Wednesday, August 15, 2018
  • Soundcheck

Meet the Florida college student who gave Lorde a hand-painted ‘Melodrama’ quilt in Tampa

It's safe to say Lorde had a fun first trip to Florida.

During her concert Wednesday at Amalie Arena in Tampa, the alt-pop superstar raved about the frozen beach drinks, warm Gulf waters and "all these beautiful swamps" she experienced during a day off tour. On Twitter, she added: "Florida is so dreamy. Lots of pale green algae-ish pools and pastel colored buildings. Bitter grapefruit and Cuban food and screaming crowds."

And then there was the quilt.

During her show closer Team, the New Zealand singer ran off stage to hug, high-five and kiss fans in the front row. She came back wrapped in a handmade quilt of the cover to her latest album Melodrama.

"Honestly, I still feel like it's not really real," said the quilt's creator, 20-year-old University of Florida senior Rayna Parks. "But I didn't feel like it was real when it was happening. So I've barely digested it now."

REVIEW: Lorde dances her way into Amalie Arena for rousing Tampa debut

Parks, a Wauchula native, has been quilting for three years, and makes and sells quilts through her Etsy shop Old Soul Quilts, but had never attempted a project like this. It her first painted quilt, and her first quilt made using free-motion stitching, a process that allowed her to follow the contours of Melodrama's artwork.

"I really just wanted to see if I could do it," she said. "I've never painted before. I don't really see myself as an artist, just a quilter. My mom says I'm an artist, but it's my mom. She kind of has to say that."

Parks spent a few weeks painting the artwork by hand before stitching it together. The project had already attracted decent attention before the show; Parks' initial March 27 tweet about the quilt has drawn 8,300 retweets and nearly 42,700 likes. Her time-lapse video of the quilt's creation has been viewed more than 29,000 times on Twitter.

"At first, we were okay with second or third row; we just wanted to be close," Parks said. "But then I made the quilt and I was looking at it, and I was like, 'Okay if I'm not able to give this to her, I'm going to be pretty disappointed.' … That was pretty much my mission going in."

Rayna Parks shows off her handmade Lorde quilt before the concert in Tampa. (Photo: Angelica Montanez)

Parks said Lorde appeared to notice the quilt midway through the show; Parks motioned that it was a gift for her. When Lorde came down to the fans during the final song, "she came right up to me and grabbed it, and was like, 'This is amazing! I love it!' And I was like, 'Aaaaah!' and freaking out because she was standing right there and gave me a big hug and was singing to me and staring into my soul. It was a lot. It was overwhelming."

Lorde took the quilt onstage and wore it like a cape as the crowd screamed.

The next day, the singer Instagrammed a photo of herself wrapped in the quilt, writing: "whoever gave me this incredible quilt THANKYOU i will treasure it." Later, after tracking Parks down on Twitter — presumably by searching "Lorde" and "quilt" — the singer sent her an @-message: "thankyou for my incredible quilt I LOVE IT xxxxxx."

Screengrab: @lordemusic on Instagram

"Me and my friend were actually doing our homework" when Lorde posted the photo, she said, "and so all of the homework was forgotten immediately. I was freaking out."

Much like Tampa artist Cam Parker's quest to have Lady Gaga check out his mural of her — a quest that paid off when Gaga came to Tampa in December — it was a story of fandom, persistence and creativity.

RELATED: Lady Gaga finally sees Tampa artist's mural: 'That's a real artist right there'

"It's such a blessing," Parks said. "To put so much work into something, and then see someone genuinely treasure it enough to tell me thank you multiple times — not only on the night when I give it to her, but then later. It was just really cool."

— Jay Cridlin

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