Wednesday, October 14, 2009

An Opportunity

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.

26 comments:

Buzz's Food Lady said...

What a wonderful post.
-Rossie

Alissa said...

This is wonderful! I'm just getting started with a new modern quilt guild her in LA and we were talking about charity quilting. This is great and I'd definitely bring it up at our next meeting! P.S. fabric dying came up at our first meeting too - if you're ever in LA would you be interested in speaking to the guild?

Lori said...

I already signed up for this challenge at Craft Hope but i'm so excited to read the background of this design!! Thank you for providing the info.

beth said...

that was a good read! thank you!

Victoria said...

What a beautiful post.
I also grapple with finding ways to give, balanced with the time, cost, and effort, (and feel guilty for even letting those become obstacles, but in truth they sometimes do.) Your solution was wonderful.

I love your daughter's insightful question and your thoughtful answer and I also relate to the switching from one form of art to the other. (By the time I graduated art school I had become so disillusioned with my artwork as I too could see no real "purpose" for it, and felt very removed from the art once it was framed and behind glass.) Thanks for the link to Craft Hope, I will be sure to check it out.

Care said...

ha! i've been lurking on your blog for a while, and i've participated in the last two craft hope projects. what a small bloggyblog world!

i am super excited about their new project, and about your pattern! thanks!!

Hermione J. Schwartz said...

Wow. That whole post was wonderful. Thank you for sharing it. =]

Jessica said...

"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."

Beautifully said. And a beautiful project too--such care and meaning. That's what I love about handmade things--they serve a function, but also have purpose behind them.

Andi said...

Wonderful post and so inspirational
Andi :-)
PS I love that your example for your daughter was about the meals you make for her. You are SUCH a Jewish mother!!!

jenn said...

Yes, you are right sometimes the sum of all things little may be considered great! I believe so anyway!!
This is a lovely post.

two hippos said...

The strap is a great idea, and I back quilts with flannel often. I'll definitely be participating in this Craft Hope project.

Kristin L said...

This is such a wonderful essay on mindfulness. Craft Hope sounds wonderful too.

Margarita said...

a beautiful post.

Cheryl Arkison said...

Malka, I needed this. Thank-you. You may wonder about giving of an object or activity to someone. But you also give us this - inspiration and insight. You've helped give me perspective on the daily challenges of motherhood. And you've reminded me of the joys of giving away. I have a quilt to gift right away (actually, my quilt festival contribution). But it's been a while since I did a charity project (since Katrina). Thanks for the nudge.

Ashley Ann said...

Thank you for donating the pattern. I am excited to participate in the Craft Hope project, but have never actually made a quilt. Your pattern seems simple enough for a first timer as myself...so thank you for helping me step out and try quilting!

heatherknits said...

I really enjoyed reading about your process - you can't make these things short. But what a great outcome, a beautiful functional piece that you put time into designing to make it accessible too.

As well, I think your daughter's question is insightful. As I think about it, I also wonder, can someone's life be both exciting and have a daily impact (positively) on others? I tend to think about excitement and adventure as a somewhat selfish endeavor, but I think there are some ways to meld the two.

Jennifer said...

great post.

Katie said...

A wonderful post! I hope I can instill the same "adventuresome" value in my son ... Checking out the endeavor over at Craft Hope!

jennifer said...

what a beautiful post, malka. i especially love the note about the "accumulation" of little acts. xoxo

house on hill road said...

this is a touching post, malka. thank you.

Emily Smith Pearce said...

So interesting. Thanks for sharing. I've come to sewing (after printing and painting) for similar reasons. I also love your thoughts about sharing/ giving away and how to make that easier. I do love to make useful beautiful things.

ChickieChirps said...

That was a really interesting post! Thanks.
I think often people who dont quilt do not realise how much time and effort and money can go into making a quilt. I think your design for Craft Hope is simple, but beautiful and practical. Exactly what people need.
I also think your response to your daughter's question was fantastic and exactly right, and also something that we often forget about Mums and Dads.

Arabella

Pat said...

Love your comments. I stopped working with pen and paper for the same reasons. I like the utility of creating in fabric. It just feels right to me and you are the first person who has expressed it just the way I feel.

Tanya said...

What a well put post. I, too, have stopped making quilts and other things for people b/c I feel they either don't appreciate all the effort that goes into it or I just don't have time -- and yes I feel guilty for feeling like this! Heck, I don't even take the time to quilt for myself.
However, I think I would like to try your pattern and give it to a much deserving, but unsuspecting individual.

Thank you for your honesty and being motivated to do something that is so practical.

dana said...

Hello there!
I've been following your blog for a while but have never left a comment until now when I saw your quilt posted here. I immediately recognized it from Craft Hope. It's gorgeous. Such a great design! I was impressed from the moment I saw it on Jade's site. And I wondered who had created it. Now I know!
AND for another little connection...
I have a project design in the Craft Hope book too! What a wonderful book it will be. I'm humbled to be amongst such amazing designers.
We just moved from Los Angeles to Austin 2 months ago and so far we're loving it. It was good to move here after the summer right? Come next May we'll be wondering what we really got ourselves into!

Anyway, just wanted to say hello. Beautiful site and (always) beautiful creations you have.
- dana
www.dana-made-it.com
danawillard@gmail.com

Rene' said...

What a beautiful post. I especially love everything you said in the last paragraph. So true and profound. I hope you don't mind if I copy and save that for inspiration. I just made a quilt for Margaret's Hope Chest that is teaming up with Craft Hope, I believe. I like your pattern with the carrying strap and the flannel backing. I will definitely keep that in mind for my next donated quilt.