Category Archives: House quilts

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?”

Pins and needles

On pins and needles waiting for the fourth nor’easter (not really — more like ever so grateful Husband is not in Russia or Singapore).


Pins for damp stretching. If only I could be spritzed with water and pinned into shape!

Another kind of pin on my first wearable sigil. This symbol is for protection.

All kinds of clean up requires clear ground. Eventually the insurance adjuster and spring will arrive!

I’m home and warm and writing today.

Moving along

Some thing’s getting done. Other things getting fucked up (by you know who — don’t ask me about aprons right now).

Will make (an unexpected) run to Salem today in order to take my sister to the North Shore housing office. She’ll be signing the lease for subsidized housing this afternoon. Hooray!

Now if only Son #2 would get a job — something, anything — if only to stave off K and me having to ask, “What is our limit here?” I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that many families would’ve considered it reached and then some.

It is very cold today. Very. As in, bitter. But, Finn and I walked around the lake with a friend and she graciously shared stuff about the child of hers that has needed extra this and extra that.

Her words were the first gift of the week. The second is that K has agreed to come home early so that I don’t have to abbreviate the visit with my sister in order to accommodate the dog.

Off to fix an apron!