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A Tree of Cultural and Economic Importance

Where there are trees, there are stories: numerous nuggets of folklore and Americana revolve around trees.

Emily Horne 07F might not have chopped down the proverbial cherry tree, but she did explore the story of the American chestnut for her Division III project.

“It’s a fascinating tree, it was a culturally and economically important tree,” she says. “It is highly valued as timber. It’s durable. It’s rot-resistant. It’s a very beautiful wood, straight-grained, lightweight.”

Her project also illustrates the history and significance of the tree on a quilt she crafted over a period of several months.

“I really like quilting as a way to tell a story, because it’s not intimidating as an art form,” she says. “If you want people to listen to your story and to hear what you have to say, it’s more effective to not scare them.

“Quilts have a comforting connotation—people give quilts to people that they love.”

The quilt features multiple fabrics, including corduroy to replicate the look of bark. Every figure on the quilt, whether it is the squirrel that stands in the foreground or the plentiful forestry, is multi-chromatic and thoroughly detailed. “This is my sixth quilt, but is by far the most complex and detailed,” Horne says.

Rounding out her project is a 20-page report, split between a nonfiction history of the American chestnut and a personal reflection on the process of creating the quilt. She also wrote a fictional oral history about a woman whose life was affected deeply by the tree.

Horne points to her faculty committee, applied design professor Donna Cohn and botany professor Larry Winship, as being influential in her education. “Larry knows a lot about trees and he loves trees. For me, as a person who really loves trees, it was great to talk to him about various aspects of forest ecology,” she says.

After graduation, Horne hopes to continue working in nature. “I’m going to be living in New Hampshire, with a big garden, volunteering at the American Chestnut Foundation’s orchards and being a counselor at a farm and nature summer camp,” she says.

Sharing her love of nature was a motivating factor in Horne’s project: “I wanted to tell this story partly so that I could help people connect with the natural world.”

Emily Horne 07F with a quilt made as part of her division III work

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