuring the English translation will be at the center. "I wanted to put the English one on the panel with the most light," she said, gesturing to the muted blue, green and lavender panel in her quilting frame. "It speaks about light and dawn. I want the words to look like they're glimpsed through the water. I didn't want the words to be too stark."
Fairchild, who began the work in August, hopes to finish by May. "It's really, really exciting to be a part of a project here," she said. "I didn't think I'd sell much work in Paducah, but I was really surprised at the response that I've gotten. I sell as much work (here) as I did in my studio in California. Then, to be chosen for this project was gratifying."
Lourdes officials began the chapel project because the existing one is dark, and because of expanding services, the hospital needs the space. The new chapel, at the juncture of the Marshall Nemer Pavilion and Pedestrian Mall, carries a water theme. Gentle curves of the entry vestibule are testaments to the theme, as is the fountain.
Lexington artist Guy Kemper will craft blue-tinged glass for the windows.
Other elements in the chapel are light and wood, both of which when combined with water, will create a serene environment, according to Lourdes officials.
Space created by moving the chapel will be used for expansion of cardiac services.
The hospital will donate excess materials from the existing chapel to St. Mary High School, in hopes of creating an on-campus chapel for student and family worship.
The Lourdes Foundation seeks community help in raising $250,000 for the chapel. To donate, phone foundation director Missy Hendley at 444-2205 or visit the Lourdes Web site at www.lourdes-pad.org
Seeking funds: The Lourdes Foundation seeks community help in raising $250,000 for the chapel. To donate, phone foundation director Missy Hendley at 444-2205 or visit the Lourdes Web site at
Reprinted with permission from Leigh Landini Wright, Sun Features Editor and the Paducah Sun
©2004 Leigh Landini Wright and The Paducah Sun