Monday, June 12, 2017

One Month To Go

Last year about this time I started putting some pennies in a jar in anticipation of the first ever National African American Quilt Convention. .  Convention you say, why call it a convention? Convention means a large meeting of people who come to a place for usually several days to talk about their shared work. We definitely decided to do just that. We are going to convene and talk about our shared work. 

How exciting is it to think of the wonderful aura that is going to ascend over the Lawrence, Kansas when we all get there? It will be the first time that we all will be together and love on each other. Quilters have a special energy, a special calm and a love for fabric! We are going to bring that calm to Lawrence in July. We are going to share our bits of fabric and our experiences with each other.

Some of you may have wondered why the convention looks so different from other quilt conventions. It is like asking what is the difference between Al Green's music and Johnny Cash's music. Different people dream differently. Ms. Marla Jackson dared to dream of a day and place where we could express our experiences through fiber art. Now her dream has come true.

Of course this convention is open to all people. It is the National African American Quilt Convention because we need a venue to express our specific stories, our experiences and our way of relating to the world around us. There can be no denying that our experience in America has been unique. We are taking this opportunity to express that uniqueness. We want everyone to come and enjoy this quilt convention with us.

I was also offered a special opportunity to exhibit at this convention. I was just honored to have my name beside such great and well known artist as Faith Ringgold, Bisa Butler, Rachael Clark, Lola Jenkins, Sandra Johnson, Jan Hollis, Lori Triplett, Carolyn Mazloomi, Dawn Williams Boyd, Hollis Chatelain, Carole Harris, Valerie Scruggs, Valerie White, Sara Bunn and a host of other wonderful fiber artist and speakers.

When Ms. Jackson asked me how many quilts could I put in an exhibit, I said twenty quickly because I thought I was going to do an exhibit based on quilts that I already had. Then I made the quilt called "And The Angels Cried" for the Emmanuel Nine shooting victims in Charleston, South Carolina. A light came on in my head. I should do an exhibit with quilts about "Woman Who Fly." Well I had forgot a little detail was the promise of twenty quilts. Oh well, I can do twenty I thought. Ha! Twenty new quality quilts are a lot. What was I thinking? Well, I have done it by the hair on my chinny chin chin. I can say that having my grandchildren underfoot while I worked has been an inspiration and a challenge.

The quilts turned into an adventure that I had not planned on. I first sat down and designed all the quilts. Some of them changed as I went along. I got into the groove of them and they took on a life of their own. They talked to me and we were collaborating a great show. The more I worked, the more they talked. The quilts took me to places that I had not planned to go.`We explored many of the situations that make women want to sprout wings and fly away. I realized it was too good not to write down. So I started writing in between sewing sessions. It got so bad that I didn't want to stop and cook. My husband was not too happy about that. All of the stories came after I started making the quilts. Some stories came easy as they flooded my consciousness. Some of the other ones I had to coax out of the subject who had endured such pain that it was hard to tell the story. The ancestors wrapped us all in a warm blanket and said that it was alright. Finally alright to tell.

I hope that you can make it to Lawrence, Kansas from July 12-15, 2017. We are going to have some fun, see some wonderful quilts, buy goods from some wonderful vendors, walking tours, riding tours, historic places, African American history, lectures, classes and workshops, good food and performances. Bring your dancing shoes. I'm bringing mine!

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.