This morning at 6 a.m., I was awakened by the sounds of screaming. I looked out of the window and saw nothing. Then I noticed what I thought was a white garbage bag lying in the street. But suddenly, the bag moved and I heard the awful, in-pain screaming again. The white garbage bag was a woman lying in a fetal position in the street, not the sidewalk, in the street. Oh God. Her intermittent moans and screams. A woman alone and in distress. Then I heard the man's ugly voice, "Get out!" and remembered, not lying in the street moaning, rather, in my bedroom on the floor. At least I had the privacy of brick and mortar. But it wasn't privacy, it was the luck of the draw. I called 911.
I wrote on my calendar, on the June 21 block, “go back to work today.” I figured, first day of summer, refreshed by the newness of life. In this blog, I have written about artists needing to feed their creative wells because, well, ideas get used up. I was feeling used up and took a long stretch of time off, decided to do some reading. I consulted goodreads. But what does reading have to do with quilting? With layers, texture, background, character, plotting (thinking), color, surface design, interior grace, letting go of ego, letting in of Spirit, and it was so beautiful yesterday. Perfect. Sun. Gentle breeze. A trip to the library and Gwendolyn Brooks’ first and only novel titled Maud Martha. “Copyright, 1953, by Gwendolyn Brooks Blakely. Copyright, 1951 by The Curtis Publishing Company.”
There is a description of Maud Martha added to the inside, glued onto one of the book’s front pages, typed with a manual typewriter:
BROOKS, GWENDOLYN. MAUD MARTHA.
The story of Maud Martha Brown, a colored woman - daughter,
wife, and mother - who lives in Bronzeville, a neighborhood of
Chicago, told with the intimate understanding of a woman who
has made a life-long study of negroes.
The book is so old, and I think, valuable, that it is housed in the third floor restricted section. Someone has to go back there and get it for you. I look at the book’s old fashioned reddish brown hard back cover, the back in the day check out card stuck on the inside pocket documenting that the last time someone checked out Maud Martha was September 13, 1972, when fines were “One cent a day on juvenile cards and two cents a day on adult cards for each book kept overtime.”
In Maud Martha, Gwendolyn Brooks opens with:
“What she liked was candy buttons, and books, and painted music (deep blue, or delicate silver) and the west sky, so altering, viewed from the steps of the back porch; and dandelions.”
In Maud Martha, Gwendolyn Brooks ends with:
"But the sun was shining, and some of the people in the world had been left alive, and it was doubtful whether the ridiculousness of man would ever completely succeed in destroying the world—or, in fact, the basic equanimity of the least and commonest flower: for would its kind not come up again in the spring? Come up, if necessary, among, between, or out of—beastly inconvenient!—the smashed corpses lying in strict composure, in that hush infallible and sincere."
I go into my sewing room, look at the Redwork in Blue quilt hanging lonely on the design wall.
I finger my hand embroidery, remember my numb fingers as I told myself, just 20 minutes more, then you can take a break. I try to remember where the quilt wanted to go and why I had stopped driving it there. “Hmm,” I say aloud to no one. Or maybe I am apologizing…to the quilt for her loneliness, that fact that she is unfinished.
Next, I am reading Blessing the Boats by Lucille Clifton, BOA Editions, Ltd, 2000. In Blessing the Boats, I am reminded of honesty, the integrity and fearlessness needed to create. You just gotta put it out there. Say, “Here, this is what I made.”
From Blessing the Boats:
How painful is insecurity. In not knowing. In our intermittent moans. I pick up my guitar. Her name is Ice and she talked to me, said, “So what you just decided to learn me last year. If you listen, really hear me, I will sing to you and you can mimic me.” And so I became accepting, like a child, and thankful that I stopped listening to insecurity, just in time. Insecurity woulda ran me over again, its booted foot kicking me in my ribs, leaving me on my bedroom floor in a fetal position, muddy footprints all over my soul.
From Blessing the Boats, Gwendolyn Brooks writes in “study the masters,”
So maybe I'm misinformed. Maybe this isn’t a blog about quilting, only.
I decided to listen to the masters, Gwendolyn Brooks and Lucille Clifton. This is a blog about us and our internal Maud Marthas and Aunt Timmies. A blog about how to iron, perk up our own dried edges, how to dream, how to remember and decipher, how to think in multiple languages, how to hope and ritual chant so we can better recognize our hot irons need to strike.
This is how we make things.
See and read information about the completed Redwork in Blue Variation here.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, located in Ohio, invites teaching artists to develop arts activities that connect with the Park Association's interdisciplinary environmental education curriculum. Artists live in a cottage in the forest for 6-8 weeks and besides teaching, have time to work on personal art projects. In 2001, I accepted the invitation and enjoyed the end of summer, fall and the beginning of winter.
The children and I created a narrative, mural quilt depicting Ohio environments from the early 1800’s through present time; we wrote theater pieces that documented Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, and created structures in the forest using only material that had fallen to the forest floor. To see more, click images below.
While I was there, the environment inspired me to create a quilt titled "Cuyahoga Forest Spirit." The surface design was created using a technique I call abstract positioning. It is the same technique used in Bebop in the Small of Her Back.
Other techniques include machine quilting, machine embroidery, beadwork, and stamping. Materials include cotton and synthetic fabrics, found objects, wood, paint, glitter, beads, sequins, and threads.
The stick included at the top of the quilt was waiting for me one morning on the steps when I went outside to drink my coffee. A gift.
Our Name Is Memory is a reissue of my collection of poems (first published in 2013 as Wild Howling Woman). The new and improved second edition is available here.
I decided to use Cuyahoga Forest Spirit as the cover, and with a little manipulation with filters came up with the following image.
Purchase Our Name Is Memory here.
Some years ago, I curated a quilt exhibition inspired by former slave, Sarah Wilson, who though elderly, said, "I Can Still Quilt Without My Glasses." Artist and exhibition designer, Elizabeth Asche Douglas, and I installed the exhibition at the Associated Artist Gallery in Pittsburgh, PA. (2000)
Click the newspaper article and exhibition card below for better viewing.
Because of the marketing surrounding the exhibition, a lady in the nearby town of New Alexandria, PA, contacted me wondering if I would like to have a box of quilt squares she inherited from her mother-in-law, Mrs. Hargnett, who’d just passed away. Of course, I said yes, and in a few days a box arrived filled to the brim with Mrs. Hargnett's work!
This post describes Mrs. Hargnett's Nine Patch Blocks. Click the two images below for better viewing. You will see that a nine patch is 3 small squares at the top of the block, 3 in the middle, and 3 at the bottom. The combination of 3x3x3 and alternating color, makes the Nine Patch Block. See Redwork in Black to see another version of the Nine Patch.
During As We Mend, I shared Mrs. Hargnett's quilt blocks with my students. Of course, I was inspired to finally do something with them, but at the same time, remembered a quilt I created sometime after 2000 and before 2008. I forgot to sew a label on the back of the quilt, which is very important. We quilters have learned that we must document our work for future generations.
The quilt I will share with you now combines Mrs. Hargnett's antique quilt blocks with contemporary fabric, technique and surface design.
While I'm writing this I have decided to name the quilt, "Nine Patch in a Nine Patch in a Four Patch." I'll go back and make a label to attach to the back of the quilt later.
Let's start with my reinterpretation of one of Mrs. Hargnett's Nine Patch Blocks (above). The quilting is done with stippling, the overall, rambling, sort of doodling you see throughout. Then I added hand embroidery with pearl cotton threads and glass beads. That's the Nine Patch portion of the quilt title.
Using Mrs. Hargnett's Nine Patch Blocks as alternating color, I created the second part of the quilt title. In the image below, you can see three different blocks at the top, 3 in the middle, and 3 at the bottom which give us the Nine Patch in a Nine Patch.
Below is the final design.
So now, if you look at each section (orange, yellow, green and black) you will see four sections of Nine Patch in a Nine Patch as described above. Here we have our final quilt title explanation -- Nine Patch in a Nine Patch in a Four Patch.
The following images show more detail of quilt blocks. Each using a combination of old and new quilt blocks, acrylic paint, hand and machine quilting and embroidery and beadwork.
Well, that's it for now. Happy Quilting! or whatever creative endeavor you are doing or thinking about doing.
The train will not find you. You must find the train, its pulse, its way of being beyond obvious rock and sway. The train’s pulse is deeper than movement.
If you listen, you will hear the song of the train, and when you find the song, you will find the engine, the heart, the blood, the pulse.
You ride the train. It is the Iron Horse Without A Saddle: silent, strident, gentle, strong. Everyone must stop for the Iron Horse. The Iron Horse owns right of way.
CALIFORNIA: San Diego, Los Angeles, Fullerton, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, Barstow, Needles; ARIZONA: Kingman, Williams Junction, Flagstaff, Winslow; NEW MEXICO: Albuquerque, Lamy, Las Vegas, Raton; COLORADO: Trinidad, La Junta, Lamar; KANSAS: Garden City, Dodge City, Hutchison, Newton, Topeka, Lawrence; MISSOURI: Kansas City, La Plata; IOWA: Fort Madison; ILLINOIS: Galesburg, Princeton, Mendota, Naperville, Chicago; INDIANA: South Bend, Elkhart, Waterloo; OHIO: Sandusky, Elyria, Cleveland, Alliance; PENNSYLVANIA: Pittsburgh.
From San Diego, California to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Three trains, two and one half days, three nights, me at a window seat, marveling.
The southwest is shades of dark to light and everything in between of brown, green, black, pink with very little white. The white is ancillary and too obvious, out of place, except for snow covering mountains in the distance.
I thought of my camera in my bag, yet found myself relaxed beyond need, perfectly peaceful and serene that the camera became an afterthought.
If creative people are not careful, they will find themselves bereft of ideas and unable to create with highest authority. This is called being all used up. This is the time when artists must fill the creative well. Three nights on a train became another filling the well opportunity for me and I am grateful.
Three nights on a train is not luxurious. Shame on you Amtrak, the train needs a thorough steam cleaning front to back, top to bottom. The bathrooms are wiped down but never really cleaned, obvious muck. But I’m a camper and allowed myself to think of the train as a moving campsite. I listened to that small voice prior to my departure date and brought along Clorox wipes, also body wipes, snacks, water, pillow and other comforts and decided to enjoy the experience. I’m glad I did.
I still have a romantic notion about trains. The clean train I’m looking for is out there somewhere. I’ll find it. Nature is already there, waiting for me.
Well, that’s it for now. God has refilled me, can’t wait to get back to work quilting, writing, painting and whatever is next. Happy Quilting! or whatever creative project you are dreaming of and working on.
Each time I introduce myself to a new art form, the process of discovery, in that art form, mirrors what I need to discover intellectually, emotionally and spiritually in my own life.
As We Mend became a 10-session quilting workshop for beginning quilters after Bonnie Laing and Renae Green asked if I’d be interested in teaching.
As We Mend led all of us on a journey of discovery. Fabric, threads, poetry and color became signposts and conductors so that "Can I?" remained on our lips, as well, the sure answer, "Yes.”
Our affirmations, declarations, insights and discoveries transitioned into poems, prose and journal entries.
Summer 2016 students and their work.
Renae Maree Green, 2001
Roy G. Biv
Bonnie Young Laing
That's it for now. Thanks for stopping by and Happy Quilting!
There is an artistic reference library inside our brains. For me, the library needs constant upgrading with fresh ideas so that when I purchase or paint fabric for quilts or choose beads for beadwork and other projects, I am reminded of Nature's color palate, Her textures, and of the freedom it takes to create with integrity.
When I began teaching myself to quilt, HGTV presented several craft, sewing and quilting shows. I noticed right away that there were many rules about color. For example never use colors next to each other on the color wheel; that yellow overpowers, and stay away from too much red.
Most of the rules restricted ideas and rendered me incapable of transferring what was in my mind onto fabric and other media.
One night I had a dream about something, and my great grandmother, Margaret, marched through the dream and said to me, "Throw all the colors together. They go. Don't they?"
Great grandmother Margaret freed me. I have never looked back.
The following images are from San Diego, new installments for my creative reference library.
green on blue, yellow, brown, white, silver highlights, heaven, sky, smooth, hot
Looks like food
green, red, yellow, pink, brown
movement, magic, red, pink, yellow, green, silver, brown, gaiety, white, black
bluish green, shimmer, white, brown, pink (feet), black, iridescence (for me, glitter), smooth, not smooth
A sculpture in a desert park.
re-purposing, patina, greens (how many shades of green are there, anyway?), yellow, red, brown, spikey, soft, hard, smooth, gritty
Love and independence
mommie duck and babies. watch the last little baby. independent thinking at its best.
Well, that's it for now. Thank you for stopping by and Happy Quilting! or whatever creative project you are doing or thinking about.
I love this quilt because it taught me several new techniques, and it taught me how to be an artist and business woman.
The first technique the quilt taught me is something I call abstract positioning.
I used green thread because green seemed to play nice with all of the other colors in the quilt.
When you complete a quilt top, I find the best thing to do before adding batting and the back of the quilt, is to hang the quilt top on your design wall and let it sit there. Each day and throughout the day, take a look at it and see what it's saying.
In this case, I saw the outline of a woman's body, a woman's dancing body.
Consider the above detail without the beads and without the raised effect. Think of it as flat and congruent with the rest of the quilt.
One day, as I passed, I saw the curved body of a woman from the back, and she was wearing skimpy bottoms like dancers sometimes wear. The next thought was to push the form out and away from the rest of the quilt so that she would stand out. That meant it was time to make decisions about the quilt back, batting and what to use to stuff the form.
The quilt is machine quilted (stippled); the first green border is pleated, there's hand embroidery and beadwork.
This was a commissioned piece. I contacted the buyer when I completed work on the quilt. The buyer never returned my calls. Bebop taught me to always require a substantial down payment before beginning work.
I published my first collection of poetry, Split Rock / Cracked Cave, in 2013. I think I'm a much better, more confident writer today than I was then. As an independent writer and publisher, you have full ownership and can revise as you will. So I made the decision to refresh some of the poems, make them better and repackage the collection as Bebop in the Small of Her Back, available here.
Read more here
Well, that's it for now. Thanks for stopping by and Happy Quilting!
The Black & White Quilt features several techniques.
The first technique is the traditional nine patch pieced block. Three squares at the top, three squares in the middle and three squares on the bottom. These nine pieced and combined squares make up the nine patch block.
I think it's important to use various textures and values to bring interest to the quilt. But on the other hand, it is equally lovely to use fabric in the same value and texture family. For example, Redwork in white, where the quilt is using only one color fabric and threads. It all depends on what the quilt wants. Here is where we learn how to listen to the needs of the quilt.
The second technique is hand embroidery using simple patterns immediately recognized as patterns for Redwork. In this case, Redwork in black or Redwork using black embroidery threads on white fabric.
The third technique is hand painted fabric, used in this quilt as sashing strips. I painted white cotton fabric in various shades of black, cut the fabric in strips and connected the strips to the pieced blocks. I like using sashing strips because the strips break up the quilt and allow the eye to focus on the entire quilt and individual blocks at the same time.
Well, that's it for now. Hope you enjoyed viewing The Black & White Quilt. Stop back often and Happy Quilting!
In quilting, traditional Redwork is the art of patterning using only red and white fabric. The red fabric is solid red and/or various shades of red within fabrics. The solid white fabric is used to hold hand embroidery sewn with dark red threads, including embroidery floss and pearl cotton.
I was drawn to Redwork because of the beauty in its simplicity. Many Redwork embroidery patterns can be found in books and freely downloaded from the internet. The patterns are usually, children, faces, flowers, birds, animals and fruit. One drawback is that all of the faces reflect one culture. To solve this problem, you can make your own pattern. Make a copy of a photograph and using a lightbox, tape the copy onto the lightbox (to secure it), tape your white fabric over the copy, and then trace using a pencil. If you do not have a lightbox, you can tape everything to a window and use the outside light to trace. You can use a simple stem stitch and add others, such as chain and feather, as the need arises.
The Redwork pillow shown above left is my first Redwork project. Another technique I like is called Stumpwork; it is raised embroidery with threads and wire. I used Stumpwork on the pillow and on The Quilt With Many Names.
The image on the pillow is my great grandmother, Margaret Maynard (1854-1942). Margaret was born a slave in Fitzgerald, Georgia. She told four things of slavery: 1. she had her own drinking cup; 2. she was sitting on a fence when soldiers marched through the plantation where she lived; 3. the soldiers said to her, "You're free, honey;" and 4. she refused to tell other stories, only that whatever bad thing you can imagine happened during that time.
After the Redwork pillow, I wanted to tackle a full sized quilt and next came The Quilt With Many Names because at different times in this quilt's life, it has been called Bitches Brew, Nine Wild Women, Witches Brew, Wise Women Brewing, and Nine Wise Witches.
The Quilt With Many Names began as a scrap quilt, meaning no new fabric, only fabric I had in my stash. But as the quilt progressed, and I saw how big it wanted to become, its size surpassed the amount of red and white fabric in my stash. So, the quilt morphed into what I call a Redwork Variation, meaning that most of the fabric is strictly red and white, but some of the fabrics have other colors. You will see hints of green, yellow and blue. The middle block is traditional Redwork. Its themes are apparent and set the mood for the rest of the quilt.
Then the quilt began to grow around the middle block in a technique called “on point,” where blocks are set on the point of the block instead of its vertical or horizontal side. The wise/witch dolls came next, then the bubbling cauldron and then the Redwork embroidery of the young woman situated next to the magic sticks stirring the cauldron mixture. The young woman is depending on the wisdom of the wise woman to show her, her steady path.
The nine wise/witch dolls represent flora, mother, chef, prosperity, wisdom, mender, divination, artisan and healer. The dolls are made from wooden rods covered with batting and dressed in their particular clothes and tools. Each doll’s face is covered by an antique iron key. My mother, Christine Shefton Richardson (1912-1992), canned vegetables, made pickles, piccalilli and applesauce. She also put white string through red peppers to hang them in her kitchen to dry. The chef doll is holding one of my mother's dried peppers that I rescued after her death.
The Quilt With Many Names was first called Bitches Brew, and I created an artist book to document the process. The Bitches Brew Pensive includes water colors, a miniature quilted nine patch block, calligraphy, machine quilted pages, acrylic paints, threads, buttons, sequins, clay, wood, antique keys and lace. It’s dated 10/18/05. Reading this Pensive again is reminding me of the journey the quilt and I took. I think I might make other artist books to document the journeys of quilts I will make in the future. One humorous thing about the Bitches Brew Pensive is that I used American flag fabric on the back. Not sure what I was thinking about, or perhaps I was just focused on using red fabric from my stash.
Lastly, the quilt takes the shape of a curtained window. Like looking into the next life, the new life, the steady life beyond, our destiny.
Final words about Redwork. You can also do Blackwork, Greenwork or Bluework. Same rules apply. For example, in Blackwork, use black and white fabric and black embroidery floss on the white fabric.
The word Redwork has become a utility word, like pampers means disposable diapers and not necessarily the trademark product, Pampers. In these instances of Black, Green or Blue, you simply say Redwork in Black, etc.
I will share Redwork in Black, Green and Blue (in progress) in later posts. I’m also thinking about Goldwork and Purplework. Who knows? The possibilities are endless.
Whitework, on the other hand, is different. There are no variations, only white on white in white. The quilt on my bed is Whitework. Below is a sneak peek at Redwork in Green in the form of a quilted artist book.
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Well, that's it for this post.
Thanks for stopping by and Happy Quilting in the Key of C!
These are me, with no particular emphasis on any one: music, writing, quilting. The activity of each shares equal importance. They are the things that get me out of bed in the morning, with purpose. They are my good work, connected by environment, words, narrative and beauty. I began quilting in the early 1990’s after visiting the home of artist and writer, Sandra Gould Ford, where for the first time I experienced an artist-made quilt. It was hanging on the wall and I said to Sandra, “What is that?”
Imagine a gut punch, but of happiness. That was my experience with Sandra’s quilt. The need to research quilting, and learn how to do it was immediate. My older sisters were tailors, and they taught me how to sew when I was little, so I had that background, was familiar with fabric and how to handle it. So I jumped right in to this new connection with fabric. It was joyous. I was fearless and made many quilts. My big brother, Sonny, is buried with the quilt I made for him, a spring time fabric Sunshine and Shadow design.
But then, somehow I lost my way, veered away from creating pretty bed quilts and couch cozies to creating political and historical narrative quilts. I didn’t enjoy the process and stopped quilting altogether, for about 10 years.
During the summer of 2016, two women approached me about teaching them how to quilt. I balked at first, remembering my last emotional response to the act of quilting and declined. But then that small voice said, “Why not?” What happened during As We Mend was that those two women reminded me of why I wanted to quilt in the first place and I realized I had somehow placed quilting—the gift given me to play with fabric, shape and color—in the space reserved for writing.
During that class, I was reminded that quilting gives gifts, for example: the love and need to hear crunchy sounds of scissors cutting through fabric; going against or simply throwing away the color wheel to let confidence show up and show out; and that
listening to color in the fabric store, in nature, and in dreams makes me know stuff about subtlety, nuance, aggression (yellow), jealousy (red) and performance.
This is quilting’s foundation—the rendering of whole cloth into pieces and then re-imagining the pieces into whole again. It is the act of tearing down and building up again with pizzazz!
A long time ago, I sang alto and soprano in a clear, soft voice. High “C” didn’t bother me; neither did the “A” below middle “C.” I had a nice, comfortable range. But the voice box is a muscle and if not used, becomes flabby and lazy. Some of my poetry and fiction these days requires music. I’m finding that life, (the way I’d lived it, with alcohol, other drugs and an unused and misused singing voice) is responsible for my flabby and lazy voice box. I have to exercise it, rest it, soothe it, teach it to stretch again and to love the high “C” again as much as the low “A.”
This blog, Quilting in the Key of C, is me learning how to stretch, render whole cloths into many pieces so that I can re-imagine the many into whole again. I am searching for, and find again and again with each new quilt, the pleasant feeling I first felt looking at Sandra’s quilt. I want to re-learn how to easily reach my quilting high “C” voice.
Quilts in this blog may be titled Series One (Quilts made from 1995 – 2006) or Series Two (Quilts made beginning 2016 - ) so that I can differentiate my high “C” quilts from the others I made prior to 2016. You can see some of my first quilts in the Quilt Gallery.
Some quilts in Series Two may fit into other categories. I think. We’ll see. Not sure just yet how everything will work.
The above quilt is from Series One. This quilt is called by many names:
Nine Wild Women
Witches Brew, and
Nine Wise Witches.
I can’t decide on a title, I suppose, because they all work. It is a Redwork Variation, meaning that I used fabric that does not follow strict Redwork directions. It is an entire scrap quilt and some of the red and white fabric had other colors in them. I will write more about this quilt and the technique of Redwork in another post.
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Thanks for reading. Hope you’ll come back often.
Happy Quilting in the Key of "C"!
So, quilting small led me to artist books, also known as, artist made books. I was thinking of ways to apply quilting techniques without the long, drawn out, heavy lifting (though fun!) procedure that is quilting large quilts. Artist made books can be created using any number of materials. Naturally I applied fabric, batting, threads and quilting.
This first book I want to share is Passages, inspired by my love of dolls, doll making, and quilting. Materials and techniques include cotton and synthetic fabric, woven fabric, trim, threads, decoupage, quilting, poetry, embroidery, altered bendi doll, sequins and beads.
The next quilted book I'd like to share is called Oba's Book. Oba is an Orisa in the Yoruba/Lukumi spiritual tradition. She is charged with writing in her book, the names of the dead. Materials and techniques include hand painted cloth, beadwork, machine quilting and lettering, stippling and the use of found objects such as feather (quill) and key.
The next book I'll share is called Signatures of Gods and Men. Materials and techniques include calligraphy, Hatian veve, ankindra, West African woven cloth, Bogolanfini (mudcloth), ribbon, inks, cowrie shells, threads, watercolor and machine quilting.
The last book I want to share is The Green Sampler. Years ago, women created what was called "Samplers," which included samples or lines of hand embroidery. Samplers were a way to show off skill in embroidery.
The Sampler on the left was created by Jane Bennett in 1832. The Sampler is being sold today for $1779.
The Green Sampler is my nod to the past, while giving the Sampler an updated look. The Green Sampler is also a nod to traditional redwork. Created in the accordion book format, The Green Sampler celebrates hand embroidery stitches such as
Well, that's it for artist made books, for now. For inquires and further information use the contact form.
Thanks for reading and Happy Quilting!
This is a blog about how we make things.