I started a new tradition last year of writing a year-in-review blog post after I ran across some others doing it. I find the process of taking stock of the entire year to be a good reminder of just how much I actually did accomplish.
American Patchwork & Quilting UFO Challenge – I tackled the challenge again this year, realizing that I had far more UFOs (often more intended-but-not-started projects) than I knew. This year, I managed to complete all 12 projects, which means a grand total of:
- 3 tops quilted and bound
- 4 kits completed
- 4 placemats made
- 10 pillows sewn (okay, two are still waiting for backs)
- 1 travel sewing kit made for myself
I’ll be taking up the challenge again this year because I am sure that I can find 12 more projects waiting to be made.
Personal Quilts – 2017 marked my 20th year of quilting and I ended the year by finishing my 100th quilt. (I just counted and realized that I made a total of 13 of those quilts this year, which makes me a little triskaidekaphobic and if I’d realized, I would have pushed to finish one more!) In addition to the three quilts I finished as part of the UFO challenge, I also finally made a quilt for my own bed.
Protest Series – At the end of 2016, I had no idea that I would start a series of protest quilts. But, in the beginning of 2017, I found myself inspired to create politically-motivated works. For the first time, I had quilts that needed to be made and was making quilts that I really felt were pieces of art. I made seven of them this year.
Art Quilts – In addition to the Protest Series, I made one additional art piece and a commissioned piece.
It’s been an exciting year, not just because I got so much done, but because 2017 was the year that I really came into my own as an artist. I’m looking forward to 2018!
I’ve finished the latest in my accidental protest series. Entitled “Home, Sweet Home,” it is done in the style of a cross stitch wall hanging and hand quilted. But, the image of “home” is that of a UNHCR refugee tent like the ones currently housing Syrian refugees. The blue fabric matches the color used by the UNHCR branding.
Home, Sweet Home, 2017, 23″ x 23″
What it Means to Me: I was inspired to create this piece months ago when the U.S. President announced his ban on immigration from 7 Muslim-majority countries, including Syria. This announcement came on the heels of earlier refusals by many of the U.S. Governors to accept Syrian refugees. It is my belief that humanitarian efforts, such as taking care of our fellow humans who are refugees from a brutal dictator, and diplomacy will do far more to combat terrorism than nationalistic, militaristic, xenophobic, and in my opinion, un-Christian, responses.
I doubt this one needs a lot of explanation. It’s pages from The New York Times on October 3rd and 4th, 2017, overlaid with a gray sheer and quilted with black thread in concentric circles. The green gun sight image is appliqued on top.
I used actual newspapers, knowing that this piece will wear over time. I expect the pages to yellow and tear to show the passage of time. I hope that the time that passes will bring change in the use of guns in the U.S., but I fear that time will pass with little change at all.
In Our Sights, 2017. 36″ x 32″
Today, I finally had the chance to view the Threads of Resistance exhibit at the New England Quilt Museum. I was at the museum when it opened so for a while, I had the room to myself. Soon however, I was joined by a group tour. Rather than detracting from my experience, viewing the exhibit with a racially diverse group of young women and men from UTEC who found pieces that spoke to them increased the power of the exhibit. Hearing one young woman say “This is me” about a piece depicting Justice carrying a sword with the phrase “Come At Me Bro” on it, well, that’s the point, right? That’s exactly why we as artists created these statements in cloth, to convey our feelings through our art and to have them resonate with others.
The Threads of Resistance organizers had a flood of entries from which to select the exhibit pieces (including a few from me). Each one they selected is powerful on its own, but to be in the room with all of the pieces together is almost overwhelming. I highly encourage you to see it if it travels near you. And, if you can get to Lowell tomorrow, one of the curators Sue Bleiweiss will be presenting a gallery talk at 11 AM.
I’ve completed the fourth in my accidental series of protest quilts. This one is called “Rise Up” and it features a crazy pieced, then appliqued and stuffed, symbol representing woman.”
What it Means to Me:
One of the most heartening events since the election was the Women’s Marches that occurred all over the United States and all over the world the day after the Presidential Inauguration. Women, men, and children left the comfort of their homes and rose up. They marched, they protested, and they made clear that joking about sexual assault would not be tolerated, that denying women access to health care would not be tolerated, that rolling back women’s hard-fought human rights would not be tolerated. They showed with their feet and with their voices that they were ready to fight. There is great power that comes from women rising up together and that gives me hope.
The woman symbol in this piece is created from a crazy patchwork of pink fabrics to represent that diversity of women who have come together. The symbol is stuffed to represent the act of rising up. Quilting lines radiate from the symbol to represent the impact that comes from action when we rise up together as women and as a nation.
Work on my unexpected protest series continued this week with a new piece called “Alternative Facts.” I first created the letter blocks, sewed them together, and then slashed the top and resewed it over and over again. I captured the in-process pictures and created a 33 second video of them; if you’d like to see the steps along the way, here’s the video: Making of Alternative Facts. I quilted the piece in gray threads to reflect that “alternative facts” take something that should be clear in black and white and changes it to gray. I left the quilting thread tails loose to emphasize the messiness this creates when facts become distorted and disputed.
Alternative Facts, 2017. 15″ x 24″
What this piece means to me:
I have not been able to get over my shock over the mere idea that there could be such a thing as “alternative facts.” I can see how deeply divided our country is and it is a division that I want us to fix and believe we need to, but if we cannot even agree on what the facts are, how can we? I accept that people can look at the same facts and reach different conclusions. I accept that there will be differences of opinion. But, if the facts themselves are under dispute and the Administration actually believes there is something called “alternative facts” where can the constructive dialogue that we need to have to heal these divisions begin? I’m afraid that it can’t and that we will be left with just loose threads.
I started a new quilt, though it’s not a happy one. The week after the attack at the night club in Orlando, I was sitting at my machine, sewing the very pretty blue and white quilt for my bedroom and thinking about the news. I found myself just heart sick thinking about how epidemic the mass shootings seem to have become in the U.S. and an idea for a quilt, a “protest quilt,” as I am calling it, floated down into my head, fully-formed. But, I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy project emotionally so I actually looked up at the sky and said to the Muse, “Really?” and like a petulant child, “Do I have to?” I sighed and took it on.
The quilt will have one block with the name of each victim of a mass shooting in the United States during the last 20 years. When I started doing research and realized just how many people that was, I added the parameter that I would only cover attacks with ten or more victims, which unfortunately means not including the recent Charleston church attack, but still means about 186 blocks. Yes, that’s right, 186 people have died in mass shootings with more than 10 victims during the last 20 years.
The blocks will be representative of the state flag of the state in which the attacks occurred. Here’s the first set of blocks, memorializing the victims of the Columbine School shooting in Colorado in 1999.