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Archive for the ‘Wisdom Gatherers’ Category

scraps as a metaphor…

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2021

piles of scraps sorted by color way

When I first became a quilter in 1999, after 25 years as a weaver, I joked that I chose the former as I discovered I could buy cloth already woven. What I really discovered was how taking a whole cloth and cutting it into pieces and then sewing it back together is really such a great metaphor for life.

A life well lived is chock full of bits, pieces, whole cloth and scraps tied together to create reality. So it only seems fitting as I was tooling along making lots of narrative art, never at a loss for ideas, that I would take a detour! As soon as I began the detour I fretted about losing my place with the muse; as apparently the muse can only be inspired by one direction? Instead I found a month or more of scraps, pieces, diversions, and other distractions.

It all started with a full to overflowing scrap drawer. Now I do not save every scrap, and in fact anything under 3″ I generally discard. But this particular drawer was chock full of leftover bits of batiks, screen-printed, hand-dyed treasure with some commercial cottons, silks, linen, thrown in as well. First I sorted the stacks by color ways and then I set out with some Netflix, to sew strips of scraps. Usually I do this when I am stuck and need to just start something. But I was not stuck, Instead I was motivated by the anti-clutter gene, and this project took me most of three weeks. This is the result.

scrap strips

How will I use these, one asks? Often I have used them as starting points in my work. In the early Defining Moments series I used scrap strips to delineate sections of the story, to represent my predecessors’ Christianity faith or more recently I have used them in the Wisdom Gatherers project pieces. Maybe they will just get rolled up and put into the stash cubbies, sorted by color ways. They will be used, no doubt.

Defining Moments: The Harried Years, Maternal Grandparents, Paternal Grandparents, on exhibit at Visions Art Museum, 2019

I had a LOT of brown scraps, so I grabbed a strip of those and made this 40″ x 40″ quilt for the Welcome Blanket project, which is welcoming migrant women to the US with a handcrafted blanket. They are supposed to be easy to care for and this quilt of all scraps may not be exacty that, but as Mom used to say, it is the thought that counts! So I am about to press that and ship it off; but first I need to write my own migrant tale, of which I have three. I come from a long line of migrants on both sides, and married the son of a migrant. They are us, all of us.

welcome blanket, of scraps

I also finished up this hemp linen bag. I bought the yarn in 2018 at a shop in Cambria while there on a road trip. They had a mesh shopping bag in the store as inspiration and I totally fell for it! I also bought the .pdf of the pattern. Well the pattern and I parted ways early into the project. How hard can this be? I pondered. It was not hard, I just did not work on it continuously, until recently. This knit-by the-seat-of-your-pants project worked plus I finished with just over a yard of leftover yarn!

hand-knit hemp net bag

Also in the past month I got a new hybrid car, for which I have been actually reading the manual and learning to use all the electronic bells and whistles. I am loving it so much, and was extremely overdue to replace my much loved but breaking down 17 year old SUV. I upgraded the wifi so hubs can watch his sports without interference from other networks, reprogrammed the solar communications because of new network, duked it out with the HMO endlessly for a tech error on their website, which continues, and learned first hand that customer service no longer exists ANYWHERE. Nearly everyday I have put out some conflagration or another. It seems people like me can never run out of problems to be solved. Perhaps instead of allocating studio time, I should allocate problem solving time and then make art the rest of the day.

Yet all this distraction is getting me fired up about new work again. Unfortunately there is just so much wrong in the world that I may never run out of inspiration. I just need to stay focused (squirrel), and remember it is my art that keeps me sane. It is not hours spent on hold with customer service or technical support that makes my heart sing.

Quite the contrary.

new work…

Sunday, November 3rd, 2019

timeline Frances, 98

For the past several months I have eluded to new work coming from yours truly. I have now finished the first piece in what I hope will be a long series with a wonderful cast of characters! After telling so many of my own stories, I decided to tell stories of elder women.

When I was in my thirties, I began to really consider my grandmother as my wise elder. I thought a lot about the wisdom of all elder women, and how each one had a story. At that time I considered going to rest homes and speaking to elder women.

Life intervened, marriage, motherhood, worker bee, volunteerism, retirement, art-making. And still the elders called to me. What I had learned since my 30’s was many of the women residing in ‘rest homes’ or assisted living or memory care units or skilled nursing facilities were not lucid. Many of these stories are locked away for good. So I began to look elsewhere for women who might talk to me.

As an elder myself, I chose women 80 plus as my starting point. To date, I have ‘interviewed’ six women, two in their 80’s and four in their 90’s. Many more are on my list. When I hear about an elder woman, usually someone’s mother, I query, is she lucid? Would she talk to me? Recently a friend said of her mother, she won’t talk to me about her life, maybe she will talk to you!

I have had only one refuse. We had quite a lengthy face to face conversation about it. She really does not want her story told, nor her photo displayed. She even asked what would become of the quilt with her face when I am no longer here? Many of her friends and family told her to do it, but she simply is not comfortable with it, and I completely honor that. Ironically she has had a noteworthy life, but we all face decisions in life, some that make us squirrelly. Sometimes facing the fear is just not the right choice for that person in that moment.

I also have been torn about the title for the series. Marion actually told me it would come to me in its own time! At first it was the Women’s Wisdom Project, then it was Aging & Resiliency, the Resiliency Project and Resilience in several other  combinations. It is pretty rare I believe for a woman to live a life; full of aspirations, challenges, successes, defeats etc without developing resilience. Just the fact that many women give birth more than once shows tremendous resilience!

As much as I loved that, I then started noticing that resilient and resiliency are the new buzzwords. Nix that. And then, just as Marion said, the other day, it came to me…The Wisdom Gatherers. Women have been gatherers since the dawn of time. They have gathered food, children, community, resilience, wisdom and so on…

So I present Frances, 98.  

gender pay inequality

Frances was born in the countryside of Cochine County, AZ. Her mother was a pioneer woman and her father a mean man; a jack of all trades. She left home at 16, as valedictorian and moved to California. Shortly after she moved to Kansas City and worked hard to put herself through 3.5 years of nursing school, graduating with honors. She worked as a nurse in the first aid clinic at Marinship during WWII, where she met her husband, who placed wells at the shipyard. He got a slag burn through his leather pants and came to the clinic for treatment. Despite her nursing degree, she made the same as the man picking up trash off the ground. Her husband bought the house where she still lives for $6500 in 1943, and then proposed. They raised their brilliant and successful children there! She went back to college at 50 to earn another degree. Her mother’s best advice was to hold your head up, and look the world in the eye. What matters most to her in life today is to get the toxins out of the creek behind her house; buy stamps to keep the post office in business; being kind to city council officials as one day one might need their help, and for people to talk to each other again instead of texting. She has a mint condition cherry red Jaguar in her garage but no longer drives. She is now 99.

I screen-printed and digitally printed her story to the background. I screen printed her handwritten portions which I used as ‘frames’ for the many photos. All of her photos I took with my cellphone camera when I went to speak with her. She is a vibrant, engaged, elder and a very wise woman!

engagement photo & wedding announcement

Frances, as elder