When I first started making quilts I made them as a departure from the other art I was making. My background was in drawing and printmaking and there were several things that ended my infatuation with those media. The first was accessibility to the kind of space and equipment you need to make prints, especially lithographs, my specialty. The other was the price of framing and shipping large scale works to shows and galleries. I didn't have a wood shop and couldn't make my own frames, so I had to pay to have it done.
The third and probably most compelling reason why I changed media was that it just felt empty. I would make stacks of drawings or prints and, naturally, not all were great, but even the few that were OK really posed a dilemma. I didn't feel like I knew what function these "things" were supposed to serve. I could give some away, maybe sell a few, but that left plenty for me and I only had so many walls. I just didn't feel like they had a purpose beyond their making and that was unsatisfying.
I began making quilts. That might not seem like a natural transition, but I should note that I already had a longstanding interest in sewing and a lot of my drawings explored ideas in terms of grids or sections. I loved gluing bits of other papers on to my drawings, so the leap to making quilts wasn't that momentous. I made one "traditional" quilt mostly to learn the process, but soon after got swept up in learning about dyeing and patterning fabric and my focus was definitely art quilts. And I loved making them. But, after a while that functionality bug reared its ugly head again.
At the time I was passionate about African-American Improvisational Quilts. This was before the Gee's Bend Quilts were discovered. Rather I learned about these amazing quilts through books like Who'd A Thought It by Eli Leon, Signs and Symbols by Maude Wahlman, and a monograph about Anna Williams( the book, Anna Williams: Her Quilts and their Influence is unfortunately out of print). There were a lot of commonalities among these quilts, but one aspect really struck me. The women who made the quilts often made them to give away to strangers. I thought a lot about how I could do that in my own life and with my own quilts, but couldn't quite imagine pulling up to a stranger on the side of the road and handing him/her a quilt that I'd spent months working on. I liked the idea of it and I wished I was the kind of person who could divorce myself from my personal investment and just do the right thing. I realized that part of the problem was the labor intensive nature of the quilts I made. If I could simplify the making, then I probably wouldn't be so attached to the final product. But I didn't know how to do that without also feeling that the final product didn't meet my aesthetic standards.
Anyway, the short version of this(is it already too late for the short version) was that I relegated the issue to somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind and went about my regular life.
Until Jade Sims contacted me. She's a fellow Austinite and crafter and she runs an amazing website called Craft Hope. The focus of her website is to match charities with willing crafters to make much needed items for adults and children.
She asked me to donate a design for a book she was writing also called Craft Hope. Moreover, she requested that my design be geared toward adults as she already had several items for kids. I never really considered designing anything other than a quilt. I still wanted to make a quilt that was simple, but beautiful, and that you could happily give to a stranger. The difference this time was that I'd had a fair amount of design experience and I knew how to simplify my ideas.
I worked with big pieces of fabric, included some hand dyed cotton because that allowed me to put just a bit more of myself in the piece, and assembled a big, lap-sized quilt with an attached strap for portability. My idea was that this could be given to someone who is homeless and it would be easy for them to bundle up and carry.
I limited my palette to make coordinating the fabric easier and chose mostly yellows to make the quilt feel more cheery. I also used flannel as my backing for added warmth.
I didn't quilt or tie the quilt as I used a bonded batting and the edges of the batting are machine stitched to the quilt. Also, I wanted to make this a quick project so that folks wouldn't get caught up, like I used to, in feeling that they'd invested a lot of time in the quilt and were attached to it. If you'd like to tie or quilt your version I think that would be lovely.
Are you interested in making this project? Great. Go to Jade's website, http://crafthope.com, and check out her post about the intended recipients of the quilts and how to get involved.
Yesterday, my youngest daughter asked me if I thought anyone really led an exciting life that impacted others every day. She asked because it seemed to her like most of the lives she's familiar with were pretty steeped in routine and she can't think of anyone who flits from one adventure to the next making a big impact wherever they go. I replied that maybe excitement and meaningfulness is not about the next moment's adventure, but the accumulation of small acts that touch other people. As an example I told her that each meal I make her is not that special on its own, but when she thinks back to all the meals I've made her and the commitment to taking care of her that implies, I hoped she had a sense of how much I love her.
The same is true for these quilts. Each one is wonderful, but maybe not monumental. The collective weight of all the quilts and the generosity of their makers could be miraculous.