My husband Jim, my son Dan, and I enjoyed a brief visit from our friend, Tony Kushner last week. Tony was here to speak to Jim's class at UNC-G and for a public event in the evening. Jim asked questions and Tony talked about a host of interesting things including President-elect Obama, gay rights, and being a writer. He said writing was not taking dictation from your head. He spoke about the importance of just getting your hand moving across the paper, getting something down that you could then begin to rework, edit, and revise. Not only is he an incredibly wise man, he is also one of the kindest it's ever been my joy to know.
I could really relate to his creative process. I've discovered that just getting myself moving on something in the studio is vital. Even if it's just mending or straightening things up, just being in a place with the raw materials gets things moving for me creatively. For pictures and another perspective, go to Dan's blog for more on Tony's visit.
This quilt is called "Strange Bedfellows" because it was actually two sets of blocks from two different workshops that I sewed together and then cut through. The black and white blocks were from a wonderful workshop with Pauline Burbidge, the British quilt artist, and the others were from a Nancy Crow workshop. It was part of a Quilt/Surface Design Symposium Invitational in Columbus, Ohio and was also exhibited in Indiana at Wabash College and at the Crawfordsville Public Library.
I'm a list maker and a worrier. In these troubled times, I almost need to make a list of all the things I should be worrying about to make sure I don't short change anything. The economy is tanking, the polls in the presidential race are all over the place, we keep sending our young people to war for causes that seem remote ( but mostly senseless) at best, retirement seems a faraway fantasy, and on and on. At some point last summer, I decided to adopt a philosophy of life that got me through raising two children who were only 19 months apart: take it one day at a time. I try not to borrow trouble. I do what I can each day. I try to keep our family finances in order. I voted early in person. I go to work and try to do the very best I can by my students and staff every hour that I'm there. I clean a little each weekend at home and try to stay ahead of the laundry mountain in the evenings. I'm also reading much, much more than usual and besides just the enjoyment factor, I know why. I can truly lose myself in a book. Outside worries do not intrude on my mind when I'm reading. Besides improving my mind, I'm also protecting it from the ravages of worry. Good stuff all around. This weekend, I must get back in the studio and begin work on Christmas gifts, but that, too, affords a measure of respite from anxiety. Idle hands are the devil's playground and in my life, that devil is anxiety. You won't see me empty-handed these days.
I've just finished a wall quilt for Anna that commemorates her participation in the Boston 3-Day Walk for a Cure next week. It's called "Walking for Peanuts" since she's dedicated her walk to her Grandma Mae "Peanuts" Fisher, a breast cancer survivor. Dan was kind enough to take some pictures for me so I could post it right away. I started with the design from an overly large sweatshirt I bought in Boston. Adding pink fabric in a crazy piecing manner around the design, I then embroidered over the seams and did some embellishment with beads, buttons, ribbon, and lace. Next to quilting, embroidery is one of my favorite things to do. I completed most of the embroidery on the screened porch, my favorite sanctuary. I'm so proud of Anna for doing this walk. I really admire her dedication to raising money and training for the walk itself.
This is Dan's new T-shirt quilt. I brought it for Show and Tell at the Piedmont Quilters' Guild meeting last week, but they were underwhelmed. As T-shirt quilts go, I think it's very unique. I love the border and I think the piecing that's worked in with the designs really compliments them. It's hand quilted using a Sashiko design of interlocking circles called the seven treasures of Buddha. Very appropriate, I thought, for Dan. Here's a detail. Photographs by Danny Fisher.
Yesterday was my birthday. Jim got up early and took me to the Farmers' Market and then to breakfast at Waffle House. The rest of the day was spent working on contributions for the boutique at the Piedmont Quilter's Guild annual quilt show. Later in the day, the boys took me to the O. Henry Hotel here in Greensboro for afternoon tea in the lobby. I make my tea a little stronger, but it was beautifully presented and the scones, short bread, and cucumber sandwiches were first rate. The lobby is decorated with the text from "The Gift of the Magi," one of my very favorite O. Henry stories. A lovely way to spend my natal day all in all. Photo by Danny Fisher.
This quilt was actually made from constructed fabric scraps that I had left over from a Nancy Crow class at Arrowmont. The title comes from the poem that the character, Marianna, played by Alfre Woodard, reads in the film of Whitney Otto's novel, "How to Make an American Quilt." Here's the poem:
Young lovers seek perfection.
Old lovers learn the art of sewing shreds together
and of seeing beauty in a multiplicity of patches.
This quilt is owned by my brother, Dr. Daniel C. Warner II.
This is the first art quilt that I made. It's called "Danny's Left Arm" and came about because of a terrible accident that befell Dan when he was in third grade. I was inspired by a quote from Judy Chicago: “The spirit of art is always affirming, even when it deals with painful realities, for the act of making an image transforms that pain into something beautiful.” I began making sketches for it while he was still in the hospital. It was my attempt to literally sew him back together. I traced around Anna's arm for the image and researched suture stitches and microscopic images of nerve cells to come up with the embroidery designs. The words are from the surgical report following Dan's second and successful surgery at the Hand Center in Indianapolis. Trying to make something beautiful out of something terrible.
This is my lucky quilt, "Improvizo or Jimmy's Quilt." It was juried into Houston and Paducah. It's on the cover of Jim's book about the commedia dell'arte and was in the Quilt Art Engagement Calendar. I'll have to upload a detailed photo of the embroidery and beading in the motley because it's tough to see in this picture.
Dear Senator Obama, First of all, you have my vote. You've had it since I first sent you fifty dollars in the spring of 2007. I'd love to see a woman president, but I felt that Hillary had to play too much ball with the old boys' network to really be a champion of women--but I digress. The reason I'm writing you is that I am worried about all the press about women my age who supported Hillary not wanting to vote for you. I can't imagine that any woman who's a wife and mother or grandmother would want this terrible war to continue and McCain certainly seems to be the poster boy for continuing to drain our country's resources, young lives, and, and honor in the world by continuing it. What if they just don't vote, though? You can't let that happen.
So what I have to offer you are some suggestions for connecting with us women and assuring us that you represent our concerns, too. We know you can draw a crowd. Lay off the big venue events now. It's summer time and the kids are out of school. You need to go places where women with children and grandchildren go. Go to grocery stores and farmers' markets. All of us are trying to stretch our dollars there--buying meat that gets marked down because the expiration date is approaching, only buying meat that's on special, shopping at discount grocery stores and local farmers' markets. Go to the doctor's offices and clinics to see the realities of people who have no health insurance. Go to swimming pools, story hour at the public library, play grounds and parks. And when school starts in the fall, go to some faculty meetings and visit some classrooms, because women are a great force in the field of education and No Child Left Behind is poisoning our schools and defeating our teachers and administrators.
The most important thing is to talk with us. We are worried about our aging parents, helping our children pay off massive student loans and find good jobs, paying for health care. We despair of ever retiring in the current economic climate. We hate this war for the lost and wounded lives it has cost of Americans and Iraqis, for the crippling blow to our country's finances, and for the loss of respect that our country has suffered in the world. We are mortified by the fact that our country's leader doesn't seem to have a clue and that our struggles are not even noticed by those in power. Most of us have long since given up on the American dream. Our dream now is to be able to pay all the bills and have a little left over to save each month.
Anna Quindlen in right when she says, "Women carry this country in their arms." Acknowledge that in your speeches. Talk about your mother and grandmothers and that wonderful strong woman you are married to. We know their lives instinctively, but we need to know that you know ours, too. Don't let the Republicans pull you into a "politics as usual" kind of race. Sometimes I think if you just ignore John McCain, he will self-destruct. We like the fact that you haven't taken money from the fat cats. We admire that you are trying to run a different kind of campaign without all the ugliness. We love that you are giving us back some hope. Women work hard without complaint most of the time, but hope makes that work rise above drudgery.
In closing let me say that we all need you to win. You will have a terrible job to do as president, but we will all want you to make things better and we'll do whatever you need us to to make things better. Women will help you with that hard work. Don't forget us.
Inspiration provided by Anna Quindlen's essay in Newsweek June, 23, 2008. http://services.newsweek.com//search.aspx?offset=0&pageSize=10&sortField=pubdatetime&sortDirection=descending&mode=summary&q=anna+quindlen&site-search-submit.x=49&site-search-submit.y=8&site-search-submit=0