The soulful, commemorative quilts of Lori Weyand Mason, Textile/Surface Design ’96

“Textiles are such a visceral medium,” says Lori Mason ’96. For 25 years, people have sought her out after a loved one dies. The survivors send clothing worn by the deceased, and Mason turns these relics into quilts that commemorate a life.

Two brothers from Mexico died. They loved horses. Mason made a pair of quilts from their bandannas, each as distinctive as a fingerprint. An administrator at NYU, devoted to Buddhism, left behind a collection of chic socks: “He was impeccably fashionable from his toes to his ankles,” his widow said. From the stylish fabric, Mason created a quilt that recalls a mandala. The spouse of a former Marine sent a box of his plaid and white shirts, navy chinos, and khakis; Mason fashioned a quilt sporting chevrons to recall his life of service.

For clients, seeing the final products can be overwhelming. A dead person’s clothing is usually discarded, though it retains some of their aura; Mason redeems the items into meaningful pieces that evoke the deceased.
Her reputation spread by word of mouth. Today, customers come to her from Bermuda, England, Canada, Denmark. She starts by talking with them and establishing trust. “What I do makes people feel heard,” she says. “I offer them my eye, and my craft.”

“What I do makes people feel heard. I offer them my eye, and my craft.”

— Lori Mason

At FIT, she studied color theory with Eileen Mislove. “She used to say there was no such thing as a ‘bad’ color. The colors you place next to it make it come alive,” Mason says. “I don’t get to choose the palette that comes to me in a box of clothing. What I can choose is how those colors and patterns sit in relation to each other.” After graduation, Mason worked as a textile print designer for Nike, where she helped create track and field outfits for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. She still sells her patterns to fabric companies. 

Yet it’s the commemorative quilt projects that she cherishes most. “This is my ‘heart work,’” Mason says. “It’s how I feel I can help people in a way I couldn’t when I was in commercial design.”

By some estimates, human beings are touching fabric for 98% of our lives. In Mason’s work, it touches us back.

Here are some of Mason’s quilts

“Joe’s Good Will 2,” 55 by 70 inches, 2021.

The late mayor of Salinas, California, Joe Gunther also served as a Marine in Vietnam. The chevron shapes reference his life of service. “I usually come up with a simple idea, and the clothes make it sing,” Mason says. She appliquéd the name logo from his Salinas Police Department polo shirt to the bottom left corner.

“Youssef’s Mandala,” 26 by 50 inches, 2017.

Mason designs with computer software and sews the pieces together; she then sends the work to a business partner who quilts the three layers together (front, back, batting). The circular pattern of quilted stitching here is meant to recall a Buddhist garden. Most of the fabric comes from the late owner’s stylish socks.

“Fernando’s Bandannas,” 54 by 70 inches, 2023.

This recent piece features bandannas that reference the subject’s love of horseback riding.

“Eva’s Night Out,” 54 by 76 inches, 1998.

One of the first quilts Mason created incorporated her grandmother Eva’s brightly colored ombre scarves. “I’ll put the essence of the person’s spirit in the center,” Mason says. “It was hugely healing to work with her things and feel her there.”