Anne was a nurse, and worked as one of the first airline stewardesses, back when uniformed nurses did the job (really, it's true: the airlines wanted to make people feel safe, although if I was doing something for the first time, and was told it required a nurse to be present, I don't know if I'd find that reassuring).She later worked on a cruise line. Her estate sale was full of textile souvenirs from around the world. I added sections of a cloth globe, and sewed it all onto a dark blue KLM Dutch airlines blanket (which Anne must have taken home from work).
I had great fun doing this - sewing an Egyptian camel under an apron labeled Madeira, juxtapositioning an English flag near a South American mola, having an Egyptian figure point the way for a variety of dolls and international textile figures.
But this could also be titled "A Bad Use of Great Materials", because, let's face it, the composition is awful, I should have edited down the materials available...I want to go back and deconstruct the whole thing, then put it back together with the skills and understanding that I've gained by making pieces like this.
I've read that in China, at that site where they've found so many buried clay figures - soldiers all in different poses, horses, archers - that the people in charge have left a great deal of the site unexplored. They want to wait until new technology becomes available, so they can do the best possible job of preserving these artistic masterpieces.
To a much lesser degree, I face the same quandary: when I find incredible old handmade lace, should I save it until my skills improve? Should I really cut apart this 90 year old dress? My cousin is a costume designer, who knows a great deal more than I do, so if there's any question that I might possibly be vandalizing a treasure, I ask her first. Almost always my materials are stained, too weak to be saved, or torn - not wanted by museums.
But I've found that after careful planning, I just have to make that first cut. If I'm too timid, too in awe of the material, the result will be rubbish.
Will I cut this one up and re-do it? Only if I'm magically granted another lifetime.
Yes, there are a few more biography quilts, but we'll just chalk those up to early mistakes and leave them in storage,OK? This is the last one worth sharing: Frances. My sister, Claire, was in charge of the church yard sale up in her small Maine town, and I was visiting. Claire told me that the pieces belonged to one of their oldest members, Frances. No more information, so I improvised.
Back home in NJ, I used woolen scraps to create a dark patchwork background, then arranged the white pieces to form a vaguely female figure. It was all pinned in place on my work wall when my son and his friend (then teenagers) came galloping through. I stopped them to ask their thoughts: Could they tell what is was? Was this too literal? My son has always been a great critic, and he said he could see a female figure, and thought the small closed purse represented her genitalia. And his friend? "uh...we don't talk about stuff like that at my house.."