Category Archives: indigo

Unmoored


Laying down a strip at the base of Moon House quilt just now, I set the structure momentarily aside. And it struck me how apt that is: known angles canting off, the roof tumbling away in willful contrary movement, the house either about to crash back to earth leaving a splintered, uninhabitable pile of refuse or to improbably float off into the ether.


I think I’ll stitch it there. As I do, it will be a chance to sit with a conundrum. For what is anchoring down with thread that which is in free fall but a conundrum? Finn returning the ball poses a glad image of being airborne. I wish you could experience his grace, his enthusiasm, his boundless joy, how effortlessly he dwells in the moment. The house tipping over vs. the dog flying back to me for another throw.

Connecting 

 It is such a pleasure to stitch these Hearts for Charleston quilt squares together! It seems that there is an organic order. I’ve moved them around a little but the actual joining has easy.  Some line up. Some overlap. Most quilters added a healthy margin around the square which, as it turns out I’m including to some extent. This means that Mo’s square, which is exactly 10″ square, needed some additional cloth. Today I stitched it to a dark blue checked cordoroy that I cut from an old shirt. It won’t show much, but the color and checks will blend well.

 Tomorrow some friends come by for a first blessing of the squares. We will probably do this again in December.  

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

To investigate this style of quilting more
(most of us are students of master stitcher/storyteller Jude Hill),
please visit “Spirit Cloth

The Spiral of Work — October 2014

polebarn-indigo-ravenel-deemallonContinuing with a one-year-backward-look as a tool to propel some completion of unfinished work, here’s a shot from last fall. This time last year, I was busy integrating my experience from the Sept. ’14 Sea Island Indigo workshop. I really can’t believe that was only last year! Was it?!!
indigo-clothhoop-weaving-deemallonAnd, here is a piece that was begun in Jude‘s Considering Weave class. Not sure what I’ll do with it, or even where to find it!

Another incomplete piece:
indigo-quilt-moon-deemallonI’m happy to say that the October 2014 folder includes a few finished things as well: two dolls that I made for my sons and the “LA Circles” quilt that I finished a couple of weeks ago.
boydolls-deemallon-ragdolls The book to finish is a memoir about the descendant of slave owners in Texas — his process of investigation and atonement. It’s called “Tomlinson Hill”.  I purchased the book after hearing the author interviewed on the radio, and within a couple of weeks (during The Slave Dwelling Project’s overnight in Medford, Mass., at the Royall House and Slave Quarters), I met two or three people who were descended from slave owners and learned about the group, “Coming to the Table“.  The group is “for all who wish to acknowledge and heal wounds from racism rooted in the United States’ history of slavery.” There was a meeting nearby recently, but I don’t seem to be in a phase of life where it is easy, natural, or right (somehow) to join a group or even attend meetings. Too much else pressing, including the need for restorative solitude.
tomlinsonhill-deemallonBut I can read. The book comes at a good time — I started and then put down “Purity” — Jonathan Franzen’s new novel (I’m a fan!). I was going like gangbusters because it’s a “speedread” from the library (7 days, no renewal), until I realized that the toxic relationships described in the story were just too close to some parts of my current reality to make the read pleasurable. I like books that challenge me and make me uncomfortable (and those that don’t, btw), but this was too much. Control what you can control, right?!

Hearts for Charleston — Maggie’s for Rev. Daniel Simmons

“Although he died at the hands of hate, he lived in the hands of love.”

Artist and educator Maggie Rose of New Jersey made this heart in honor of Reverend Daniel Simmons.

This tribute written by Susan DeFreitas (published with her permission (find her blog here)) gives you some background on the pastor and expresses our collective grief:

Vietnam veteran, Purple Heart: Allen University, Phi Beta Sigma;
Master’s of Divinity; pastor; father, grandfather.
How many times did you wonder if today was the day
you would die? Some days last longer than others, we know,
and the world must have slowed in its rotation the hour
enemy fire found you, the young black soldier
in that green heat, when your bright blood
sought the earth. Did it return to you,
that green day, when enemy fire, as if traveling through time,
came to reclaim you? Those hours in the ambulance, the hospital,
the operating room must have been some of the longest
in recorded history. They draped the American flag over your casket
as your children and grandchildren lifted you up
in song, and it seemed as if the country itself, some essential part,
would descend into the earth that day. But you did not die young
unlike so many others whose names the nation
has lately learned to mourn. You died at seventy-four,
after three decades of saving souls; your children, grandchildren
are beautiful; and all the days you did not die can never now be
taken from you. Your family, not the enemy, had the final word:
“Although he died at the hands of hate,
he lived in the hands of love.”

 The open structure of the heart speaks to vulnerability. The perfect circle within suggests to me that by opening our hearts, there is a chance of experiencing some kind of unity.

Maggie used purple netting to stand for Rev. Simmons’s purple heart and picked some green strips to reference ‘that green day’ of battle mentioned above.

abc news photo

She has also included vintage fabrics from when her mother lived in Alabama in the 40’s (the sweet floral at the edge of the heart, is one). Maggie remembers her mother telling her about a black friend from those days — how they would share confidences over the fence but wouldn’t dream of, say, going into town together. Maybe that floral print was being hung on the line while the two friends laughed about something? The air between them fresh, but elsewhere so toxic?

Maggie also used silk tie remnants, apt for a prominent male leader. Reverend Daniel Simmons had been a pastor for most of his adult life.

There are also a few strips that I dyed during the Sea Island Indigo workshop last fall down in Charleston. This cloth was dyed with indigo plants genetically linked to the indigo that the enslaved tended in the 18th century. Indigo production, no small aside here, was back-breaking, smelly, rife with insects, and furthermore, certain aspects of production required extremely critical timing and understanding of Ph levels (ie skill).  The stitched kente cloth symbol above means, “he who doesn’t know can know from learning.”  I guess we hope that is true of all those who think we live in a post-racial America? Or who think African Americans are to blame for where they find themselves in 2015?

Interesting that it very nearly forms a nine-patch.  Maggie also built a cross by combining yellow velvet with yellow embroidery. She was remembering the old song about ‘tying a yellow ribbon around an old oak tree’ and wanted it to stand for remembrance, but also power and the richness of gold. I love that the velvet is so soft to the touch, which makes it resonate with forgiveness.

The cross is surrounded by an open ended form. Originally, Maggie stitched the Emanuel AME’s shield around the cross but found it clunky and unappealing. Once she unpicked the stitches forming the bottom rim of the shield, it suited — the openness of the shape got her thinking about ‘open religion’ and ‘open suffering’. Certainly one of the most powerfully upsetting aspects of the Emanuel AME tragedy rests in how welcome the hateful assailant was made to feel by the AME community.

As with the others, I show you the ‘wrong side’, because the back reveals another version of the same story. Here we find the tag of Peace and the Reverend’s name. But we also find the scraggly threads that show the beginnings and endings of stitch-runs, a skeletal version of the design, and the kente symbol showing more prominently. Like the others, there is the sense of the love and care in the block construction going right through to the back.

Today I leave you with an elegiac song with the chorus “We Can’t Cry No More” by Rhiannon Giddens : here.

Hearts for Charleston Quilt — Dee

My block honors Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. She was 45 at the time of her death and left behind three children. As a part-time minister at Emanuel AME, a speech and language pathologist at Goose Creek High School, and also the coach of the girls’ field and track team, her death impacted a wide circle of people.

https://i2.wp.com/media2.s-nbcnews.com/j/newscms/2015_26/1093376/150625-sharonda-singleton-mt-1252_c8998f49b44e7720001714d268adcfa2.nbcnews-ux-2880-1000.jpg

image from NBC news

IMG_0498She was said to have run ‘cheek to cheek’ with her athletes — a method of inspiring runners to perform at their best level. Imagine that: a grown woman, strong and swift, pacing her high school students on the track, pushing them to go faster. It’s an unshakable image. I also read that there were times when she ‘prayed so hard that the tears fell down her face’. And her smile! Look at that smile! Apparently, Rev. Coleman-Singleton was known to wear that smile even when disciplining her students!

Not long before the bullets began to fly, she took a call from one of her children. I am grateful the phone call was over before the violence erupted. It was a mundane, housekeeping kind of call — letting one of her children know where she had hidden the game controller. The three stitched hearts on the left are for her children: Chris, Caleb, and Camryn.
IMG_0500Synchronicity lead me to dedicate my heart to Reverend Sharonda Coleman-Singleton.  At my town’s vigil for Charleston, the person who read the prayer for her wore an unusual dress. I actually gasped when I recognized it, because I had used fabric from an identical dress (purchased ages ago in a thrift store) for my block .The quilt square was in my purse, in fact, at the time – I wanted the cloth to be in the energy of our town’s memorializing and prayers.
When I read about Rev. Coleman-Singleton’s life, I wanted to honor her even more — in part because one of my boys ran track for four years in high school and it would not be an exaggeration to say that the experience changed his life. Because of his first coach. When you start counting up all the people touched by Rev. Coleman-Singleton’s life, it really makes you shake your head.

Eulogizing her, Mayor Riley of Charleston said, “In each of her roles, everyone she touched, their personality changed. That is passed on and that’s how a community is changed.”
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I used some of the indigo strips that I dyed while at a workshop outside of Charleston last September, as well as that cut up dress mentioned above and some fabric dyed here in Massachusetts in my back yard.

The nine patch in the center of the heart is mis-aligned, but I left it that way. It, of course, stands for the nine deceased. Those squares are silk and have a slight sheen to them, which makes me think of how memory shines after a person is gone. I’m not sure the block is quite done yet.IMG_0507

IMG_9998
IMG_0193Some of the double exposures that I created during this time were visual explorations about faith, death, and martyrdom. The ‘African Christ’ figure made ages ago appears above.
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One more square is winging its way to Massachusetts from Montana as I type and a block arrived from New Jersey yesterday (stay tuned!). Soon it will be time to assemble the quilt.
Many of the contributions honor all nine of the deceased. Others honor a single person. I haven’t yet resolved how this will determine the final quilt (i.e., if one is honored, shouldn’t they all be?). Furthermore, when with this in mind I started a block for Tywanza Sanders, my online reading revealed the agonizing fact that his mother watched him die. That particular article made the point that the “Charleston Nine” really ought to be the “Charleston Twelve”.
More on this as I go.
To read more about this project,
please refer to the the sidebar category:
“Hearts for Charleston Quilt”.

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”.