Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Adventurous Life of an Art Quilter???

Unless you are a quilter, you may be asking yourself how a person can actually use the words "quilt" and "adventure" in the same sentence? Yes, quilters bear the burden of being stereotyped as little old ladies who sit home alone with their sewing and their cats. But things have changed in the last century or so. OK, so I do have a cat, well three actually, but I don't sit home alone. I like adventure. Perhaps that's an odd admission from a person who is too afraid to ride a roller coaster, bungee jump, water ski, snow ski... well you get the picture. But I do like a challenge, so in the winter of 2006 I signed up to go on a quilting cruise to the Caribbean. I had never been on a cruise, and never been to the Caribbean.. On top of that, I went by myself...alone! My friends and family were aghast.I flew down to Florida and spent a few days in Daytona with my son who drove me to Miami in his little sports car. I had a stylish ride. What a great start to my adventure. I checked into my room on board the ship and met the roommate that the cruise company had arranged for me. She turned out to be a very nice woman from California. So far, so good. Then we had to go on deck for a life boat drill, complete with life vests, life boats and whistles we could use should the ship go down in the dark. Gulp!! I'm starting to wish I hadn't seen that movie, The Titanic. However, a few drinks and a trip through the 40 foot buffet line took the edge off my anxiety. The cruise was sponsored by Quilting Arts Magazine so I was looking forward to meeting Pokey Bolton, (who I later learned is a descendant of Pocahontas, hence the nickname Pokey), as well as the instructors hired to provide us with quilting seminars during the voyage: Leslie Riley, Laura Cater-Woods and Arlene Blackburn.

Lesley Riley

I am not a person that is easily impressed by fame. I think I could sit next to a celebrity on an airplane and hardly give them a second glance, unless perhaps there was smoke emanating from their shoe or lap. After all, they are just people like the rest of us and they look a whole lot smaller in real life. But I was going to get to meet Lesley Riley and Laura Cater-Woods for cripes sake! One of Laura's art quilts was on the cover of the very first Quilting Arts magazine I ever saw, and I was totally in awe of her work. I can say that I was not ashamed to ask her for an autograph, and I was thrilled to bits when she commented on the quality of my first free motion quilting. After all, if Laura saw some potential in me, then maybe I could master this difficult technique. I was so celebrity struck that I forgot to take her picture.

Arlene Blackburn

I loved how the trip was organized. The two days at sea, were spent in the classroom with the other quilters taking seminars from world class instructors. The other days were filled with the adventure of five different ports of call. I should mention that one of the items on my personal bucket list was to climb on Mayan Ruins somewhere in the world, and low and behold, this was one of the options available on the cruise. But let me back up for a moment. The day before visiting the ruins in Mexico, we were scheduled to drop anchor in The Cayman Islands, so I signed up to go on a snorkeling "adventure." Now, although I had a roommate, we were not really interested in the same things, so I went on all the day trips by myself. I had plenty of experience with snorkeling as a kid. Our neighbors had a swimming pool and we snorkeled practically every day of the summer. So this was going to be a piece of cake, right? Well, I have to say, as I am sitting on the deck of the boat, listening to the safety sermon about how to wear your gear, and not to worry about sharks because there aren't any around here (right? don't they watch those National Geographic specials?), I started to have a tiny bit of anxiety. After all, no one in the whole world knew I was sitting on this boat, except perhaps the folks that took my reservation back on the ship, and I figured they were pretty busy people who might not notice I hadn't make it back until it was way too late. And then there was that movie I watched, about those two snorkelers who were left behind and died in Australia... never seen again. Well a true adventurer wouldn't give it a second thought, and besides I paid a ton of money for this cruise, so by god I was jumping in.

Yipes! Although I had great memories of snorkeling as a kid, I had completely forgotten about nearly drowning in the neighbor's pool. That little memory came flooding back about the time I hit the water. I was having difficulty breathing and kept swallowing copious amounts of sea water. I should mention that I had purchased a disposable underwater camera for the trip in order to capture a few Jacques Cousteau moments for posterity, and was determined to take some photos. Too afraid to stick my head in the water for more that two seconds at a time, I just held the camera below me and clicked the shutter. Upon development of the film, I was pleased to note that in addition to my feet, I did get several shots of fish and other sea life.

Now fast forward to the next day. I am sitting on the bus with nine other people on the way to the Mayan ruins, and now have a terrible sore throat and a fever, obviously the result of ingesting polluted salt water. But there is no way I am missing out on climbing those ruins. Our guide pulls out box lunches that contain tuna fish sandwiches and tells us to hold on to them until we reach the ruins, about an hour away. Now I used to be a microbiology technician, and I am already questioning the advisability of serving tuna fish in the tropics, but sit, as directed, with the sandwhich on my lap for an hour. As we exit the bus, we are told that there will be a lovely place to picnic at the end of the tour, again about another hour from now. I begin to calculate the time it takes for bacteria to reproduce and figure in another hour I could be vomiting, too. I decide to eat and walk at the same time. I am proud that I read the guide books and have liberally coated myself with heavy duty bug spray. No one else seems concerned about the mosquitoes. After I inform them that this is malaria country, I make several friends who want to share my heavy duty Deet. I am truly in awe of the ruins and am photographing them from every possible angle to get the best shot. Then I remember another Nat Geo episode about the crafty Fer de Lance snake that inhabits this area. I did not notice a first aid kit on the van. I begin to walk gingerly, but made it safely to the picnic grounds, which was on the bank of a breathtaking lagoon. I notice that no one is eating their picnic, apparently I am not alone in my opinion of the tuna fish. I am very glad to see a restroom, altough it is merely a hole in the ground with no doors. The roof is covered with palm fronds. The women take turns making sure the coast is clear from the males in our party. When it's my turn, I start thinking about how those Fer de Lance snakes are reputed to hide in palm frond ceilings, then drop down onto their unsuspecting victims. Death come rapidly. In my hast, I manage to drop my brand new, and expensive sun glasses down the hole. I decide to view this loss as a sacrifice to the gods that keep me safe from snake bite. Despite what you may think, I had the trip of a lifetime. And you thought quilting was for little old ladies!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Coffee with Kathy

Homeplace II: Cattle Barn, Lancaster, Ohio 2010

This has been a very productive year for me. I have clocked in a record number of studio hours, and after finishing my Quilt National 2011 entry in August, I was just plain pooped. Time for drastic measures. I instituted a self-proclaimed sabbatical from quilting for the entire month of September and did a number of things to rejuvenate myself and keep my artistic mojo working. I went to the zoo, got addicted to The Clothes Mentor resale shop and bought a whole new fall wardrobe, visited some galleries and went bicycling and hiking. I also decided to visit one of my old friends from the days when I lived in a log cabin in Circleville,Ohio ... Kathy. We practically raised each other's kids. I used to knock on her door and she would put on a pot of coffee and we would spend the afternoon chatting.

Slate Run Historical Farm , Canal Winchester, Ohio

It was a beautiful day last Sunday, and I hadn't seen Kath for years, so on a whim, I stopped by and sure enough she put on the coffee and we got caught up. It got me to thinking about the time in my life when we were neighbors, and how I got started quilting. Well, I missed out on the hippie movement, except as a spectator, my mom would have had a fit. But, the back to the land movement in the 70's was just my style. I lived in a log cabin, gardened, canned, made homemade bread and noodles, even made sauerkraut, although I can't stand the stuff. Just before the birth of my first child I taught myself to quilt with the help of one of the few quilting books that was around then, The Perfect Patchwork Primer by Beth Gutcheon. I still have the well loved and well worn, black and white book.

Alphabet Sampler Comforter, 1979
Not long after that I decided to join a quilt guild and worked up all my courage to attend a meeting without knowing a soul. The mean age of the group was probably somewhere around sixty, so I immediately gravitated to the two other twenty-something members and we became fast friends. About the same time I started volunteering at Slate Run Historical Farm and talked my two friends in joining too. The farm is a working farm frozen in the 1880's time period, with volunteers wearing appropriate historical attire and interpreting history in first person. I was in seventh heaven. I got to wear long dresses and quilt all day long, using the treadle sewing machine to piece the tops.

Slate Run Historical Farm
Pretty soon we had a quilting revolution in full swing. We were making and hand quilting tops, including several friendship quilts, sewing a pretend wedding quilt and putting on a quilt show. We started having quilting bees, often after work, with both guys and girls in attendance. It was probably the first time in history that beer has ever been served at a quilting bee.

Little Red School House Baby Quilt 1979
There is one bee that is forever etched in my mind. My two friends and I were attempting to quilt on a frame in my dining room, but our kids were driving us crazy. Every few minutes some child was crying or whining or having a runny nose. Then, after a while we noticed that we were just getting a ton of work done with no interruptions. UH OH! When six kids under the age of five are quiet for any length of time, something is wrong. I walked around the corner to the living room and stopped breathing for a moment. My son and his cohorts had taken the fireplace shovel and scooped about an inch of ashes from the fireplace, that contained a live fire I might add, onto my coffee table and were running their matchbox cars on the roads they had made in the ashes. As a good mother, (really? you didn't even notice they were playing with a live fire) I felt the need to provide a terse reprimand without laughing. However, as I looked at the children, it was hard to tell who was who, and I burst out laughing. Their faces were completely covered with ashes, except for white circles around their eyes. They looked like six little raccoons! I laughed until the tears streamed down my face, so I'm not sure if they ever knew they were in trouble. We were extremely lucky that no child was harmed in the making of that quilt, and that I still had a house to call home. What one does in the name of art!

Slate Run Historical Farm
It's been a long time since those days. My baby is now 31 years old. I still have my children's baby quilts, and although I have given up traditional quilting, I still remember my quilting roots and try to honor them. If you have a moment, pull out some of your first work and see just how far you have come. And, don't forget to visit one of your friend's this week, she might just fix you a cup of coffee and you can reminisce about the good ol' days.