This is the first blog in my Sunday series about life lessons I’m learning through quilting. My insights started at a young age when I was sitting under the quilt frame in Yat’s front room on Daniel Hill. The Daniel Hill Community Quilt Frame lived with my Yat (Mattie Burnette Randolph) on Spruce Street. We lived in a double shotgun house with Mat, Paul and Bet on one side, and Momma, Mama, Baby, Moses Haskins and I on the other side. I was born cripple and wore casts on my feet and ankles during my toddler years. Consequently, I seemed to be planted in one spot for long periods of time.
My favorite spot was sitting under the quilt frame while Momma, Mama, Yat, Mis’ Doretta, Mis’ Sudie Mae and Mis’ Bess were hand stitching. They took turns leading a spiritual song while the others responded. Being slain in the Spirit and led by the Holy Ghost was the glue that bonded the Daniel Hill Quilt Circle. Other women joined in from time to time but the core crew were the Elders. Everyone brought a dish of food to share but most of the fellowship time was spent stitching together. Sitting under that quilt frame was for me like sitting under a heavenly tent. It was here that I learned my first quilting life lesson, and how the power of quilting could soothe the pains of Jim Crow.
Quilt Life Lesson #1: Quilting Is About Community
After seven months of soul searching while living in isolation due to Covid, I’m reevaluating and reaffirming what I create with my hands. I’m examining my creative practice with new eyes based on my cultural heritage and traditional teachings. I struggle to make and finish quilts when I’m on my own. I need the accountability, inspiration and fellowship that comes from being in a group with other artists.
Sadly, I’ve recently learned that all art organizations aren’t equal when it comes to providing stimulation, inspiration and fellowship. An art association is a top-down structural format based on a corporate model that knowledge and leadership flow from the top. The president is the head that wears the crown and is the keeper of the roadmap the group is following. A quild is an association of people pursuing the same goals. The model is based on the medieval practice of like-minded creatives banding together to oversee their particular craft. The guild system is also a top-down model. The third model is the circle which is based on traditional indigenous principles where everyone is equal. In a circle everyone stands shoulder to shoulder and the organization is run by the members.
The best art organization model for me to participate in is a circle. A quilting circle has been a part of my experience since I understood what quilting was all about. A quilting circle is part of my multi-generational stitching history. While I plan to maintain membership in a local art association and a regional and international quilt guild, the organizational unit that will feed my soul is a quilt circle.
My advice to all you quilters is to find a circle of like minded people who inspire, transfer knowledge and provide stimulating fellowship to your stitching practice. Happy Quilting!