Phillips-at-Home: Quilted Creations

To celebrate the holidays, create a Gee’s Bend-inspired wall hanging or ornament at home with family and friends. This activity was developed by Community Engagement intern Gabrielle Walker.

For this activity you will need:

• Glue
• Colorful chenille stems or fuzzy wire
Wooden craft sticks
Optional: beads, charms, yarn, or other items for embellishment

Mary Lee Bendolph, Housetop Variation, 1998, Cotton corduroy, twill, assorted polyesters, 72 x 76 in, The Phillips Collection, Partial gift, partial purchase from Souls Grown Deep Foundation and the Dreier Fund for Acquisitions, 2019


Look carefully at this quilt. Focus on the pattern.

• What shapes do you notice?
• What colors did the artist use?
• What do the colors suggest to you?


As you snuggle up for the holidays with your family, remember the long history behind quilting traditions. Quilts are handmade blankets often intended for loved ones. This quilt was made by Mary Lee Bendolph, a quilter from Gee’s Bend, Alabama. Women from Gee’s Bend overcame many hardships—poverty, racism, geographic isolation—and, out of necessity, used old clothes and other recycled cloth to create quilts that are now famous as works of art throughout the world. “Old clothes have a spirit in them,” Bendolph has said. “They also have love. When I make a quilt, that’s what I want it to have, too, the love and the spirit of the clothes and the people who wore it.”

Mary Lee Bendolph said: “Quilts is in everything. Sometimes I see a big truck passing by. I look at the truck and say, I could make a quilt look like that…I see the barn, and I get an idea to make a quilt. I can walk outside and look around in the yard and see ideas all round the front and back of my house….As soon as I leave the house I get ideas.”


For this art activity, we will make a wall hanging or ornament inspired by Gee’s Bend quilts. Quilts represent love, warmth, and family to many people who make them. What better way to celebrate the holiday season than gifting someone art inspired by a quilt!

1. Gather your supplies and lay them out.

2. Create a square frame by gluing the ends of the craft sticks together. You can use glue dots, hot glue, or Elmer’s glue.

Make your frame

3. On a blank sheet of paper, sketch some design ideas.

4. To start your quilt square, wrap the end of a fuzzy wire tightly around one part of the frame. Pinch the wire to itself so it won’t unravel. Then continue to wrap that wire around the whole frame. Add layers and embellishments until you are pleased with your design. Will you use many colors or just one? Be creative!

Start your design

5. You can add lines or shapes by attaching new fuzzy wire to the base layer. Experiment!

Experiment with colors and patterns

6. You can also add your own materials, like fabric, beads, or charms. Here are some samples made by Phillips educators:

Samples from Phillips educators

7. If you wish, attach a loop made with fuzzy wire to complete your wall hanging or tree ornament.


Looking for more inspiration? Discover more quilt patterns and learn about the quilters from Gee’s Bend from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation.

Phillips-at-Home: Inspired by Nature with David Driskell and Alma W. Thomas

This Thanksgiving holiday, spend some time with art and nature with this family-friendly activity inspired by David Driskell: Icons of Nature and History and Alma W. Thomas: Everything Is Beautiful.



Close your eyes and imagine your favorite place.

  • • How do you feel in that place?
  • • What colors would you use to describe it?



David Driskell was inspired by nature. Let your eyes wander over the two images.

  • • What do you notice?
  • • What are you curious about?
  • • How has the artist captured a sense of place?

David Driskell, Winter Tree, 1962, Encaustic on canvas, 52 1/4 x 42 3/8 in., James E. Lewis Museum of Art, Morgan State University, Baltimore; David Driskell, Pine and Moon, 1971, Oil on Masonite, 47 3/8 x 35 1/8 in., Portland Museum of Art, Portland, Maine, Museum purchase with support from the Friends of the Collection © Estate of David C. Driskell

Driskell grew up in rural Georgia and North Carolina. In his art, he turned to nature for inspiration. He recalls how his parents’ “great respect for nature” shaped his artistic practice. His father was a minister, farmer, and carpenter, who also kept a garden. His mother was a quilter and foraged for medicinal herbs in the nearby woods. When Driskell moved to the city, he brought this love of nature with him by growing gardens at his homes in Hyattsville, Maryland, and Falmouth, Maine. The “massive pines towering towards the sky” outside his studio window in Maine inspired his many paintings of pine trees.



David Driskell recorded his observations of the natural world in sketchbooks. On the page shown here, Driskell sketched a Magnolia tree, adding a description of its history and location.

David Driskell, pages from The Garden Book of Maryland and Maine, c. 1998, Bound journal, 10 × 8  ½ in., Photo: Gregory R. Staley. Courtesy of the David C. Driskell Center at the University of Maryland, College Park. Collection of the Estate of David C. Driskell, Maryland

By using our own paper or sketchbook, we can observe and record beauty in the world around us. Take a walk in your neighborhood. Find one thing that inspires you—a leaf, a rock, a crack in the sidewalk.

Look closely. Draw what you see.

  • • Why did you choose that object?
  • • What does your drawing make you think about?
  • • Write down your thoughts next to the drawing.

Check out these great sketches from a workshop at THEARC farm over the summer!



Alma Thomas was also inspired by nature. She loved to look out her windows from her home in Washington, DC, to see the leaves change color in the fall, “tossing in the wind as though they were singing and dancing.” Thomas used color and abstraction to capture the sense of a place.

Ida Jervis, Alma Thomas’s front window, with holly tree, c. 1971, Gelatin silver print, 7 x 5 in., Alma W. Thomas Papers, The Columbus Museum; Alma Thomas, Breeze Rustling Through Fall Flowers, 1968, Acrylic on canvas, 57 7/8 x 50 in., The Phillips Collection, Gift of Franz Bader, 1976

Let’s experiment with abstracting the object from nature you just sketched. Try one of these approaches to make your drawing more abstract.

  • • Focus in on one section of the drawing and enlarge and/or crop it
  • • Color your drawing with non-representational colors
  • • Imagine how your drawing/object might look from really far away, up close, or through a kaleidoscope

Visit David Driskell: Icons of Nature and History (through January 9, 2022) and Alma W. Thomas: Everything Is Beautiful (through January 23, 2022) for more inspiration!

Wellness Kit Activity: Celebrating Kin with Whitfield Lovell

Over the past year, The Phillips Collection has distributed over 2,000 Wellness Kits to families near our campus at THEARC (1801 Mississippi Ave SE). These kits contain masks, hand sanitizer, toys, and all the art supplies you need to complete an included activity. Now we want to do the same activities with you! You can assemble your own Wellness Kit activity by purchasing the supplies and following the instructions below.

For this project, you will need:

Whitfield Lovell, Kin XXXV (Glory in the Flower), 2011, Conté on paper, vintage clock radio, 30 x 22 3/4 x 5 3/4 in., The Phillips Collection, The Dreier Fund for Acquisitions, 2013

Look Closely:

The importance of home, family, ancestry feeds my work entirely. African Americans were generally not aware of who their ancestors were, since slaves were sold from plantation to plantation and families were split up. Any time I pick up one of these old vintage photographs, I have the feeling that this could be one of my ancestors.”—Whitfield Lovell

Look closely at the man in this work of art. Who do you think he is? What might he be thinking? How could he be feeling? Whitfield Lovell drew this face by hand. He studies old photographs and carefully draws every detail. Notice the clock radio below the drawing. How might the clock be connected to the portrait?

Inspired by old, anonymous photos, Whitfield Lovell created the Kin series. Kin means a family member or relative. Even though Lovell does not know the people he draws, he imagines a kinship with them. This kinship makes him want to spend time with them, creating detailed portraits. He envisions their full life, choosing objects that represent their complex identity. By celebrating these people in art, he makes them important and makes sure they will no longer be forgotten.

Celebrating Kin:

Inspired by Whitfield Lovell, we will create art that celebrates people who are important to us. Lovell uses three-dimensional frames, or “shadow boxes,” to display his drawings and found objects together as one work of art. In this activity, we will be creating a three-dimensional object and a house-like structure that will serve as a frame for our object. We can decorate our paper “frame” with drawings that celebrate our special person.

Sculpt Your Object:

  • Before you begin, decide who you will represent in your art. Why is this person important to you?
  • Next, think of an object that relates to this person. What does this object tell us about this person? Does the object connect to a memory you have of this person?
  • Sculpt your object using Model Magic.
  • You can add color to your sculpture using markers.
  • Model Magic hardens when you leave it out to dry. If you want to create your sculpture during the Sunday workshop, do not open your Model Magic ahead of time.

Fold Your Paper “Frame”:

  • Find your cardstock paper.
  • Follow the diagram from the National Museum of Women in the Arts to create the “frame” for your sculpture.
  • Stand your frame up so that it looks like a house.

Create Your Portrait:

  • Decide where to create your portrait on the frame. Think about how you will display the frame with the sculpture.
  • The portrait can be as realistic or abstract as you want. Whitfield Lovell’s portrait is realistic; it looks like a photograph. An abstract portrait uses symbols and colors to represent how a person makes you feel.
  • Use markers or any other art supplies you have.
  • Get creative! You can decorate any and all sides of the frame.
  • Display your frame and sculpture together.

Portrait of Frida Kahlo with birds and roses.

Portrait of artist’s mother with abstract sculpture inspired by nature walks.