Hearts for Charleston – Nancy

Nancy Erisman of California sent a cloth square for the “Hearts for Charleston” quilt and it is a beauty!!

It is dedicated to Cynthia Hurd who, like Nancy’s mother, was a librarian. To represent the deceased’s love of books, Nancy wove in fabrics printed with book spines as well as a cloth printed with cursive words.

I really encourage you to read about the making of the square on Nancy’s blog: Pomegranate Trail, here (and also 5 or 6 posts before that), because the amount of love and care and remembrance of Ms. Cynthia Hurd that went into this square is very, very moving. The heart is surrounded by a red blanket stitch. Here’s what Nancy wrote about that:

I wrapped her heart in a blanket stitch to symbolize the loving care she gave to all of the patrons of the library…
to symbolize the love she gave to her friends, family and church community…
to symbolize the love those who knew her gave back to her…
to symbolize the loving care we should all give to each other…to symbolize the loving care that, because of this tragedy, is being shared with Cynthia’s family.

A good blanket stitch can say all of that. 

 

IMG_0904Of the stitches radiating outward from the heart, Nancy wrote:

The ripples grew and grew and grew.
They began close to the heart in red to symbolize both the love 
Cynthia shared and the love sent back to her.
They began as a heart shape.
Hugging close in.
As they radiated outward/inward, the heart shape morphed into a lumpy circle.
Years from now, way out in the edges of the ripple…
may Cynthia be remembered well.
The stitches turned blue to represent the community.
The community who knew her.
The community who loved her.
The community who only got to know her because of her untimely passing.
The community surrounding her, holding her in light and strength.

There are a lot of stitches.

This beautiful embellishment is attached to a button and looks exactly like the braids on the cover of “Americanah” (which I happen to be reading right now).   There are eight, to symbolize the other members of the congregation who passed. Nancy hopes that people will feel free to touch the braids and take comfort from them. Again, I share what Nancy wrote:

As I braided the eight, I considered the Black Lives Matter movement and I hoped these could be used as a physical source for comfort for those remembering 
Cynthia and the others…
for those deeply troubled by the current state of affairs.
It is comforting to hold them.

The central heart is patterned with a finger paint print, giving the heart depth and movement. In Nancy’s mind, it speaks to Ms. Hurd’s uniqueness: The finger paint fabric… was used to symbolize Cynthia’s beautiful uniqueness…to represent her, as individual as her fingerprint.

Nancy has added a series of shooting stars to its surface.


Like all the other squares, the reverse side is as beautiful as the front, albeit in a different way. It’s clear to me that when I attach the squares to each other, I shall have to leave the backs exposed, somehow.  Thank you, Nancy, for radiating such love with your words and your stitches!

Hearts for Charleston — Gillan

heartsforcharleston-gillan

Next up: Gillan Wang — a Newton, Mass. fiber artist who brings her talent and wit to a variety of styles. She took my year long class awhile back and has gone on to show in galleries and host several successful “Newton Open Studios”. Some of her work is functional, like fiber bowls, some is illustration-driven, while other pieces are more conceptual. Here is her website: ArtbyGillanIMG_2323

Each of the congregants is represented by beads spelling out their initials.  And, each set of initials is linked, by stitch, to a star. There’s “MT” for Myra Thompson and “SCS” for Sharonda Coleman Singleton.

IMG_2325Gillan chose commercial prints depicting celestial scenes, along with a deep blue silk, and some strips of indigo. Woven together, these strips create a night time sky. By stitching the initials of the deceased on these fabrics, she places them in heaven.

Only one small red heart speaks to the tragedy.

  She used a transparent star-patterned sheer for the primary heart. It is wonderful how we can see the underlying patterning! And there’s a stamped spiral on the right that seems to go to or from one of the background stars, continuing the theme of shooting stars. By surrounding the heart with bugle beads, Gillan added luster and definition.

All in all, I love the sparkly, star-studded surface. It speaks to expansion, healing, and a universe that is big enough to hold all our joy and pain. There is also a child-like quality to this piece that brings in a welcome sense of innocence. 
This square will catch the light in many varied ways and hopefully please the onlookers.

Thank you, Gillan!!

To read more about this project,
please refer to the the sidebar category:
“Hearts for Charleston Quilt”.

Hearts for Charleston — Kathy

heartsforcharleston-kathydorfer

This eloquent square by Kathy Dorfer for the “Hearts for Charleston” quilt renders me almost (but not quite) speechless.

Variegated thread thickly applied in a whip stitch spell out the words:  “Love heals”. Kathy sprinkled white ‘thread beads’ around the phrase, making it seem as though it sparkles and pops with power, or perhaps, that it is sprawled across the heavens.

loveheals-kathydorfer

quilt-heartsforcharleston-heals

A red cross constructed of slightly darker shades of red is centered within the heart and calls to mind universal symbol for ‘the Red Cross’.  The red cross echoes the theme of healing, particularly healing in a time of emergency.

Organic, tendril-like emanations give us the sense of energy radiating outwards. It is almost as if we can see the healing happening right before our eyes.

heartsforcharleston-love-kathy

Kathy’s white kantha stitch runs horizontally and unifies the blue woven strips. The white stitching integrates her layers and makes me think about the power of binding processes — the binding of wounds, of communities, of ideas.

The back of each and every quilt square has been wonderful to examine. Look at this one! The heart in reverse is a near-empty space, something I find poignant for reasons I can’t really articulate. On the other hand, the emanating tendrils look ganglionic and nearly comical. The white thread beads on the underside connect up in jagged long stitches, creating a shape almost like a cartoon bubble. The phrase is still unmistakable.

IMG_2315

Kathy included a beautifully stamped and blue washed card inscribed with an inspirational quote from Maya Angelou.

IMG_2306Thank you, Kathy. Such a striking and loving contribution!

To read more about this project,
please refer to the the sidebar category:
“Hearts for Charleston Quilt”.

Hearts for Charleston — Dana

And now for the incredible work by Dana of Raven and Sparrow.


One of the things I love about this quilt square is how it captures both the chaotic rupture of grief and the renewing power of hope. Look at the way Dana combined neat, orderly elements with loose and ‘messy’ ones.  The contrast speaks volumes.

heartsforcharleston-ravenandsparrowThe couched red threads on the left speak to blood, disorder, hate, and loss. They scramble and defy the cool, ordered grid below. The purple cloud of gauze has the visual feel of smoke or staining. It spreads across the surface and behind the heart. Looking at it, we wonder: is the damage done? How much further will it spread?  The heart is stained and rent. The edges of the central rip are frayed — in contrast to the neatly applied stitches that define the heart’s outer edges.  These skillful choices elevate the image to something beyond the cliche of the broken heart.    A five-petaled flower grows out of the place of brokenness and brings its purity into the messy tumble of red. It speaks to the enduring power of hope and also of forgiveness, an apt reference for a community living their Christian values.  Like Liz, Dana dyed her strips especially for this project. Not only that, but she used a resist to spell out the words, “open our hearts” — words spoken by President Obama in his eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney.   Dana also used a resist to create a series of small hearts along one of the strips. She beautifully embroidered nine of them.

IMG_2342The floral embroidery in soft colors lends a sense of peace and purity to ‘the Nine’.  The pretty uniformity of these hearts stands in contrast to the wild chaos opposite. And, it’s something else.   It’s that this line of uniform and sweet encircled hearts suggest that in death, the Emanuel Nine became united — in faith and essence perhaps?

On the reverse side, with white thread on white linen, Dana stitched simply, “Remembering, June 17, 2015.”  All in all, this is a beautifully executed and powerful visual statement about loss and hope.  Please read more about Dana’s process, and enjoy her other beautiful dyeing and needlework and her extraordinary flare for table setting.

Specifically, the project is discussed here and here, here and here.

Thank you so much, Dana!

To read more about this project,
please refer to the the sidebar category:
“Hearts for Charleston Quilt”.

You’re rigid, I’m impatient. Let’s get over it.

Parking lot radiating heat on a blastingly hot tax-free Sunday in August could make a person cranky. I am bracing myself. As we head towards the Sears entrance I say twice, “I am going to be patient.”

My husband scoffs.

“What?” I say. “You’re rigid. I’m impatient.”

It is a story we have played out in many variations for almost 27 years. It’s not a revelation so much as a minor act of atonement. Moments ago at the Dedham Street light, we were talking about how our younger son tends to get stuck in negative thinking. I asserted, “He gets his rigidity from you, you know.”

(Oh dear. Sometimes I AM my mother).

The list of back-to-school and life-with-dog purchases is long. Considerations of BTUs and counter space, closet space, floor attachments, and dirt retrieval systems. I can hardly focus on details like these at the best of times, never mind as it’s becoming clear that there’s no one available to help us. Thank Goodness Mr. Rigid is also Mr. Detail! Choices are made.

When it comes time to pay NO ONE is at the register. It had been staffed, but no more. I park myself there anyway and send K off to look for a toaster, noting that it might take a half an hour before help arrives. This is called ‘managing expectations.’

“Look upstairs in housewares,” I suggest. But he can’t shake the idea that little appliances ought to be next to big appliances and stays on Floor One.

Finally, a clerk arrives, but with a customer in tow. I’ve now stood there waiting (patiently?) for what feels like a long time. I’m glad they’ve arrived, not because it appears that I’ll be waited on any time soon, but because I had been considering taking $200 out of my wallet and waving it overhead while jumping and hooting, “Anyone take my money? Anyone?!!”

Because that’s how I think about moments like these.

K returns empty-handed. “It looks like we’re supposed to go ‘out there’ and FIND a clerk,” I say. What else can it be?!! The customer finishing up confirms. She is grey-haired and TALL, standing at LEAST five foot eleven. “There’s a woman with a clipboard out there who’s taking names so people can be served in order.” She adds, “To prevent hostility.”

Hmmmm.

Hostility is miles away, but patience? I’m still trying, though, and joke that at five feet, I can’t really SEE ‘out there’ (and in fact, I can’t… the rack with the vacuum attachments blocks my sight lines). It is both a nod to her tremendous height and a covert way of saying, “What good is a woman with a clipboard if you don’t know she exists?!!”

Fortunately, the clerk understands that the system might be backfiring at this very moment. “I’ll take you next,” she says.

Those four words rehabilitate me. Better yet, she tells K that toasters are “upstairs in housewares.” He gets a look. She sees the look. K says to her, “That’s funny, because I’m NEVER wrong!”

The clerk, who has by now completely won my heart, quips, “THAT is a brave man!”

A toaster-errand up on Two and an Ocean Job Lot run later, and I am hosing off two bricks in the front yard. Inside, I wrap them in foil. How nice that I made basil/garlic butter last week  — it means I’m gonna serve my guys killer paninis.

And I do.

Another good day.

A small boy crosses the parking lot

They say crows remember kindness. This morning, the woods are full of them. By that I mean three cross our path. No amount of animal intelligence will surprise me, ever, but I wonder: what does kindness to a crow look like? Not throwing stones at them? The path emerges onto the shady campus, some event about to happen. Urns line the edge of a folding table as if preparing for a drill. Ready! Aim! Pour!

A skinny boy crosses the parking lot, half in shadow. What is his errand? Later I will remember his tiny half-lit back, something cinematic and bird-like about him.

A man in a tie flings his briefcase into the front seat. Half a lot away, another man sits at the wheel and chortles into his phone.

Watch. Sit. Turn. Place! Watch… watch… By my side! (tap tap tap tap). By my side!  We see four other dogs and Finn does not bark at a single one of them. Not even the one that barked at him. You have no idea how major this is… how much progress it signals.

Husband home from China just now. You should have seen me frantically flipping through his itinerary after watching those explosions in Tianjin. Orange fireballs. He was somewhere else. But he HAS been there.

So many things to feel glad relief over!

Hearts for Charleston Quilt — Liz Ackert

It is beyond gratifying to see how other fiber artists are responding to the call for The Hearts for Charleston Quilt. I will post about them in the order of their arrival.

Liz Ackert of I’m Going to Texas  sent the second square. Liz exemplifies what I really admire about makers of Slow Cloth — over-the-top attention to detail, composition, and color, skilled dyeing and needlework, plus tremendous thoughtfulness and love informing the design. I really encourage you to visit her blog and read about the process, because it’s fascinating!

First, Liz dyed the cloth.

Liz Ackert photo and work

Interestingly, one of the plants she selected for dyeing is called, “Friendship sage (Salvia amistad … named “amistad” for “friendship” but also the name of a ship that was the scene of a slave mutiny).” [read about preparation of the cloth here and here].

Then, Liz embroidered the names of the Emanuel Nine* onto strips, along with each person’s occupation and age. This must have brought home the impact of the tragedy. Liz also stitched the date of the massacre in various red tones at the far right of each and every strip. That, too, must have been powerful, to stitch that date over and over.

stitching and photo by Liz Ackert

stitching and photo by Liz Ackert

Liz tells us on her blog that the Ethel L. Lance strip was reworked prior to the weaving

Because I hadn’t made a decision about the names and also because some gardening reminded Liz of Psalm 139 (about being made in secret and woven together), Liz was inspired to flip the strips over, rendering the names secret in a way.

heartsforcharleston-names-lizackertThere is something fitting and poignant about the names disappearing.
heartsforcharletson-lizackert-Then, Liz read many of the follow up news stories and was inspired by statements made by surviving loved ones. She selected one quote to correspond with each of the deceased and then stitched them to nine more strips. [read about these decisions and the square’s assembly here].

Here are those statements:

Every fiber in my body hurts … I will never be the same
Prosper and believe in any of your dreams
This has truly broken my heart in every way
We are the family that love built. We have no room for [hate]
She was where she needed to be … she was not a victim
I forgive you and my family forgives you
You took something very precious … and I forgive you
Their legacies will live in love so hate won’t win
Hate is taught … she never taught us to hate

As we all know, many of the utterances were remarkably and profoundly forgiving.heartsforcharleston-ackert-heartbroken

Weaving the strips interrupted most of the phrases. Liz made two exceptions. The astonishing phrase: I FORGIVE YOU.

And: BROKEN MY HEART.

She was worried that the word “hate” might end up visibly prominent but it was buried.  Liz initially felt an impulse to tidy up the denim heart (above) and then decided against it, letting its raggedy state stand as a symbol of the ravaged community instead. [read more here] The entire heart is composed of fabric cut away from the reverse applique heart (below).
heartsforcharleston-lizackert-starsThe tiny pink “X’s” stand for the children left behind — there are twenty.   On the back, Liz stitched a beautiful label, and when attaching it to the square (partly to solve a buckling issue), it just so happened that it traced nine horizontal lines across the ecru heart. 

Such a beautiful quilt square! It will be wonderful in another month to work at doing justice to it and the other contributions in making a single cloth for the Emanuel AME.

*I have consciously decided not to call the deceased “victims”, though clearly they were. I feel as though it diminishes them somehow and one of the survivors specifically stated she refused to think of them as victims. In places I refer to the group as “the Emanuel Nine”, following Liz’s lead.

To read more about this project,
please refer to the the sidebar category:
“Hearts for Charleston Quilt”.