Friday, December 28, 2007

The Comforts of Real Quilts Made by Real People

Whenever I'm at Mary Ann and Jackie's, I snuggle under this quilt made by Mary Ann's mom, Margaurite Anderson Cooper. It's a simple design of teal and white, but striking in its geometry of curves and lines.

One of the things I love about this quilt is that it was made by a real woman making quilts for practical purposes, instead of a textile artist creating something that will never grace a bed, never warm a body, never comfort a sick loved one. Generations of women have been expressing themselves creatively through quilts, but it seems we've taken it to a dimension beyond "quilt" these days.

I certainly appreciate the endeavors of those who use fabric as their palette to create art, and have featured some of them here. But, I love a quilt made by the hands of a woman who was doing it not so she could enter it into a show, but to give to her children and grandchildren. They're both heirlooms, but the latter is more meaningful, more grounded, and I daresay more valuable. I cannot imagine anyone would trade a quilt their mother made for a piece of art made by a stranger, even though the stiches might be more perfect, the colors dyed an exacting shade of blue and the quilting done to make another piece of art on the back side.

I like the fact that the stitches aren't perfect. They weave here and there. They're not standard sizes. The fabric is puckered in places. Those things would all result in dramatic mark downs in a show, but only add to the beauty of such a piece as far as I'm concerned.

Somehow it seems that quilts should look like this. They're supposed to look homemade - not so perfect that we are amazed they were done by humans and not machines. Those seem like a ompletely different category of thing to me. A quilt is like this - sweet, homey, comforting.

Everytime I arrive at Mary Ann and Jackie's, tired after a long drive, and pull back the bed spread to see this quilt, I feel loved. You only share something precious, made by your mother's hands, with those you love. Every morning when I wake up with it around me I feel surrounded by the strength of generations of women who perservered, persisted and prevailed.

Women built this nation from the ground up, one quilt block at a time. Of course, they don't get the credit - aside from Betsy Ross - but we all know the truth. Without women building a foundation, this country would never have come to be. Quilts seem a great metaphor for that process of building - quietly - in the background - until a whole quilt comes into being. That's not a perfect process of all straight lines and tiny stitches. The work should show through in places. Maybe that's why I love a quilt that embodies those things.

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