The visual focal point of the St. Andrew Sanctuary is the quilted tapestry hanging behind the altar. The piece was designed and created by Eleanor Van de Water of Vancouver, Washington. The following excerpts are from an article Amy Martinez Starke wrote about her and that ran in The Oregonian on January 8, 2006:
When she quit teaching first grade to stay home with her two children, Eleanor Van de Water dabbled with embroidering napkins and placemats and selling them at an arts and crafts fair in Vancouver.
"I knew I had to have an all-consuming hobby, or I'd keep the house clean," she said.
A church designer she met by chance threw some art commissions her way in the early 1970s. Eleanor had never done such a thing before, but she kept that fact to herself and jumped in. Her work was a success. Word got out among churches.
As a single mother after her divorce in 1976, she was able to make a living stitching banners, altar and pulpit cloths, and vestments, as well as doing private commissions and textile restoration. Being her own boss suited her well; she was very much a loner in her work.
Eleanor, who died Dec. 15, 2005, at age 74, became known for her one-of-a-kind liturgical art. Some of her hangings were so huge that she never got to see them in their entirety until they were unrolled and displayed in the church....
Eleanor [was] a woman of salty, wry, sarcastic and even acerbic speech, who smoked for years and enjoyed wine from a box....
Eleanor was the youngest of six children. Her mother, also a single mother, was a seamstress and dressmaker who taught Eleanor about design, fabric, texture and scale.
Eleanor Jones graduated from Vancouver High School and studied home economics at Eastern Washington University. She became a homemaker after her marriage to a teacher she met at her church. She also taught a series on public TV, "Creative Stitchery," and stitchery classes at Clark College while her career caught on.
She worked out of the family room of her Hazel Dell home. It was a big, messy room with thread, fabric and beads piled on work tables everywhere, and yarn stored in an old hardware store's nail bin.
Eleanor did not keep great records of her work, although she completed dozens of pieces for area churches or chapels.
Inspiration of light
[Her pieces] ... are all different, but light is a recurring theme. Light glows ethereally or in vibrant red, orange, silver, copper or purple for Pentecost's intense tongues of fire. In one, Lenten fabric appears shredded, revealing blood red underneath. Metallic yarns catch the light. Or light fades.
"I keep going back to the source of light, strength, inspiration. I'm intrigued by the dualities of life--light coming from darkness," she said.
She also loved forms in nature, such as shells, ferns and branches, and worked in deep rich browns and greens. Human figures were not her strength.
Sometimes Eleanor put her needle in the fabric not knowing exactly what was going to take place. She encouraged this kind of freedom: "Let it wander. Feel free to go with the inspiration. Sometimes it will become something else entirely."
"You know you are done when you are so sick you cannot look at it anymore," she once said. Her favorite work was always the next one....
In her later years, Eleanor Van de Water suffered from macular degeneration, went blind, lost much of her hearing, and dealt with arthritis and strokes; nonetheless, her work continues to be admired and lives on in St. Andrew and other churches and chapels.