Sunday, January 8, 2017

Youth is Wasted on Young

Youth is wasted on the young was a saying that made absolutely no sense to me when I was young. Now I find myself saying if I had known that when I was young... I would have done so and so. I also say, "when I was young I had enough energy to do that but didn't know I needed to do it." The sayings go on and on now. Some of my older people knew that I was wasting my youth, so they decided to teach me things that would come in handy later. Thank God for that.

This morning I am remembering how many things my aunt patiently taught me when I didn't want to learn. Ms. Marie Carmichael Ponder was an awesome seamstress and I wanted to be like her. She saw something in me that I didn't know was there. I was that fidgety little girl torn between wanting to learn and wanting to go outside to play. I have vivid memories of her teaching me to embroider roses on some fabric. She would add those dainty little roses onto little girls dresses that she made. I thought it was such a waste of my time because I will never do this again. Silly me.

Aunt Marie's patience taught me patience in an unseen way. I was absorbing her way of being just by watching. So when I was making the latest President Obama quilt, her techniques came back to me. Those little french knots that I thought I would never ever ever use again came to mind. They were just the perfect thing to make the textured hair that I needed. 
Another thing she taught me was smocking. She would often put smocking on the bodice of the little dresses she made for us. It was not necessarily my favorite look but she was exceptionally proud of it. So when she decided to teach me smocking I was not happy. I couldn't tell her how I really felt about smocking.  I thought to myself how old fashioned it was. I quietly listened and then tried my hand at it. The level of patience involved in making that happen was way too much for me as a young person, but somehow I managed and even excelled. I chalked it up as another thing I HAD to learn but would never ever ever use. Although, I have gladly used many of the techniques she showed me in my quilting career, smocking was not going to be one of them. As the long story becomes short, I found myself needing some smocking.

My first modern thought was that I could just go to the internet and buy something with smocking on it, cut it away and use it. Oh well. The smocking on a little girls dresses ranged from $69 to $129 and was definitely not the color I needed. That idea quickly went out the window. So as I work on the smocking for an old fashioned dress on a quilt, I think of Aunt Marie. She was right. I would need that information one day. If I had known that I would have paid better attention when I was young. That saying goes with a lot of things I can say as I look back at my youthfulness.
I don't know yet if this is really going to work on that quilt but we shall all see soon.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Kansas Here I Come

I want to tell you about the first ever National African American Quilt Convention. It will be a history making event. I will tell my grandchildren that I was at the first, the first. I won't go into the why and wherefores of having one for African Americans or why that is important to me or my grandchildren. So many exciting things are planned that I don't know where to start telling you about it. Let me start with my quilt exhibit called "The Women Who Fly" at the Lawrence Public Library.

The Lawrence Public Library is one of the seven most beautiful new libraries in the world according to
I am so honored and blessed to be there.

This exhibit is designed to showcase twenty quilts of women in many different walks of life. Several of the quilts are dancers but also women doing the many things we do to make the world go around. It is a testimony to the fact that we have to fly about the pain and strife in our lives while keeping it moving. (As the commercial says, Moms don't take sick days). We, as women, often do what we do with insurmountable strength as if we have invisible wings. This exhibit will allow you to take a glimpse of those wings.

Make no mistake- several exhibits are planned and even more are being planned as we speak. This convention will be like getting a quilting-education in four days equal to learning that could take you years.

The National African American Quilt Convention is happening in Lawrence, Kansas from July 12th until July 15th, 2017. The website is   Everyone is invited. People are already signing up. One hotel is already fully booked. You don't have to be a quilter to come to this convention. Art lovers will love the great art on display. Lots and lots of exhibits are planned. Plus super awesome lectures are also happening. Have you seen Faith Ringgold before? If you have then you know what you have to look forward to, but if you haven't prepare to be delighted. Her lecture "More Than 60 Years" will be so informative and fabulous.

The line up for classes is fantastic. I am truly blessed again to be teaching a Scrap Quilt class on Thursday July 13, 2017 from 9am to 3pm. I can't wait to teach you how to make the quilt that is featured in my book "Scrap Easy". I was surfing the net one day for ideas of basketball players. As I rolled the cursor down the page an image of a lady in a flowing dress made of scraps popped into my head. To this day I have no idea how I got that out of pictures of basketball players. When I showed the first quilt, a lady bought it on the spot.  I am still amazed at the popularity of this design.

The great thing for me is being in the company of all the other great teachers. Lola Jenkins is doing a Portrait class. She is one of the great portrait quilters on the planet. She is a master of shadows. Check out her work and you will be pleasantly surprised. Sandra Johnson is teaching several fabric dyeing classes. She has great new innovative techniques especially what she does to jeans. Lori Triplett is teaching Indigo Resist Dyeing. She is a renowned author. Sherry Whetstone is teaching Victorian Crazy Quilting an Tea. Staying true to the vintage style of the 1800’s, students will embellish beautiful velvet, brocades, satin and fancy cottons with embroidery stitches, beads, trinkets and anything else that catches the eye. Bisa Butler is teaching Portrait Collage. She is the best at making a face from various beautiful fabrics. She can show you how to make magic with simple fabric patterns. Rachel Clark is showing you how to Make A Statement. She makes the loveliest wearable art. Renee Fleuranges-Valdes is teaching Mask Time! You can learn to make a mask that you can use to decorate in your home. Jan Hollis is doing Mosaic Fiber Art. I have been so influenced and inspired by her art. She has a wonderful eye for putting it all together. Go ahead and sign up for the convention and these classes today. Go ahead - pick one!

I have to give kudos to Marla Jackson for pulling these great group of artists together to teach us new and innovative techniques. Marla read my mind and did the da** thing. Yay!!!!

We are living in a wonderful time. Our grandmothers quilted in their own homes and communities and never met all the quilters of the world. We have the opportunity to get together first on social media and secondly, now at the great National African American Quilt Convention.

Save your money, so you can join the fun.  See you there!!!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Favorite Day

I know I have skipped a few weeks here and there. Please forgive me. Let's face it, my life is just not that exciting. So some weeks I can't think of a think to say.

Do you have a favorite day of the week? I do and it is Saturday!  I bet if I take a poll Friday will probably be everyone else's favorite.  I could sleep late but I don't. I can't wait to get up and get to my sewing project. I know that I will have a day of solitude when I can work as long as I want. I put Young Blood on the radio and then sing and dance to my heart's content.

When I was young Saturday was the day that my sister and I would hang out with Patricia all day. One Saturday we schemed to steal Ms. Henrietta's snuff. We had no idea what the snuff did or why Ms. Henrietta sent us to the store to get some all the time. We did know that she seemed to enjoy it so we decided that we would try it.

We swiped the can and went around the back of the house. We stuffed it in our bottom lip and swallowed. Then we went back to the side of the house where we would bounce a ball onto the house. Shortly after wards, the house started to spin. Everything was spinning. Served us right. We were drunk from the snuff. Who knew? I never ever wanted snuff again.

Patricia also had a wonderful blue bicycle in her house. I asked about it all the time. Finally she taught me to ride. Patricia was older than me so when her interest went elsewhere, she let me take the bike out on Saturday all by myself. I would ride off to Valencia's house and join her in a ride to town.

Valencia and I would park our bikes in front of the 5 and Dime. We would go in and separate. The lady would try to follow us around the store. She treated us as if we were there to steal. We touched everything and ran her all around the store and then we would leave. We didn't want anything but we got a kick out of baiting her racism.

I think Saturday meant freedom from routine very early in my life. Now it means a day to get totally lost in my sewing exploits. The hours just fly by. Sometimes I forget to eat until late in the day. And to top it all off, I was born on Saturday.

Do you have favorite day of the week and why?

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Old Fashion

Facebook just reminded me that I posted these little girls on my page about six years ago. This is one of my favorite quilts and it was more than 40 years ago when my sister and I ran after butterflies in some similar dresses.

That is just a good a place as any to began reminiscing about the good old days. I was telling a friend how we buy the concentrated liquid of starch, mix it with water and put it in a spray bottle. She said, "oh you do it the old fashioned way."

People are saying that to me more and more these days. My children are constantly telling me that I should watch TV in HD (High Definition). I ask why. They say because it looks better plus you are paying for it and you have a Hi Def TV. I realized that I watch TV like it is a radio with a picture. I mostly listen because I am doing something else while it is on and every now and then I look up to see what is happening. So at this point HD doesn't matter at all to me. I tell them that I can see the future of TV. It is going to be like a hologram where the people in the show you are watching step off the screen and you have the option to interact in the story. My daughter's eyes lit up with delight at the thought.

I first noticed that I was sinking into the world of "Old Fashion" when one of my daughters informed me that an ink pen is now just called a pen. Really? How do you differentiate between an ink pen and a sticking pin? She says you just have to know. So I started calling them pens. Who cares which one? You only know the difference in writing or when someone sticks you with it.

My fate as an old fashioned lady was sealed when I was asked, "how do you store your quilts?" I answered quickly without thinking, in a chifforoll (really a chifferobe). One lady said, "oh Aisha, I haven't heard that word in a long time." Yes I know they are called Armoires now.

My latest reality check is the ability to talk to the whole world on social media in the matter of minutes. Who knew? Everywhere I go my work and my pictures proceed me. I have friends that I have yet to meet and I think that is an awesome thing.

It's a lot of little things that add up to show you that life and the world around you is changing. So for the rest of my old fashioned day, I am going to retire to my studio, listen to some down home blues and make old fashioned quilts. I like that old fashioned slow moving retreat that heals my soul.

Sunday, November 6, 2016


Have you ever been lost inside a task? Have you been lost inside a good book, lost inside your latest painting project or lost while writing? I don't know why we say "lost" because I don't feel lost when I drift away in a project. I know exactly where I am but maybe it is because we are lost to the world.

I often slip away into an art project. Ms. K told me that her mother said everybody should have a hobby as her mother taught her to quilt. Her mother also said, "your husband needs to get his own hobby as well." I think she knew something about having something in your life that lets you drift away to that place that we call "Lost".

When I am lost in my work, it feels like being cuddled in my mother's arms. It is like sitting by a rippling creek listening to the birds sing. I have tuned out the physical world, even the white noise. It all fades away and even the work becomes part of the experience. I have heard absent from the body is present with the Lord. Can I say when I slip into this peaceful place that I have left my body for some divine experience?

I know some artists who have stayed in that grove way too long. Some artist tell me that when they get in that zone, they don't want to come out. They skip meals, don't sleep for days and work until they just have to stop. I have waited too long to eat a few times but never went too long without eating and I can't imagine not sleeping but I do know what it is like to be there and not want to come out until the book ends or the art is finished or the work is done or until all the numbers add up.

I started out putting a few sequins on the R.E.S.P.E.C.T. quilt. Eight months later the hat was covered with sequins and it was exhilarating.

I started by making French knots one at a time until I covered President Obama's head. I don't remember how long it took but I do remember sticking my fingers with the needle a lot.

People have told me that it looks like crazy to them. Who does that? Who spends untold hours making something? Those people just don't know the secret of slipping away into the clouds, doing that repetitive thing that puts your body functions on automatic and lets your mind soar. I guess that is why so many artists say that what they do is therapeutic. Like the time that I spent stitching up and down about a million times to create the wings on "Only Women Have Wings". 
And Now This!!!!
I can say for sure that when I am in that space and it is clicking, some awesome stuff comes out of it. I have spent months working on that one little part of a quilt, only to have that be the sole factor that makes the quilt outstanding. I love it when I can go to that place and make MAGIC!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Whole Cloth

Whole cloth quilts are made from one piece as opposed to quilts pieced together with many colored pieces. The beauty of the whole cloth quilt is usually the intricate quilting stitches that make up for lack of piecing design.

I had the pleasure of helping the talented quilting artist and teacher Marquetta Johnson with a class for teenage art students. We all worked on a whole cloth that started out as a blank canvas. The students were so creative. They drew fantastic art onto the cloth with fabric markers by Crayola Crayons. I didn't have time to work on mine during the class because it was an example piece. I taught the young adults how to quilt by hand on the cloth. I started mine by showing them a little design of stitches.

I brought my cloth home and did not have the heart to throw it away. It got added to the pile of "I'll get back to someday." One day it called out to me. I haven't figured out why but I picked it up and started doodling with shapes and stitches. I had no idea where it was going but it felt good. It felt real good to just relax and sew by hand.

I added a woman with wings in the center of the quilt and finished quilting the entire top. I put some brown cloth on for the woman. At that point I didn't know where I would go next. I knew I wanted to color with the Crayola Fabric markers. I also knew that I didn't have any, so I ordered some. In a few days they came in the mail and I was on my way. Painting on the colors was equally as enjoyable and relaxing as it was to quilt by hand.

First down was blue, next the center started out red.  Light green seemed like a good idea, but when I finished it I wasn't sure what I was going to do with the last space. More light green of course.  I put some yellow highlights on the center and that tinted it orange. Dark green rounded it out. I can't say that orange tint was where I wanted to go. I wanted more of a gold glow. I have one more thing to try for the effect.

The next thing was the wings. That was virgin territory. I learned a new technique from Tony Williams. He made some beautiful feathers on a quilt. Tony's feathers were so impressive that I thought they were real feathers. I don't think I quite mastered it but I can say I tried it anyway. And I should do better next time I do it.

I still have to put hair on her and bind the edges but I love the way it is turning out. My final goal is to find a nice frame for this one.

Thanks for taking this little journey with me from a blank canvas to a work of art.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

My Style

Every artist has an unmistakable style. I am not sure when and how I got one but people tell me all the time that when they saw that one-they knew instantly that it was me. All I can say is that it has been developing over time. When I started on this journey my variety of fabrics were limited. Two things effected it: 1) was our income status and 2) was the kind of fabric I could afford to buy. Ooops that is the same thing. :-)

My first quilt project was made from scraps that my father salvaged from his job. I don't think anyone that I knew made quilts from brand new fabric. Perish the thought. Everyone scrapped and saved to have enough dribbles to make a quilt. So I followed suit. I had a small bundle because I didn't know how much fabric it would take to make a quilt. My ambition was to make a full bed quilt but with my skill level and know how I should have went for something a lot smaller. So when my father brought in scraps from the making of hospital scrubs and nurses smocks, I picked a lovely pattern that I had seen other women make. My father called it "the Fly in the Buttermilk" pattern. I had seen it in a book and they called it "the Jack in the Box". My dad never played with a jack in the box when he was growing up but I am certain he drank a lot of buttermilk. As a matter of fact, he liked buttermilk until his death, especially with cornbread in it. So I suspect he knew more about a fly in the buttermilk than a jack in a box. Needless to say, I was not prepared for the undertaking I had embarked on but my father was so proud that I thought I could do it. It would be about twenty years later when I finished it. That is my regret and that was in the 70's.

Quilt World magazine became popular in the 80's just in time for the reawakening of my latent quilt talent. I decided to try my hand at a quilt that I saw in a book. I loved making blocks and stacking them up. It became a meditation before I knew what meditation was all about. I tried almost every kind of block imaginable. I liked the Star pattern the best. I made a lot of stars. Simply loved them.

My next leap didn't happen until the end of the 90's into 2000. I saw a picture of a landscape quilt and a picture of a person on a quilt. I am not sure which one I saw first but decided that I could do that. I tried my hand at the landscape first. I was so pleased with it I figured I would do a lot more of them. It didn't quite happen like that. I tried my hand at a person next. The first one was alright and the second one got better. Next thing I knew I was about twenty portrait quilts in, doing an exhibit and publishing a gallery book about the exhibit. The book is called Gifted: Art Quilts Featuring African American History Makers.

Which brings me to 2016, and the project that is taking my breath away. I said I would make 20 quilts for the National African American Quilt Convention. The Convention is 2017 in Lawrence, Kansas. It is the first ever of it's kind. I guess you can hear my excitement. Check it out at This morning I woke up realizing that 20 quilts is a lot of quilts. I have been working and designing away. And still need two more. They will come. I just need to step back and wait on more inspiration. This project has moved me to yet another level. I want this exhibit to be outstanding, fabulous, noteworthy....

We'll all see.