Something to Think About

Ruangrupa: Parallels to Quiltland

First this:

And then this:

I have blocked out the quilter’s name

Ruangrupa is an Indonesian Collective that “turns social experiences into art,” as Samantha Subramanian noted in a recent article in the New York Times. The name comes from two Indonesian words: ruang, which means room, and rupa, which means form, “so the group’s mashed name prizes not product but process: the physical space in which people collaborate, things take shape and art is made” (italics are mine). As I was reading about these artists, I couldn’t help but finding all kinds of parallels to Quiltland, where we all live. Here’s some tidbits from the article, and then I’ll tie it all together (stay with me, now):

“Instead of collaborating to make art, ruangrupa propagates the art of collaboration. It’s a collective that teaches collectivity.” One school of thought says that “visual arts” can be “spectacles degraded by capitalism” but ruangrupa is devoted to the collaborative process and its “chief order of business is to offer a ruang: a place for artists to meet each other, try things and fail and ignore for a while the demands and dogmas of the world outside.”

The author described visiting the ruangrupa complex in Jakarta, and noted that there was a feeling of “slow ferment — the feeling that, as people floated through one another’s orbits, they were being creatively galvanized, working all the time toward new art and new ideas. Not grand projects necessarily…but small, rich narratives with great frequency.”

Although the paragraphs above probably need to be translated out of Artist-Speak, generally they describe ruangrupa as a place where people meet and share and create new art because of that sharing. It also reminds us that “before capitalism’s fierce individualism interfered, people worked in small, sustainable collectives not only to create art but also to grow crops or put up buildings. Large families, farms and guilds were all collectives: a village was a collective of collectives” (Subramanian). (Guilds!)

So the second image, that of a Star of Hope block, with the person who put the fabric choices together proclaiming “Designed by Me!”

Actually, no.

It started with an Ohio Star shape from Nancy Cabot, Brackman 1631b. The next derivation was 1631c and has ten different names.

Brackman 1631d, the one shown above (and from Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns, as well as Blockbase Plus software) has this heritage:

from Blockbase Software

I chose the name Star of Hope, and you can see it’s from the 1920s to the 1940s. So what’s the connection between ruangrupa and Quiltland? A single thread: collaboration, creating by working through a collective of hundreds of women, some here now, some alive in the 1940s and some stitching in the 1800s. They are our ruangrupa, and we honor them and our quilting heritage when we call the blocks by their correct names, not claiming them for our own. Every artist borrows from one another, however, it’s probably good practice to acknowledge the inspiration.

And the series of photos at the top? Aren’t workshops, quilt meetings and retreats another form of ruangrupa? Don’t we, when in small groups or in our guilds, “[work] all the time toward new art and new ideas. Not grand projects necessarily…but small, rich narratives with great frequency”? Having taught guild workshops, I always brought a few extra bits of fabric to trade, and then I noticed quilters trading across the class, too. We’ve learned to work in a collective, to create small, rich stories and we do it often. It’s the best part of this quilting world, I believe.

pattern from here

I had another small, rich narrative happen this week.

I was making these happy blocks because of another task this week: listening to the January 6th Commission Hearings and not only because this storming of the capital was on my birthday (!). America is a collective, and we’ve worked hard in groups to collaborate, those early Founding Fathers setting up our Constitution and our way of life. We let a lot of that ideal slip away from us, claiming that we alone can do it (like claiming an Ohio Star Block as your own design). But lately, with Volodymyr Zelenskyy reminding us of what democracy and courage looks like, we seem to have woken out of a deep sleep. I decided that watching the J6 Hearings was something I could do to decide for myself, to learn and listen.

Those nine-patches of blue, with sunny yellow centers, kept me grounded through the hard parts, the tense videos, the growing realization that our American collective had been ruptured. I thrive in my quilt collective, and want to thrive in my nation, too. I hope we can come together and rebuild, put together “small, rich [stories]” while we “try things and fail and ignore for a while the demands and dogmas of the world outside.”

Take a breath…and quilt ~

Notes on this post:

I wrote another time about America being a collective, borrowing words from Walt Whitman, in my post about my quilt, I Hear America Singing.

Nine-patch has to be one of my all-time favorite blocks. I’m also quite fond of this one, another traditional block from our quilt heritage.

Something to Think About

Looking Out the Window

So often I spend days cramming it all in. I read Instagram, blogs, news, newspapers, and the sides of cereal boxes if there’s nothing else. I store up lists of patterns, of quilts to make. In the window of time I have in the day, I join sewing groups, plan trips to quilt conferences. Others head out on retreats, but all of us are filling up the spaces over and over and over.

The last two days I’ve been emptying out, which often happens when you leave home and live in a hotel space and walk in a strange city and ride busses (thankfully, given the time of Covid, they are somewhat empty). That first day is like detox, and you are anxious to pull out the stitchery in your bag, or read something or sew something, anything.

Then you find this notice on a crosswalk button and you smile. You have ten places to chose from for lunch, if you keep walking. You had great cookies yesterday, so you know where to find those today.

You notice where the tracery of pulled-off ivy creates a conversation with succulents and images inked in below.

You think: this would be a great wall for a quilt photo, and you see other nooks, crannies, painted spaces, architecture, houses. You notice.

At the end of looking out of windows in hotels, busses, beauty shops (when you decide to get a haircut), your busy life hovers at the edges. It’s now looking in at you, waiting for you to come and pick it up again and make colors and fabrics dance in lines and curves and triangles.


Also coming in the next post: Block Three of the New York Beauties series, plus some insight into how I figure out some of the weirdness of FPP.

Something to Think About

Happy Mother’s Day 2022

Well, Happy Mother’s Day a bit early, actually, as tomorrow we are headed to Los Angeles to celebrate my sister’s newest grandchild. We’ll probably wear masks. Our luncheon is outside. Life goes on. Mother’s Day is a day to honor our mothers, and I’m lucky to have a great one. She turns 92 years old at the end of this month, and I am fully in Abraham Lincoln’s camp: “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”

I’ve had a great mother-in-law, and a mother-in-law that wasn’t so great — or at least that’s how I viewed things in my earlier life. Now that I’m a mother-in-law, I understand the not-so-great woman much better and hope she will forgive me for my failings. I’ve had great women who taught me how to quilt, mothering me into a craft that has sustained me for years. I owe them a great debt.

Where does the beginning start? We think this weekend of mothers and how they give birth to us and raise us. If we are fortunate we have a good mother. If life throws you a brutal curveball, you had a terrible mother. Reams of paper have been used in writing about those two polar opposites; I will not add my words to that pile today.

But somewhere we all had a beginning. Some beginnings are early, and we can locate the source and revere what gave us our start. Other beginnings come later, often after tragedy, pain, death, or divorce, and the reins of life are picked up again in a new beginning. I think it appropriate that whoever you decide is your mother — whether it be a birth mother, or an adoptive mother, someone who took you in, or someone who freed you to grow and fly — I hope that this day you are able to honor and remember them.

I also honor the mothers of all these grandchildren in our laps, a photo taken years ago, those young children giving us such delight (three are missing!). My daughter and daughters-in-law are all devoted to their families. I also love and respect my sisters, my in-laws, aunts, grandmothers. While there are always a few ringers, women who are best at a distance, I am fortunate to have such a great circle of love from women in my life, examples to follow and people from who I can pick up advice about teenagers, babies, husbands and daily living. And quilting.

I wish the same for you.
Happy Mother’s Day!

Something to Think About

Polish Pavilion: Something fun for a Wednesday

from here

The Venice Biennale, the art or architecture exhibit in Italy, is shown every other year and it just opened. So all the art world has pictures everywhere about what is being shown and who is showing it. This one, using fabric, caught my eye.

Polish-Romani multidisciplinary artist, educator, and activist Małgorzata Mirga-Tas has been selected to represent Poland at the Fifty-Ninth Venice Biennale. Her “Re-enchanting the World” will occupy the Polish Pavilion during the event’s run, from April 23 to November 27, 2022. Known for a practice comprising sculpture, painting, installation, and large-format textiles, Mirga-Tas challenges discriminatory Romani stereotypes and cultivates a positive image of Roma culture. Her work frequently incorporates clothing belonging to friends and family, which she collages into patchwork screens showing scenes of the garments’ wearers engaged in everyday life, smoking or talking or just sitting around.

Art Forum

There are several places in Venice, Italy where the art is displayed, and many nations participate. I grabbed screenshots from the YouTube video for the pictures below, because hey–it’s FABRIC; the video is a three-minute overview of the art.

from here

Britain took the National High Award (a golden lion) for their music presentation Feeling Her Way, by Sonia Boyce. I mention this also because the backdrop for her presentation are walls that look like patchwork and because the video is kind of cool to watch, to listen to.

I took a lot of photograph and digital art classes when I went to college and went through many “evaluations” or “workshops” of what we produced in the dark room/hovering over a computer. So I kind of laughed at one of the paragraphs in the Art Forum review, as it is so very “art-speak.” I propose some minor edits that can describe any of us and our quilts.

Original phrase: “unusually attractive visual form (opening the pavilion to a wider audience) combined with an original and deliberate ideological concept ‘proposing a new narrative about the constant migration of images and mutual influences between Roma, Polish and European cultures.’ ”

My Souped-Up phrase: I use an unusually attractive visual form, combined with an original and deliberate ideological concept of using various geometric and free-form shapes in order to propose a new narrative about the constant integration of images and mutual influences between traditional, modern and art cultures in my quilting.

Like that? You, too, can art-speak!

Happy Quilting!

P.S. I’ve been having some problems with some software changes by the hosting service and WordPress and I are monitoring how comments are emailed to me. If you have a moment and could help us out by leaving some sort of comment (even a word would do, but I read everything) so we can see if this is a bug, or a problem with their new forms, we’d appreciate it.

If you send me a comment, I’ll enter you in a drawing for all my old clothes, so you, too, can enter the Venice Biennale and be world-famous. I’M KIDDING. But if you could leave a comment, that would be great.

Giveaway · Heart's Garden · Something to Think About

Writing Poetry

The famous and prolific writer Joyce Carol Oates was once asked,
“What do you do when you finish a novel?”
“I’m spent,” she said. “Can’t write another word of fiction. So I turn to writing poetry.”

Late Friday night, I finished stitching on the final border of the Heart’s Garden Mystery QAL (the slice of pink in the picture below). I sunk down into my sewing room chair, took a couple of photos and went to bed.

The next morning, her quip — about poetry — began boinking around in my head. I started my day by cleaning up my sewing space: emptying bins, throwing away junk-that-accumluates, vacuuming crevices and window frames. Then my husband came in and asked me to go out to lunch with him.

We happened on our town’s Saturday morning market and bought vegetables, a perfect tray of strawberries, and lunch at the local deli.

We ate outside on the plaza, escaping before the BoJangles Man set up with his amplifier, microphone and guitar.

We walked down the pedestrian mall and shared a Crème Brûlée donut complete with a crackling sugar top.

We wandered into Mrs. Tiggywinkle’s shop, and came out with this small Elenor Easterly figurine by Lori Mitchell. I sometimes find that aimless wandering and buying tchotchkes can often help a Mood.

Back home, I finished cleaning up. But I kept thinking about poetry. I used to write poetry, and was once Poet Laureate for University of California-Riverside as an undergraduate. I do have times when I hop onto Poetry Daily and just read for a while, sometimes typing in a search keyword but other times, just reading at random. It’s also great for quilt titles, if you need them.

I think, with poetry, there is an assumed connection between the external life and the interior life–one is linked to the other in a reciprocal relationship. But I feel that as well with creative or quilting projects. How I’m feeling internally will affect what I do externally, and if I’m exhausted or unsettled or wrung out, I have to deal with this. However, sometimes that creative connection is automatic — and I have to try to shut it down to relax (like wanting to take a photo of the table because it looked like it could be a quilt design or something.)

Oates’ poetry allowed her to keep creating, yet still leave the scene of her most arduous work. One example of this that we know all too well is our past two years which has kept us immersed in a strange world; many of us turned to our creative connection to help keep ourselves sane. We have all spent our two years chipping away at the gloom while trying to stay mentally and physically healthy. More than once I’ve wondered how my grandmother got through the 1918 flu, but she didn’t write about it. We’ve obviously found tiny slivers of poems (in the abstract sense) to help us — a child’s drawing, a phone call, or just taking a walk — things that can bring us back to ourself.

So after thinking about it, here were my poems for today:

I created a clean space.
I admired the completed quilt top Heart’s Garden on the design wall.
I created a space for me to listen the jet that roared through the skies, shaking our home, its contrails like two steaming taillights.
I opened the window to feel the breeze.

I let myself rest.
I let myself empty out.

Saturday afternoon, I sat at my neatened desk and read poetry, then copied and pasted two poems in below; hope you have time to glance at them.

And…I have already found two quilts that intrigue me, here and here.

(QCR’s Posh Penelope quilt, not mine)

I took a look at the quilt I started at Road, and thought I’d like to make some more blocks. I do have one extra pattern from that day, and will send it to someone, if you are interested. To enter to win the pattern, please tell me what your “poetry” is when you are wrung out–how do you restore yourself…to yourself? How do you replenish that creative urge? How do you find your way back to creating again after a long project?

Leave me a comment below!

Happy Quilting!

Links, etc.

That’s a statue of Eliza Tibbets up there in the collage, with her skirts flowing. Tradition has it that when the first batch of navel orange seedlings arrived in the United States from Brazil, she persuaded the Plant Importation Program to give her some. They sent two, and they flourished — so the story goes — because she watered them with her dishwater. (She really didn’t look like that, but I still love that statue.)

Poetry Foundation, where you can read poems daily, and from where I pulled the following two poems.
I also like for reading poems.

from here

My mother has gone blind over the last decade, but she sewed intricate needlepoint canvases. All three of my sisters and I worry about losing our sight. After reading this poem, I should probably take up crocheting.

poem is from the September 1918 issue of Poetry, from here

This poem is haunting, reflecting our world today, but instead of pink roses, we stitch blue and yellow patchwork. Armistice Day for World War I was a month later: November 11, 1918.

Leave a comment about what your “poetry” is, to enter the giveaway. Thanks!

Heart's Garden · Something to Think About

Adding To Do Items onto a To Do List

So many organizational systems do not account for a trip to the fabric store, where immediately I have to reshuffle, re-prioritize not only my To Do List, but also my sewing room. I have five red tabs in my Get To Work Book and they read To Do 1, To Do 2 and so on to the fifth one. I have half-filled lists in my quilting planner. A lot is crossed off using my yellow highlighter, but when your organizational lists get out of control, how do you organize and get things done?

Research: I read this article which suggests compiling four different types of lists: Master, Monthly, Weekly, Daily (he describes them on the site). Lisa Jackson recommends a service called WorkFlowy under the post title of A Tool for Organizing Your Brain. Bette has declared this the Year of Focus and has organized segments of the year dedicated to her sewing goals. Sherri of A Quilting Life has a good planner for quilting goals.

And here’s my classic Goals List from over two decades ago. I should frame this–what an ambitious woman I used to be! (I’ve abandoned housework, physical fitness goals and scrapbooks — but did complete most of the quilts in the list. I also got the children raised.)

As we’ve noticed, our lives have shifted underneath us. We kept going, but perhaps our outlook changed, our friendships dwindled or expanded. I liked Brad Stulberg’s article, where he writes:

“Many of us felt seen when, last April, the organizational psychologist Adam Grant wrote of languishing, “a sense of stagnation and emptiness … as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield.” There was a relief in having a name for our experience, and a kind of solace in realizing that we weren’t alone in experiencing it. But now, nearly a year later, as with just about everything related to Covid, we’re sick of languishing too.”

Perhaps that’s why when I went to QuiltCon in February, I tried to find things to give me a spark. I loved my two classes from Cassandra Beaver and Verushka Zarate, and enjoyed the lectures. It was fun to see people again in the wild, but there were some interesting moments of confusion in identifying people because we were all masked. And perhaps that’s why — when I went into a real-live quilt shop in Phoenix, and maybe because they gave QuiltCon-ers 20% off, I snapped up a range of beautiful colored semi-solids. Some one in line asked me what I was going to do with all those, all I say was, “We’re supposed to have a plan before we buy?”

Perhaps I was exhibiting Stulberg’s mention of “behavioral activation…based on the idea that action can create motivation, especially when you’re in a rut.” He writes:

“The challenge with behavioral activation is mustering enough energy to start acting on the things that matter to you: Make that phone call, schedule that walk with friends, write that email, get off social media and start on the creative project you’ve been procrastinating on. This may sound simple, but when you are languishing, simple does not mean easy.

“But a mind-set shift can be a powerful tool. When you feel down, unmotivated or apathetic, you can give yourself permission to feel those feelings but not dwell on them or take them as destiny. Instead, you shift the focus to getting started with what you have planned in front of you, taking your feelings, whatever they may be, along for the ride. Doing so gives you the best chance at improving your mood.”

So To Do lists can sometimes become exercises in bloodless planning, an attempt to get organized (which is why my planner often has blank spaces). But walking into a fabric shop now becomes behavioral activation. That, we can all get behind.

So my To Do lists are more random. This was going to be my year of Focus, a la Bette, but then I started the Heart’s Garden Mystery Quilt-A-Long, which I had all sketched out. And which I totally scrubbed after Step One and rebuilt it anew. Which was no where on my Yearly To Do List. Here’s my first sketch:

Yep. Pretty hideous, excepting those EPP circles. I even got the birds around the border, but they look more like quail, than sparrows or finches. I’ve been working on writing up Part 3, which is coming next week, and part of that is making birds over and over, as I perfect the pattern:

blue and yellow blocks, for Ukraine

So I write — and cross off — “sparrows” on my To Do List, and wander back into the sewing room for some pleasant Behavioral Activation. I wish the same for you.

Happy Quilting!