Saturday, August 8, 2009

Children & Quilts

As I was investigating the other day, I came upon another blog asking it's readers to talk about what it was that inspired them to become artists. I immediately thought of my Mother, who really instilled in me a love for beauty and art. But when I thought more, I realized that there was another factor.

For six years I volunteered at my children's elementary school, teaching kids how to do what I do. The art teacher, Robin, had a few free periods that she was willing to give up and work with me in creating community quilts. We created six cooperative quilts and several individual ones as well.
The children started by taking a theme and writing about it. They took their discoveries and drew pictures. Often they had to work with one or more other children on a single drawing. Once the drawings were finished by the children, I would alter them slightly to allow for areas of color, and I drew over them with a bold marker. Using tissue paper they would trace the area they were doing, choose a fabric, adhere it to 'Wonder Under' fusible web, pin their tissue pattern and cut. The finished shape would be ironed on to the sandwich of background fabric, batting and backing fabric. It would then be sewn with a satin stitch to cover the rough edges.
Each child got to experience every facet of the process. We had two donated sewing machines and Robin and I often had a student teacher helper as well. The children learned about distance and foreshortening, contrast, use of color in perspective, as well as how to choose fabric colors and designs, how to sew with a machine, how to iron and bead and cut fabric. The hardest for them was learning to hand sew. But throughout the process I seemed to learn more from them than they did from me. I learned to be excited about the prospect of creating something. I learned to pare it back and see things simply. I learned to take chances. And I learned that I love to teach kids what I do.
Amongst our quilts were as seen above, "The United States of America", in which each child had to discover three things about a state and illustrate them, "The Rhode Island Quilt", in which they were discovering things about their own state and "The Martin Luther King Jr, I Have A Dream" quilt. This quilt was created by making several small quilts and hand sewing them together. My second photo is a shot of one of those panels. It was a drawing by two students who interpreted Dr. King's message as a world where there would be no need for jails and consumerism would reflect an ecological mindset. Below you can see the shape of Rhode Island is the border of the quilt. We made two RI quilts, the one below to keep in the school library and a smaller one which some of the children took to a school in the rain forest on their summer vacation.
All in all, my experience doing this truly expanded my love of quilting. I took so much from it and I miss it. Robin, my teacher collaborator, retired and due to budget cutting the school department decided to cut the art program in half. There were no longer any free periods for us to sew. What an awful shame it is that art is not valued along with other disciplines. Artists are our visionaries, and our dreamers. There is not one thing that we touch that has not been designed at some point by an artist, from our clothes to our homes and everything in between. The excitement and joy that it brings should not be taken lightly. It's necessary to the development of every well balanced child and adult. I keep a few pictures of my time here always in my studio to remind me to always find the child inside and then have lots of fun!

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