Friday, July 25, 2008

Mazloomi means love

A friend knows my love of quilts and all things fabric. She pointed out that Ohio Magazine, one of the first markets I sold writing to and a magazine from my home state, offers an article about quilts in its current issue. Of course I checked out the online copy and there it was: A Stitch in Time by Jennifer Haliburton. But better than any old article about quilting is one that features Dr. Carolyn L. Mazloomi and her legion of African American quilters.

Subversive stitchers indeed! Subversive, subverted, enslaved, impoverished, all part of the history. But also talented, creative, joyful, and Mazloomi has made it her life's work to collect the stories, document the history, and make sure we all understand the facts of not only being African American -- but also what it means to be a woman.

On Mazloomi's website she writes, "Quilts are metaphors for love and family...." I say Mazloomi and love are synonymous. She makes quilts and chooses quilts for her books, exhibits and collection that as she explains, "...are visual stories layered with historical, political and social conditions that call attention to the circumstances of people around the world, especially women. My intention is to invite the viewer into contemplation, raise awareness and feel the spirit of the cloth."

The article in Ohio Magazine came about to herald the exhibit
“Quilting African-American Women’s History: Our Challenges, Creativity and Champions,” that will continue now through Nov. 8 at the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce, Ohio.

The work by one of my favorite quilters, regardless of race, gender, religion or politics, Valerie C. White is included in this exhibit and her quilt The Guardian is featured on the exhibit program.

For anyone not familiar with Mazloomi, please note that she answers to a variety of titles including: author, curator, artist and historian. Her work resides in numerous museums and corporate collections, such as the Wadsworth Museum, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, American Museum of Design, Bell Telephone, the Cleveland Clinic, and Exxon. She has made the rounds of major television programs including the morning talk shows and she has been the subject of several documentaries.

Mazloomi's quilt "A Peacekeeper's Gift" is featured with this blog. She certainly knows how to tell a story in cloth.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Remembering through cloth

I remember cuddling on cold winter nights beneath Mom's scrap quilts and spending time picking out the fabrics so familiar since Mom made most of our clothing. Scraps from her summer dresses, my 4-H projects, my school dress, blouse, grandma's dresses, they were all in that quilt. She filled in with scraps she inherited from her mother and she would tell me the stories behind those. It seemed like I never slept alone when I slept beneath all of those memories.

I see that some quilters have turned scrap quilts into memory quilts and have a busy business. They use photos, documents, favorite poems, and most of all fabric from the clothes of the one to be remembered. I can see how that would make a unique and valuable heirloom.

A special group has been formed to make quilts to memorialize our men and women killed in action in Iraq. Of course there are also the 9-11 Memorial quilts, the huge AIDs quilt and the list goes on and on.

Most of these are made using traditional patterns, patchwork, nine patch, or crazy quilt patterns for their basis. A few quilt artists have made memorial quilts that build upon symbolism and special memories which translate into beautiful and bittersweet pieces of art. Here's one example.

Other memory quilts may depict a vacation, a moment in time and are often landscape or based upon photos.

A look at the photo of Texture of Memory posted on Etsy, memory quilts take on many faces.