My work is done on "Shelter." (For the origin of this quilt, click here; for all related posts, click on "shelter" in the list of labels on the lower right side of the blog page. Double-click on the above and other photos for a clearer, enlarged photo.) "How do I feel, now that it's completed?" two good friends have asked. One of these friends, Mary Beth Clark, did a series of quilts about the loss of her mother, who had died more than 40 years previously, when Mary Beth was eight years old. (For one of those quilts, "The Last Squeeze," click here and scroll down to Episode 39.) "Does is make it any easier, having done these quilts?" I asked her several years ago, wanting to hear "yes" as an answer. "No," she said. So, how do I feel? I feel a sense of satisfaction that the piece is done. It is the most challenging piece I have done in terms of design decisions and construction techniques. The importance of the quilt to me in terms of its meaning is what gave me the steadfastness to persist through the difficulties, to undo and rework when I could see that something wasn't quite right. With this quilt done--with this hope expressed for the sheltering of our son--I can continue on with work on other ideas lined up, other aspects of my grief and loss. Will that line-up ever be at an end? I don't know. I think I hope not. Designing and making these quilts keeps Jeremy present in my heart, in my mind.
As I worked on "Shelter," I also worked on a talk, aimed at an audience of my faculty colleagues at Knox College, a talk about the central place scholarship had in my life for over three decades, and how my live has turned from scholarship to the making of art since Jeremy's death. The center section of this talk is taken from an earlier presentation about quilting, done in 2005, but this new version brings in my scholarship, and also shows the progression of quilts since 2005. I've put the talk into a web version, so that others can read it too: "From Study to Studio: Meaning and Motivation in Scholarship and Art." It was interesting to me to see how much I figured out about the quilts in the process of writing the talk, in particular, that "Loss" and "Shelter" are closely related through their color palette, as are "Pine Grove" and "Landscape." It seems unlikely that I wouldn't have realized this as I designed them, or at least when I worked on them, but I didn't. Since the talk, I've thought further about the palettes and their meanings. In "Loss" and "Shelter," the inclusion of the very strong complementary colors of orange and blue contributes a kind of vibration that refers to the vibrancy of life--life lost, and life hoped for. In contrast, the analogous palette used for pinegrove/landscape with its much lower level of contrast is fundamentally "quiet" and represents the refuge I need from the loss. So maybe one of the deep attractions of quilting is this immersion in color, which has such a direct link with emotions--even if I'm not thinking about it explicitly while we design/sew.
Here are some detailed shots from "Shelter." Color variations are due to different attempts to get the color correct. The full view of the quilt above probably is the best representation of the colors. Details of stitching are best seen with double-clicks on the shots below. The quilt top was done with a combination of machine piecing and hand-appliqué. The quilting was all machine-stitched in the ditch. Some photos show the appliquéd join between the tiers of color.
At the end of a conversation with the new rabbi at our congregation, during which my husband and I talked with him about our lives in the wake of Jeremy's death, I asked, "Is there a prayer for someone with a broken heart." He replied, "The Hasidic Rabbi Menachem Mendel said, 'There is nothing more whole than a broken heart.'"
May Jeremy find shelter in the open arms of all who loved him.