Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sentimental Work

When Spring comes to Eastern North Carolina, it's not gentle. It knocks with loud thunderstorms
alternating with flashes of brilliant sunshine and skies so blue your eyes naturally squint when looking skyward. Sunday was a great day to photograph a few new quilt works on the fence in back of the studio. It also took lots of push pins so nothing would blow away!

In March I had the opportunity to showcase some of my work while filming segments for the Quilting Arts program that airs on PBS. Everything I shared on the program had some connection to Japan.

My husband and I have collected Japanese woodblock prints for 30 years but unfortunately I've never been to Japan in person. That trip is on my bucket list. In the meantime, I continue to sashiko (Japanese-style hand quilting), make furoshiki (wrapping cloths), and now have added the concept of kintsugi to my repertoire.

Courtesy of Koishihara 
Kintsugi is not usually a term applied to the textile arts but it perfectly describes what's going on now right now within my brain's creative ferment. Kintsugi actually means 'mended with gold' and is more often associated with pottery. The story is that a shogun of Japan broke his favorite tea cup and sent it back to the potter for repair. But the repaired cup was ugly with metal staples so the cup was then sent to a jeweler who repaired the cup with layers of lacquer mixed with gold dust. The repaired cup with gold veins outlining the breaks was a work of art. The shogun loved it and thus kintsugi became popular especially with cups used in the tea ceremony.

On a philosophical level, kintsugi came to mean appreciating the beauty of that which is broken and mended. You embrace the repaired-mended and celebrate its new form. It applies to my work in the following way: I never throw away my work however small. Little blocks from sewing demonstrations, small pieces that are handed around in classes so student can view the work and of course UFO's (unfinished objects) of every size--I save them all. They will eventually find their way into kintsugi work.

The quilt titled Kintsugi #I came about when I pillaged the sample drawer and started grouping some pieces I thought could live together in a quilt. The blocks lay on the grey carpet of the storage room for a couple of weeks and I would walk in, move a few things, and leave again. There was lots of space between the blocks but I knew they could be united harmoniously by the right fabric--just as gold holds together the cracks in a kintsugi cup. I found the perfect fabric--a shot cotton from my stash. It was a two-color weave of bright yellow with black (Char Gold #12 in the Peppered Cottons line) and was the perfect kintsugi fabric. The overall effect is a bright mustard color but it changes slightly depending on the angle of viewing the quilt. I love that about shot cottons in general--they are solids that change. Cool.

Close-up of machine quilting 'Wild Vine'

Some details from Kintsugi #I .

Schoolhouse sample blocks.

The longarm quilting is by my friend Laurie Mayo.

Got another kintsugi work in progress and this one's apropos for Mother's Day. The quilt top design is an off-center medallion. In this case a Provencal napkin reworked with an embroidered spider web in the middle. Framing the napkin are tiny Pinwheel blocks donated by my friend Bonnie Bus. Why an embroidered web? Spiders were some of my Mother's totem animals and she never allowed us to squash them.

All the strip patchwork is my mother's work and I've been hoarding it since I unpacked my luggage after her funeral in 2002. Her strip quilting technique was rather casual but I will confess: just before cutting the blocks, I prayed and said, "Forgive me Mom-" as I sliced them with a rotary cutter.

The narrow paisley scrap is left over from Mom making me a long robe to take to college in 1969.

The mod print linen is from my high school graduation dress. The colors of Edmunds High School (Sumter, SC) were purple and white.

I think Mom's kintsugi quilt will eventually get another border.

Meanwhile it's Mother's Day again--always bittersweet if your own mom is no longer with you.  The picture is Mom and I in 1952. It's our passport picture, the one taken before our family left for Germany.

Happy Mother's Day to all the Moms--those still with us and those who've gone ahead.