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February 2020

my Aunt Grace quilt LOC.3

Bowandarrow21420
My life-long love of super scrappy bed quilts began as a tiny child.  As a fifth generation quilter I grew up studying any number of hand sewn quilts on the beds at my grandmother's house where I was raised - and also in the upstairs bedrooms at her older sister Grace's place.  All these quilts bore the generational mark of frugal DIY ladies born at the starting line of the 20th century.  They'd been raised to make good practical use of every scrap of cloth they had to hand.  Not all at once, certainly, but eked-out slowly over time so that the various fabric patterns recurred like a narrative theme covering time, space, and an ongoing roll call of the past's play suits and pajamas and special birthday party dresses/boy's dress shirts for Good/church.

Upon immediate reflection - what I just described is what I grasp(ed) of Aunt Grace's methodology.  Her quilts were to my eye joyous and freewheeling - impeccably sewn but otherwise completely off the How It's Done rails - brought to heel only by the implicit structure and rhythm of one patch/bold graphic classic quilt patterns.

For scrap work my grandmother favored impeccably aligned log cabin/dresden plate variations that were by and large unobtrusive or painterly in their color range and its distribution.  Her choices often suggest she pre-sorted her scraps as she accrued them in order to work efficiently in a far more color coordinated/visually restrained style.

(Oh come on Pearl, the Grace of my memory would sometimes goad.  Live a little why dontcha)

As with so many other things about how she presented herself and her home I feel pretty clear that my grandmother's self-expressive style consciously hewed to the specific and implicit dictates of the fairly dour Lutheran sect in which she and I were both raised as the backbone and mental/psychic wardrobe of not just our lives but Life itself.  She was not a showy woman in any way.  But she understood some people were colorful without being prideful.   Quite early on she saw the way I was breaking, so to speak, in the aesthetic sense and had no trouble asking her friends to supply more colorful scraps for me to learn - and practice until perfect - a variety of piecing techniques.

Her sister was a lot more layered in how she lived and created.  She had an ongoing willingness - from which I actively inferred enjoyment - to use all the scrap happy colors and patterns all at once.  She mixed decades worth of fabric to create ingrained family myths of origin.  The kids in our family who were her grandchildren slept in her upstairs rooms full of handsewn quilts all the time.  They knew at least some of the stories connected to each of the fabrics.  Stories about things that happened while their parents and uncles were wearing clothes made from specific scraps in yardage form.  In the timeframe of my memories the quilts were growing worn at the edges.  They held the aura of fading scrolls documenting family life when our own parents were young or mere babies.  The upstairs rooms in our time weren't needed save for sleep overs and dedicated kidspace while the adults talked downstairs.  We could crawl around and sprawl together laughing helplessly much as we later would on living room floor based Twister game mats.

  Every once in awhile one of Grace's masterpieces would require seam mending and patching.  This would be a big deal for the sisters.   In addition to brown paper bags overflowing with scraps at both their feet they were also inundated by young enthusiastic children.  We flocked around them in a minimum of 4 and an average of 6 in number  It was a sunlit offhandedly nurturing environment suddenly awash in Pearl's far from muted alarm concerning all that could go wrong - particularly with so many children and the sisters' combined collection(s) of the very most necessary sharp Things that outnumbered the kids three to one.

I loved being able to watch close at hand.  Adults in my life often granted me a front row seat to their activities because they knew I'd be quiet and more or less motionless. I fully realized this as well as the fact that my freeze frame hyper-focus on what they were doing formed a kind of hedge/buffer zone between their workspace and more overtly excitable kids inclined to shout, grab suddenly for things they shouldn't touch let alone run with, or jump around and around and around the adult who was trying to Get Something Done despite the ongoing distraction. 

When the sisters' stitching time turned surgical I was outright called to Assist by simply being there between them and the other grandchildren.  Immobilized with fascination and Need To See.  I loved the moment when split (homemade and much patched, naturally...) bias binding was pulled free and I could see within Aunt Grace's generous seam allowances the true scope of how colorific the unfaded fabrics were.  My eyes gravitated to the excessively excessive somebody-stop-this-woman factor like a very happy bee in a mile-wide clover field.  In such visual mayhem I instinctively found permission to rest and quiet my ever-spinning child's mind.  And isn't rest what a handmade scrap quilt is most meant to Hold?

Bowandarrow215

At the beginning of last Friday the super scrappy hand pieced bow and arrow quilt top featured in this post existed in a state of un-joined but individually pieced/hand sewn 24-inch squares.   Near the middle of the afternoon it looked like the lede image.  I just ... had to do this.  I needed to put together this quilt top - to spend a few day's worth of Workday time sitting quietly in the sun and stitching while I thought things through as much as one can in today's hall of mirrors.  A later point in life ambition became quite tangible in the impulsive form of last Friday morning.   I simply picked up the rolled bundle of blocks and brought them to the studio with me.  It was mid-afternoon before I zeroed in on the nice detail that I finally got my act together* in this specific way - featuring a Bow and Arrow pattern - on Valentine's Day.

What I stitched is primarily a valentine to the woman I grew up calling Aunt Grace even though she was my grandmother's sister.  Her grandchildren in turn called my grandmother Aunt Pearl.   The sisters were very close.  They shared weekend phone calls of fair length during a time when long distance charges usually kept my grandmother's sharp eyes fixed on the clock and her phone call/egg timer. 

Although they did exchange fabric scraps these were kept as a kind of sisterly contemplation - the scraps wrapped small to large within themselves.  They were, at least on my grandmother's end, kept in her nightstand's drawer in a charmingly warped wooden box their younger brother had made.  Grace's scraps were kept there solely to be arranged in various ways on the plain white sheet of Pearl's unmade bed.  Carefully put away for the sheer pleasure of bringing them out again at a later time.  That was in a whole other category from how they worked and with what.  Their quilt and clothes making aesthetics differed enough that unless they were in clear agreement over specific pattern and color choices they worked primarily from stashes as separate (and impressively huge...) as passing ocean liners.

[*It should be said that I first began cutting out the individual scrap pieces on July 4th, 1992.  The occasion marked my first authentically crippling migraine headache.  Had I had an inkling of how many I'd have over the course of the next 20 years I would have curled up on the bed and wept.  But I did not and thus I tried to make some constructive use of young mother alone time while J. and T. watched the fireworks from the old Lechmere parking lot in Cambridge.   I began making my lateral longview way towards a hazy future when I'd have time and inclination to begin putting together a whole new generation of hand sewn bed quilts.]

Each fabric used comprises a single six inch block's worth of pieces:  two quarter circles and the curved bow-tie looking piece in the center.  A number of fabrics I used weren't large enough for the center portion so I cut extra pairs of quarter circles for a wider choice range.  Once I got to the point of beginning to stitch (roughly 15 years ago ...) I used the same fabric on each block's opposing quarter circle because - in a quilt this loud and random the ongoing repetitive duets of the same fabric provides points of discernible focus  if not outright resting space.  The fact that the twin pieces appear in different circles keeps your eye moving.  After a few stumbles as to where or why it's moving your brain registers the repetitive code and starts seeking it out.   It's the pattern within the distortion of "pattern" that my - and Aunt Grace's - seemingly off-the-wall pairing choices create. 

Aunt Grace did this all the time and quite deliberately.  I'd watch her stitching while my grandmother also worked amidst gentle chiding (oh Grace!) that showed deference to their birth order.  It's my inner child's sweet spot/intuitive design point I learned from my loving perusal of the childhood era quilts that most drew my eye and gladdened my heart.  By the end of Saturday I'd stitched together the above.  And my ongoing studio companion was extremely quick to lay claim to my accomplishment.

Mamaonquilt21620

Mama takes her studio kitty duties very seriously.  Haven't stitched anything big like this since her arrival but she seemed to have an instinctive grasp of how to most effectively participate.  meanwhile on my end - due to my extended hiatus from working big and strictly by hand I'd forgotten how freely the mind wanders through reflection, problem solving, and just plain wiping a grimy media saturated brain's slate as close to clean and blank as it gets these days.

I forgot about the way I connect to the spirited history of stitchers fairly immediately once I've found my personal needle rocking rhythm and smooth pull of the thread.   And the ongoing almost simian grooming of stray threads that proliferate the more you handle and shift the fabrics.  My grandmother - who could be super impatient and exacting - had quite tenderly and slowly taught me how to stitch well.  Our religion didn't encourage pridefulness and yet she made it clear that she expected to be able to be proud of me in terms of both my stitching manner and rhythm and also the ongoing quality of my workwomanship.

216bowarrow

This is how the quilt looked once I got it away from the cat and took it up to the bedroom.  Had to spread it out on my bed in order to gauge how many of the remaining blocks would need to be added. 

219quilttopfinished

By mid-afternoon on Sunday I had finished sewing together this loving tribute to my Aunt Grace  It's something that's still making me shake my head in surprise since the accomplishment was not on the books.  It was more a case of "this is what I'm doing now.  I won't ask why I'll just do it with single-minded creative focus until it's done."  


Day 30 - results

Trustyourself

(because that's where and why and how all the creative magic happens)

I'm really glad we all did this together.  I hope you are too.

  EVERYBODY did outstanding work - not just in the scope of their collage creations but also in terms of quickly establishing a challenge-based working style and dedication to their personal process development.  Despite the initial uncertainty any challenge brings it was truly remarkable to see how quickly everyone adapted to their freshly personalized relationship to this expressive medium.  By reviewing each other's efforts the way we'd all look at something together if our virtual situation was happening in the walking-around world - we each insured that every single one of us "got" something about collage that we hadn't quite put together before this time of sharing.

  Everyone - including me -  willingly trusted I'd guide them to a stationary end-point while also digging deeper into their private stashes of emotion and life experience as well as their paper collections.  Now - going forward - there's only one barometer/compass rose to be followed:

trust yourself

keep speaking truth to and FOR power

from the center of your creative soul

and every corner and crevice you discover

where true power resides

*~*~*~*~*

My faves from these days:

Dee

grace

Joanne

Liz

Marti - curendera (make sure to scroll down or click for her response to our final prompt)

Nancy

[For those who like statistics - this blog has averaged 82 unique visitors a day for the challenge time-frame.  Including myself and everyone actively involved - 35 people have let me know they're participating/following along as a somewhat regular part of their creative experience. 

The most unique visits to a single post (328) happened here. oof.  Typepad is going rogue on me right here at the end!

For reasons unknown all the [listed as published] posts aren't appearing on the blog right now.  At least not in what I can see of it here on my laptop or phone.  The post with the most unique visitors was the Day 16 results page for the garden Crone totem.  Quite a skyrocket!  Somebody somewhere linked, obviously, to significant effect.  Perhaps it's fitting that my first studio-based intention once I've scheduled this post is to paint that totem's background layer.  Last things first, as I like to say!

Not at all by design but I'm very grateful it's working out this way - I don't have to be/go anywhere that requires me to be all the way ON until Thursday morning.  Between now and then I'm planning to stay paint smudged and considerably more powered-down than I've been since ... before Thanksgiving, actually.  Yikes.  No wonder I feel so ready to shift from extro to intro mode energetically.

and I still don't have a clue what I might post on this blog going forward.  or why ...]


Day 30 morning post

Prompt #30:

Imagine our shared challenge experience has been a literal path marked with stepping stones - one for each person who participated in whatever fashion.

What does your stepping stone look like?

(hint:  what would you wish us to receive as a gift related to what you most enjoyed about collage?)


Day 29 - results

Whiteonwhite

Today I'm going to lean into the living collage sub-theme grace introduced. 

Creatively I need a lot of white space.  Not just visually but also at the vibe level.   Sometimes I make nine-patch collages alternating cool and warm whites.  Sometimes all one tint or tone with as much of a flat wash look as possible.

Sometimes it's the studio's physicality and accumulated energy that gives me this kind of compatible psychological climate.  Sometimes it's my established frame of mind.  Sometimes I don't have a sense of connection to that level of inner/visual comfort zone.  It's what I'm looking for within some specific urges fueling my just-then need to create. 

Thought all of that through after first thinking the image below.  literally.  Refreshed my memory concerning the prompt last night and THOUGHT this tarot card from the Motherpeace deck:

Fourofswords

sometimes all you need is the right state of mind.  sometimes you need a full-on regeneration chamber.  sometimes both are one and the same. 

Mental outlook - looking-out.  all four mental/weapons plunged downward - like feathers worn in peace and a soul-level dedication to it.  Vows taken with no ability or desire to shirk them. 

Also:  Four.  Stability.  Cardinal directions and principle elements squared firmly at equal distances.  I need that baseline sense of energetic balance from a creative work space.  Stability as a commodity in the larger world is like a siren's call these days.  Can we trust it?  Is it still defined in a way that fits with our sense of what it ought to mean?  Creatively, at the very least, we all deserve the level of stability you can trust with a newborn and take to the bank with no fear the check may bounce. 

(Also the more I thought about the actual collage I couldn't seem to figure out how to make the more I realized that white-space also relates to my creative need for ongoing quality time spent working/playing/experimenting in an assortment of handmade sketchbooks.  Bingo.  This.

below is volume three in a series dedicated to recording various imaginary/dreamtime flowers.  It holds 140# watercolor paper.  Hot press Arches and Fabriano plus soft press Fabriano.   7 x 10 with covers from a library sale book on Central American People.  Needless to say the innards moved straight to collage fodder status ...)

Binding

It often seems as if I didn't really understand what creativity could mean for me at the level of uncensored personal expression until I started making my own sketchbooks.  Having total control over what kind of paper - and in which combination - lured me into seeking greater self-authority of a rendering nature.  I'm happiest when I can give myself time to paint on a daily basis with a strict gag-order on inner gremlins and self-editing systems alike.

Sicklerite

If it's a day when I mainly need the healing power of pigment dispersed through water I can focus on the granular

Roseofultramarine

or the cosmically surreal.

(both these backgrounds will be used for pen and ink 'actualization')

Imaginaryflowerflyleaf

I can articulate imaginary/dream flowers

Imaginaryclashes

and allow them to clash all I like.

~*~*~*~

Handmade Sketchbooks/Private Impenetrable Space With-in

that's my final answer for today.