Last night, I had the wonderful opportunity to deliver my “Quilts in U.S. History” lecture to the Quinobequin Quilters in Needham, MA. The guild members asked some great questions and there were a few that I wasn’t able to fully answer in the moment that I wanted to follow up on:
What led to the 1971 Whitney Museum quilt exhibit?
Last night, I said that I thought Jonathan Holstein and Gail van der Hoof were driving forces behind the exhibit and, according to the International Quilt Study Center, that was indeed the case. They began to see the quilts in their collection as examples of abstract art. I also said that I thought there had been some earlier quilt exhibits that encouraged the Whitney to consider the “Abstract Design in American Quilts” show and that does seem to be the case as well. According to a post by the International Quilt Study Center, the changing perception of craft and ideas of what constituted art also set the groundwork for the Whitney to consider such an exhibit.
2. What innovations in the sewing machine were happening in Europe in the mid 1850s?
According to Wikipedia, there were numerous advances in sewing machine technology, starting with a patent awarded to a German man working in England in 1755. Also according to Wikipedia, the first modern sewing machine design that brought together the advances of the earlier models was invented by an Englishman in 1844, but the patent application was botched. American Elias Howe invented a similar machine in 1845, that Singer improved upon in 1851. Howe won the patent in 1846, according to this article from 1860 in The New York Times.
It seems that the European companies of the quality sewing machines that we are enjoying today as quilters began in the following decades:
2018 is here and that means it is time to think about goals for the year. I have a list of quilts that I want to get done, and of course, there’s the American Patchwork & Quilting UFO Challenge, but I received a gift from dear friends that perfectly sums up what I hope to do this year:
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 was so touched by what Lyric Kinard wrote in her most recent newsletter that I wanted to share it (with permission):
Be the change that you wish to see in the world. Mahatma Ghandhi
I have a simple message for you today. With turmoil and conflict everywhere, it is up to each of us to be the light, to be the good, to be the change. We can’t sit back in fear and wait. Nobody else is going to make it better for us.
Alone, we cannot change the whole world but we certainly can bring comfort and peace to one individual. Every small act of kindness makes a difference. If enough people do one small thing, and then do one more small thing, and one more – the world WILL change.
You are a quilter.
You are an amazingly creative and generous person.
What we do is not frivolous, it makes a difference.
November is apparently “Gratitude Month.” I don’t remember when it was officially created, but I have seen announcements of that popping up more frequently over the last few years. With Thanksgiving occurring in a few weeks, “Gratitude Month” does make sense. So, I want to take the time to say that I am grateful to all of you. Thank you all for your support over the last year and a half as I went on my personal journey into my creativity and officially launched Creative Play™.
I have often felt so very alone in my journey. I thought I was the only person who was unhappy and that I just needed to put on my big girl pants and go to the office with a smile on my face and work my hardest, even in the jobs that I loathed. I thought that “real” jobs are what adulthood is all about and doing what you love is either a fantasy or it’s something for a select few lucky people. As I started to believe that maybe I could be one of those lucky people and that I actually deserved work that I love and happiness to boot, you all supported me. You encouraged me to stay on my path (though I still don’t really know where that path is going!) and for that, I thank you.
Then, I began to think that maybe I wasn’t so alone after all and that I wasn’t the only one in need of a little creative fulfillment in life. When Creative Play™ was just the stirrings of an idea, you all supported me again. You shared your stories with me. You told me how valuable you thought this pursuit was and encouraged me to believe that I have something to offer the world through this. I am grateful for that.
Your support and encouragement has helped me believe that happiness is possible and that I deserve to do work that brings me happiness. I am eternally grateful to you for that.
Today, I begin the task of gathering the name of each victim of the Las Vegas shooting to create a new set of blocks for my Victims Quilt. As I type each one, I am looking at their photos and reading about who they were. I am reading about husbands who died shielding their wives and about so many children who have lost parents. I have typed only five and I already have tears in my eyes. Without a doubt, today’s work is that made that much more difficult knowing that another 26 people lost their lives last night in yet another shooting. Will this ever end?
I doubt this one needs a lot of explanation. It’s pages from TheNew 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.
I started reading a book called “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul” by Stuart Brown, M.D., founder of the National Institute for Play, (Who knew there was such a thing?) and Christopher Vaughan. I am completely riveted. I’m learning about all of the benefits of play for kids to develop problem solving and social skills, and for adults in preventing brain degeneration. I’m finding the topic fascinating, but of course my main interest is in the benefits of creative play. Interestingly, it was in a chapter about kids and play where I found the phrase that stopped me in my tracks.
Brown and Vaughan write, “. . . the self that emerges through play is the core, authentic self” (emphasis in the original, pg.107). “That’s it exactly!” I thought. As an adult engaged in creative play, it may not be that the authentic self is emerging, but rather re-emerging, but that’s exactly how I felt as I began to play more and get back in tune with my creativity. I finally felt right again, like I was back in my own body rather than looking at myself from the outside wondering who I had become. As I got more comfortable with my authentic self (whom I had not known in a VERY long time), the most amazing things happened. I was finding inspiration on an almost daily basis and creating art that for the first time, really spoke to me. I also began feeling joy, an unexpected but incredible benefit.
I started a new quilt this week. I’m still reeling from this week’s news of yet another mass shooting, the most deadly of all, and I am not yet ready to start typing the names of victims to add them to the Victims Quilt. But, I still found myself sick over the shooting and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I went to bed the other night drawing gun sight patterns. I originally thought that I would create a block that looked like gun sights to create a traditional quilt, in the style of the Double T block used by the Temperance movement. When I awoke in the morning, however, this is the quilt that I had in mind: