A long time ago (it seems) my son (just out of college and only 22) got a job out in California and I started going out and visiting him once a year. We went out in February of each of the first few years just to get away from Maine. Winter lasts so long here. That worked out okay and we visited Golden Gate Park, Japanese Garden and a few of the art museums. Then I discovered the Pacific International and, well, winter wasn't so bad---we could visit in October.
The first October was unbelieveable. The quilts had colors. New England quilts were brown, navy, burgundy and green. The quilts at the show were orange, yellow, turquoise and the green--well the green was lime. And the quilts weren't made to go on beds. They were "ART". I was in heaven. I shopped and bought a whole suitcase of colorful fabrics. I took pictures--rolls and rolls of pictures. I was just positive that when I returned home like Marco Polo, the members of my quilt group would be thrilled to see these wonders.
Was I ever WRONG.
They looked at the pictures. But they weren't interested. They looked at the fabric and said it hurt their eyes. Was it me? Was I wrong about all of this being fabulous? So the fabric went into the fabric closet next to the browns, dark blue, burgundy and hunter green and I continued to make traditional stuff. But I always looked at my bright colors and hoped I would someday use them.
The next October I signed up for classes in California. Bought more fabric and took more pictures. And I started making things with this new fabric. And I showed it at "Show and Tell". Now we always clap when someone shows something at our quilt meeting. Even if we don't like it. So when I showed my first bright quilt I expected to hear something--but my quilt was met with silence. I was hurt--for awhile and then I just said who cares?
I made more "Loud Things" (their term) and noticed a few fellow members asking me about the fabric and the wonders of the outside world. They wanted to know why the fabric wasn't for sale in our part of Maine. I wondered about that too.
I continued to travel to California every October until September 11th. We didn't go that year or the next. By that time, I had a closet full of bright colors and was ready to move the New England Darks into sterlite containers. Our chapter had sponsored the state quilt show and I had broken with tradition and asked for a corner of the show for a display of chicken quilts. My own was a rooster in drag. Hand appliqued because I didn't know any other way to do it (2000) and in orange and turquoise. I was out of the closet and not going back. I was the room monitor for David Walker all weekend.
In 2001, I met Susan Carlson and made a fish and a butterfly with glue and scissors and in November my husband bought me a Bernina. I stopped bringing anything to show and tell. I started going to the World Textile and Quilt shows in North Carolina and taking classes. Melody Johnson taught me to fuse. In Maine, I dye painted with Hollis Chatelain and we became friends. On my next visit to North Carolina my husband and I had dinner with Hollis and her family and I got to tour her studio and see how "it's done". I had not yet found my style. There was no instant recognition that a quilt was my work. I was still trying every style on to see what fit. What felt right. And then I saw Melody Johnson's working in series class.
I tried it. Forced myself to work in a series. A limited palette. Limited content. And by the third piece I had found myself and others had found me. All the pieces sold quickly and you'll never guess who bought them. My quilt group members.
I continue to work with only a limited palette of fabric--only dots. With a sprinkle of stripes for borders mostly. Georgia O'Keefe's "One Hundred Flowers" keeps me focused on the big picture. Pun intended.
I returned to California in October of 2004 and it was as wonderful as ever. And I felt right at home. I took few pictures as I already "knew" the lessons most quilts could teach. But as usual, there were some that caused me to stop and----you know what I mean. Pamela Allen, Jan Clark, Betsy Lacy, Debra Danka, Keiko Ohno to name a few. For reasons more personal than quilt related I did not go to California this October. In a blog, Crazy for Fiber, I read what this quilter had to report from the PIQF in 2005 and looked at her pictures. Now I wish I had gone. Next year.
I know pictures would help. Visual aids are always important to a presentation--usually the best part. I have a digital camera and a liberal arts education--I should be able to figure the posting of pictures out. It's just cut and paste. Right???