Sunday, July 05, 2009

Not So Frequently Asked Questions, Part 2

This is continuation of an interview that A. sent me. See Part 1 here with the complete explanation. I'm happy to interview you for your blog if you leave a comment with the request.

Her second question is, "How did you get into quilting, and why do you do it?"

I honestly don't know. I remember being in the craft section at Wal-Mart in what must have been 2001 and seeing a set of clear plastic charm quilt templates on clearance from $15 to $2 or $3. I know that I couldn't ignore a deal that large. I don't remember if I already knew about charm quilts or if I read the package insert there in the store before deciding that they were for me. The combination of using lots of different fabrics, the ability to hand-piece it easily (I didn't have a working sewing machine at that point), and no need for keeping track of a rigid pattern, which allowed for my own geometric creativity was irresistible.

In 1996, I had begun tentatively dipping my toe into the water of believing that I might be capable of being an artist. Before this point, I insisted to anyone who asked that I wasn't. The problem was that one of my brothers was a very naturally talented draw-er, as well as being 8 years older than I was. This was a deadly combination. I have a very vivid memory of painting with watercolors when I was seven or eight. He came up to the table in the kitchen where I was working and demanded to know what my pitiful brush strokes were trying to be. When I told him that it was a log cabin, he said, "That's not a log cabin! I'll show you a log cabin." He took the brush from my hand and painted a gorgeous scene that used perspective and shading to create a very accurate representation of a log cabin with a stream running along beside it. I can see every detail of that painting perfectly in my head.

Now, my brother loves me and he certainly didn't know he was scarring me permanently at the time. He was just being an older brother. It's what they do. I don't resent him in the slightest. Probably, I would not have exploded so forcefully into crafts when I discovered them if I weren't reacting to this early discouragement. But since I was already frustrated with my inability to make my fingers recreat what I saw in my head and I lacked any sort of work ethic, he words gave me the excuse I need to give up and hide behind my own words, "Oh no, I can't draw."

But I was drawn to ceramics my senior year in high school and felt slightly successful and then start working at the local bead store a couple of years later. There I discovered color and had the time and resources to experiment with it. I read some books and magazines about the theory and process of designing jewelry. People loved what I created and I found that working with pliers and string was a totally different experience than trying to draw.

These lessons learned over several years making jewelry transferred easily to small, brightly-colored pieces of cloth. I went on tour and took them with me to keep my hands busy on the bus. Over those 5 months, I made a baby quilt and hand-quilted it. I can't remember how I bound the edges. I do know that my closest friend on that trip was the Costume Head and let me use the company's sewing machine for that part.

Now that I tell that story, I remember that I also made a baby quilt for my favorite teacher in high school my senior year when she had a baby. It was a log cabin style and I have no idea why I thought it was something I could do. Although, again, log cabins don't require exact patterns. Plus, at that point, I was making a lot of jumpers for myself and my first RenFaire costume. Actually, our high school theater director empowered a group of us to feel like successful seamstresses by letting us sew period costumes for our production of The Heiress. I didn't actually participate in that but all my friends did and then they showed me how to follow a pattern and use my machine. Thanks Tricia, Elena and Janstee! For the quilt, I remember sitting in the basement with my machine set up at the ping-pong table, having learned the phrase "stitch in the ditch" and doing my best to execute it correctly. I used soft baby flannel that had the alphabet since she was my English teacher.

So, after the baby quilts, I was ready for big ones and I started my first in 2002 but since I was still hand-piecing, I didn't actually finish it until 2008. I remember trying to impress Jeffrey with my hippie street cred by talking about it in the back seat of a Jeep after white-water rafting the Ocoee River with his sister and her new husband. While on the island, I borrowed one of Jefferey's many machine and worked on a quilt made out of my ex-husband's boxer shorts. I knew that I had to make art out of my grief or it would fester. It is 97% done and I've just started wondering if I should finish it before my wedding to Jacob.

I've only really picked up heavy-duty quilting since I finished the big charm quilt a year ago. I suppose some of the inspiration is the craft blogs that I have begun following. Again, the colors of the fabric appeal to me, as well as the joy of seeing it transformed from a project into a wrinkly, cuddly blanket when I take it out of the dryer for the first time after it is finished. The hand-work is soothing while I watch TV after a long day. And people love them. This is a satisfying life.

1 comment:

Christy said...

This is fun and I'm short on inspiration, so... I think you've got my email address. :)