Do More

I’m in this magazine, Uppercase #33. My part is small, but you can see my work at the bottom left of the fifth page of Heat and Fire, which begins on page 85. The preview of the magazine is here.

My work has been published before and each time is as exciting as the last. What is it about seeing your work in print that just validates the whole process?

I remember spending my afternoons oil painting at the age of 22. I was in “beauty” school at the time (hated being a hairdresser and left after 2 years to try something new) and I had this wonderful lady who came to me – probably because she felt sorry for me. To say I was the least talented member of my class is a gross understatement. I was the pits.

She did, however, appreciate my art. My teacher made a big deal of me because I could draw a rose, petals and all, and make it look realistic. I just couldn’t do hair. At all. But my dear lady bought my painting ………. I was beyond pleased.

I began working with fabric at the age of 13, learning to do batik and most particularly learning that getting the wax out of cotton was the hardest thing I would ever do.  I have no idea how many times I ironed my cloth between sheets of newsprint to remove that wax. It didn’t work because my fabric still retained the feel of it. But I kept going.

I began quilting in 1987, as I was no longer working all day long, but giving psychic readings at night in my home and in groups. I had free time. Since the 9 to 5 was gone, I was adrift. I had my son to take to school and pick up, play Sorry with after school while I cooked supper and yet – I needed to fill more time.

I had no intention of doing anything other than making bed quilts when I started. My grandmothers, Hattie and Nannie, lived with us for a time and they both pieced quilts. I sat with them one day and they gave me squares to sew together. My first thought was “That’s great but I’m not doing it.” Grandma Nannie had taught me to embroider as a child too and that was something I could see myself doing, but later, when life wasn’t quite so exciting as it was when I was 13.

I didn’t begin my quilting career with any idea of selling my work. But as luck would have it, my clients would see my work when they came for readings. In the later years, the readings were given in my sewing room, it being the only private space in the house. And they wanted my quilts. I sold several to my clients just because they saw them and loved them.

After participating in show after show in Michigan (mind-numbing) and selling quite a few pieces, my husband retired and we moved to Prince Edward Island.

We had been there only a week or so and my son and I went to Charlottetown, the capital which was around 45 miles from our home. We walked up Great George Street and went into a lovely art gallery with pumpkin pine floors and brick walls. When asked if we could be helped, I explained that I was just checking out the competition. The gallery owner wanted to know what I did and I told her quilts – at the time I called them art quilts. She wanted them. When I told her I was also an antique quilt dealer, she wanted them too.

I had to do some bargaining, to put it mildly. Galleries take percentages in order to make a living. I needed to recoup what I had in my antique quilts as well as make a profit. My art quilts were less of an issue, but I knew what I wanted for them. To make a long story short, I sold dozens of antique quilts and all of my art quilts through that gallery. Exciting times.

Life intervened. I couldn’t create on the Island. I wasn’t in the mood. Being there only put me in the mood to leave there. Quickly. ASAP. Without fail. I spent years getting off the Island. I got off.

I went back to quilting the moment I unpacked all the boxes and stocked the sewing room. This was the little room I now sleep in, not the big room where I work now. I not only made 4 bed quilts, I quilted them by machine too. Let me just say that quilting a king size quilt on a home sewing machine, even if it is a Bernina, is something I never want to do again. Holding all that weight while trying to move it around under the needle – no wonder all my other quilts were hand quilted! Much easier if more time-consuming.

My husband’s health failed and yet again I couldn’t create. I was too busy, my mind wasn’t in the right place. Nobody would want black and gray quilts, which is how I felt. I started knitting. I wasn’t good at it. I couldn’t do a ribbing to begin a sweater. My stitches were off and I started over a thousand times. I didn’t know how to fix a dropped stitch. I didn’t know how to do anything except cast on and cast off. But I learned. Now, although I still can’t do heavily charted cable or lace patterns (and less do I want to) I can do most things. I can make socks, sweaters, shawls …….. I can do lots of things. And then ……..

After my husband died, it took me at least 6 months to come out from under the fog. My son casually mentioned that he was getting tired of eating reheated frozen things and he was also tired of being the one to do the reheating. Hmm. Time to wake up, start cooking, start living.

One day we were sitting at the dining room table and I said to him “I want to start dyeing fabric again.” His eyes lit up and he said that was a fantastic idea.

I knew I would have to do it in my kitchen because there is no way I’m going to the basement to do this. I started getting more dyes, although I did have quite a few. I started dyeing. Since then, I only recently bought commercially printed quilt fabric. It’s time. But I still love my hand dyed fabrics. I mean why not? This isn’t a startlingly unique piece, but when you think that every last tiny little piece of fabric was colored by me – it is.

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And so I got published again. I am once again validated. I know that whatever I do, although I am no longer pursuing a “selling” career as an artist, I can pursue an exploration of color, a life filled with discovery, a satisfied, mesmerizing life. My true home.

 

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Hi Jennifer! Love this piece!! I’m a BIG Uppercase fan and the photo of your work jumped out at me. 🙂
    Laurie

    Like

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