Category Archives: House quilts

Accidental design

I love it when the board speaks to me – the humble pin board meant to showcase the real design. Here, the stripes of white on either side as well as the bit of white above the highest roof now seem essential. Even the vertical books below intrigue me.

Hmmm.

It is very hot here again. After a game of fetch, Finn kept panting and panting, so I draped one cold towel after another around his neck — a trick I learned from my mailman during that recent extreme heat. I knew Finn liked it when he followed me and waited patiently near the sink. He continued to pant hard, so I coaxed him into an empty tub and ran cold water, splashing and rinsing him. That seems to’ve worked. I know he needed it because he hates the bathtub. Not today — hopped right in!

Stay cool!

Scraps and surprises

What happens when you turn it sideways and you like the subtle form visible there more than the intended (and obvious) one?

And while spritzing, pulling and pinning will correct bumps on this one, it won’t turn an unhappy experiment into something worthy of my time.

That’s how it goes sometimes.

I have no recollection of taking this picture. Should I be worried? I don’t even know where this house is.

I like all the lines and recesses and the walkway coming straight at you.

What if the photo inspires the next small cloth? It might be a fun challenge to try and capture shadow, railings, and rooflines.

What if we don’t know the purpose of our lives — not out of superficial disregard for what matters but because it is unknowable? Would that change anything? Would it strip away some layer of reflection and free those thoughts for other things?

We had rain yesterday. It’s still grey and humid and blessedly quiet. After days of porch construction next door and “Carnival Week” at the camp out back, how welcome the quiet is! The whir of fans. A dripping faucet.

Hope you all are having a good weekend! Much to share about writing retreat. It was productive. Interesting. And mostly — wonderful to be out in the rolling hills of my birth (not to be too dramatic!)

New grass, new quilt

K did an amazing job on the lawn. I helped a little. Believe it or not, it only took about three hours to lay down.

Today, for Mother’s Day, we had tasty Japanese food at the swanky mall down the road.

While there, I bought a cardigan to replace the one K shrank in the wash last week (yes! He does the laundry).

There were two phone calls and a big bouquet of flowers from the boys. Very nice.

Also: I gave myself a few hours in the studio and made this little piece (and half of another).

But here’s the main thing: I came into the weekend absolutely exhausted by the ever-present swirl of commentary about race and culture. About white people staying in their lane. Hands off this. You’re not allowed to do that. The debate really deserves a thoughtful post but I can’t guarantee I’ll write it any time soon. I’d rather focus on my writing.

PS. Some of you will recognize one of Jude’s indigo resist moons. I keep finding one here and there in my scrap baskets and it’s like Christmas every time.

Teeter totter

Yesterday: cold enough to see my breath. Today: they’re predicting temps in the 90’s.

Meanwhile, this small quilt is missing something (life?).

I love the orb (though I can’t quite say if it’s a sun or a moon) and I like the integrity of construction — the house is pieced; the orb is revered appliquéd. But it feels lacking. What would you add?

To add anything on top is to disrupt the construction. I’ve layered raw edge appliqué on pieced compositions more times than I can count — so why the hesitancy?

This little one, on the other hand, makes my heart sing. Fun fact: there were a couple of summers in my teens when I worked side by side with Sufis — I thought they were the coolest people on the planet.

Look what emerged!

Okay, if anybody’s yard is going to spit up a sewing machine foot, it would be a quilter’s, but really? How did it get outside and when?

After putting up with a pounded dirt backyard for three years, we got quotes to re-sod it. I’m not a committed suburban lawn grower — there are the sustainability issues, the possibility of poisonous treatments, not to mention the huge cost of weekly yard crews. But the mud is untenable. It’s not just ugly, it’s super inconvenient (think: four muddy paws at the back door ten times a rainy day). And that’s where I draw the line. My convenience.

The quotes were astronomical, so even with tree-insurance money, we’ve decided to do it ourselves. What else is new? I get it: two or three guys, a batch of hours, plus the cost of the loam and sod (and — pretty sure — a hefty mark up for a Newton address). Ugh. What’s a couple of grueling days to us?

Even with paying for the sod to be delivered and renting a tiller, we’ll come in at $1,000 cheaper than the lowest bid, which was itself $1,000 less than the next lowest bid.

While we’re at it, we’ll reduce the size of the north bed (and straighten it) and extend the bed at the back southwest corner. The plan is to plant some fairly mature scotch pines in the corner too — both to keep Finn from going nose to nose with another dog-reactive dog and to screen the lot line where three large trees have come down recently.

After a stretch of relentless insistence on ball play, I’m happy to report that Finn finally understood that he doesn’t run the show out back. After a while, he gave it up and relaxed in the sun. Meanwhile out front some marsh mallows (is that their name?) that I never planted are thriving. I love it when that happens.

A mini-clothes line nearby affords good back light for viewing a nearly finished Village Quilt. I’m pleased with the translucent quality of the gauze backing (90 weight), but need to figure out how to better integrate the two layers next time. There was some bubbling that I’m pretty sure could have been tamed with a traditional batting/cotton backing layering. Any suggestions? Maybe an all over invisible baste first (a la Jude/spiritcloth)?

Have a nice weekend all!

Maybe by the next post, we’ll have a back lawn (but my sister will not be unpacked. That is certain). Talking abut grueling days — Thursday, Move Day, was a total grunt — even WITH a crew of three movers and her PCA present for three hours.

The way times goes

This was made during an intense period of caregiving for my sister so for that reason I can place it in time — about eight and a half years ago. I was really angry about it all at the time. It’s a piece of muslin that was written on, ripped into strips, woven and then top stitched with couched threads and other bits of fabric. I gessoed the surface at the end, or applied white paint — that part I can’t remember. It’s been fun to see some old pieces.

It’s a clear day! K is home and rattling around upstairs. I’m making coffee. Finn has his play date. K and I are loading the Subaru with step stool, drill, vacuum, tarps and baking soda and heading to Salem. It’s not The moving day, but we’ll ferry a couple of trunk loads over.

strange fruit

“Strange Fruit” — 28″ x 26″

This piece emerged while I was making the “Middle Passage” quilts. In that series, I used a brown fabric with horizontal stripes to represent slave ships. That fabric shows up again here, notably under a white house. It’s one of those references that no one would get unless I told them, i.e. a white structure upheld by the slave trade. The central motif was pieced during the aftermath of the Zimmerman acquittal (blogged about here and here).

“Strange Fruit” addresses the fact that the racism underpinning slavery exists on a continuum — how it’s evolved rather than disappeared. Specifically, I was thinking about the Jim Crow era and all its brutality — which explains the tree motif and the quilt’s title. At some point during its creation, I researched images of lynching victims. These are hard to look at. Nevertheless, I printed three of them out onto a sheer organza with the idea of overlaying the human images on the tree fabric to make explicit the reference. But I found I couldn’t do it.

Instead, I carefully rolled up the three sheer rectangles of cloth and placed them in boxes or vases for safekeeping — away from human eyes, in a restful dark — until I could decide what to do with them. Bury them?

Around the same time, I came across notes about a visual arts show (in D.C., maybe?) that featured images of lynched African Americans. I read with avid interest how carefully staged and curated the show had been, specifically designed to account for the intense sorrow or rage that might arise, including the hosting of structured, public conversations.

It confirmed my decision to exclude the images.

I couldn’t retrace that research now, but here’s a link to a similarly themed 2017 exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. This show was a collaboration between the museum and the nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), the organization founded by Bryan Stevenson, author of “Just Mercy / A Story of Justice and Redemption.” Stevenson’s new project, The National Memorial for Peace and Justice was the subject of a recent 60 Minutes episode, but it you’re short on time, I recommend watching the short clip at the top of the Memorial’s website, here.

To continue.

Last weekend, K and I attended Claudia Rankine’s play, “The White Card” — which addresses this very topic, that is, white people’s support of and use of images of black death in art — either art they create or art they buy. The black artist character, Charlotte, refers to the topic as “the black death spectacle”.

The play asked lots of provocative questions about cultural appropriation and they were all the more powerful for being aimed at white liberal progressives “trying to do the right thing”.

(I cringed when I saw Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book, “Between the World and Me” on the living room coffee table. Is that a ‘meta-prop’ — a prop of a prop? You can just make it out on the white upholstered surface).

Needless to say, the black artist invited to a dinner party hosted by wealthy white potential patrons cringes over a lot more than that. The collectors mean well — ahem — but the conversations make clear that good intentions are not enough (when did I hear that last? — in a review of Kathryn Bigelow’s movie, “Detroit”.)

The play wrestles with the question: What does it mean to portray black suffering as art? More specifically, what does it mean when white artists do so or when white collectors collect it?

One statement and one question really stood out and apply to me (to this quilt and others, as well as the many-year project of setting a piece of historic fiction in 18th century South Carolina):

  • “Maybe you buy images of black death because that’s the only form of blackness you’re comfortable with” and
  • “Why don’t you make yourself your project?” (instead of black suffering).

Back to the ink-jet print-outs: I have looked for those disturbing cloth-printed figures a number of times in the intervening years and not been able to find them. This probably says more about my distracted self and less about the potency of the images, but still … Now, at least, I know that they will never, ever appear on any art work of mine.

I’ll end with a question Charlotte asks of her white patron: “Have you ever had the feeling that you’re ALL WRONG?”