Moments in life are full of unexpected changes. The older I get the less I understand about people and circumstances. I do know a few truths, one of which requires me to stay in the moment in order to walk out my purpose. Mat Randolph described four traps set for all of us in life as self, silver, sloth and sex. I review them in my head each day and try to avoid them. Drama seems to be the hurricane that blows me into one of life’s traps. Staying clear of drama requires constant vigilance because so many people thrive on it. Drama can spawn a tornado that can suck the creative energy out of me but it’s also a painful part of transformation.
Penland School of Crafts is my “Go To” place for transformation. The energy of the Mountain is like a lightening rod that channels rapid creative growth and development through creative hands adventures. For me, two weeks at Penland equals two years of grad school working 20 hours a day for seven days each week. This change is dramatic when seen through the quilt I made before Penland and those made during the 5th Summer Session in Upper Textiles.
Returning to quilting was my momma’s prayer and a promise that I made to her as she was dying. She asked me over and over again to make art using fabric and thread techniques I learned as a child to tell our stories of living in Eastern and Coastal North Carolina. We are a people from the black sandy soil who survived in the swamps, traveled the rivers and historic Algonquin trails and hid in plain sight for the last 300 years. We are the remnant of the Tuscarora Nation, mixed with West African blood that followed the “flying geese” and “sailboat” quilt patters east to Roanoke Island. We are also “Daughters of the American Revolution” and “Daughters of the Confederacy.” We are all the people of this land from the Pea Island and Chicamacomico to Fort Neyuheruke to Indian Woods. I and all my mother’s: Doris, Minnie, Harriet, Anne, Mattie and Mary are all connected through fabric, thread, natural dyes and fibers. My purpose is to tell our stories of survival, love, lost, joy, heartache, laugher, birth, death, hope, happiness, faith and forgiveness by exploring the “What If” possibilities of improvisational accidental geometric piecing on indigo dyed fabrics with a dash of other dyed colors for bling.
Freewriting + Geometric Quilt Designs + Memoir = Modern Quilt
Today, I acknowledge and accept the reality of no longer having a mother, father, two grandmothers, one grandfather, two great-grand fathers and one great-grand mother. I was blessed to have had their love, support, teachings, stories, wisdom, songs, jokes, secrets about cooking, instructions about life, love, sewing, embroidery, crochet, weaving, indigo dyeing and all the joy, comfort, warmth and kindness they shared with me. We had amazing journeys together. It wasn’t always easy and we had our fair share of bumps in the road but we shared more happiness than misery.
I sit and cry for myself because I must face an unknown future that over whelming. I’ve got friends and cousins but no immediate family. What must I do? Stop crying and start creating designs and dyeing cloth for quilt tops to make on The Mountain. “Just take it one day at a time Sweet Jesus, one day at a time!” At least my tears have brought me a place name for this body of work — Kahte’hnu. A Skaru’:re word that describes our scared hidden river places which translates into “Pine In The Water.” The English translation is a hollow meaning because the true essence of Kahte’hnu isn’t communicated in the description. But having a place name gives me direction as to where I’m going with my “Flying Geese.”
I created a Graphic Organizer last semester to help my learners focus their final body of work. Follow my working copy for Kahte’hnu Modern Quilt series using geometric designs to tell a story.
Freewriting About Designing Geometric Quilt Patterns That Relate To Memoir
How can historical geometric quilt patterns tell a story about me and my life? Where do I begin? What’s the connection? I’ll begin with what I remember about quilting with Mama, Yat and Mama Mary. I remember them cutting squares and triangles from old clothes and dyed muslin. I remember Momma helping and teaching short cuts to make cutting faster. I remember stories of “Flying Geese” and why I needed to remember my people hiding out covered with mud in Toisnoit Swamp with the turtles. I remember stories of how to make myself invisible and how to hide in plain sight. “The big troubles that made the people scatter might come again Baby Girl,” I was told with a stern warning. “Know how to keep out of danger,” I was commanded with all my mother’s eyes focused on me.
“Flying Geese” is the only quilt pattern that any of my mother’s knew. The only other quilt patterns I remember are what they called “Sooner” as in sooner be whatever story they made up from the cloth being used. “Sooner” quilts were freeform in bright colors made from irregular cuts of cloth sewn together. Momma hated these freeform quilts because she said they didn’t have a uniform pattern. My momma was a Home Economics teacher with a strong sense of design, pattern and order. I remember my older mother’s letting her instruct them on the “correct” way of doing things, only to revert back to the traditional ways when she retreated to her sewing machine making outfits for us to wear. Momma attended summer school at Penn State to work on her master’s degree, so while she was away all the quilt tops to be quilted during the winter would hurriedly be pieced in her absence. One or two would always be “Flying Geese” but the rest would be “Sooner.” “Keep everybody happy,” Yat would say.
Our “Flying Geese” would always fly east. The story I was told as to the reason was to go east to Roanoke Island. You could never make it to the North to freedom from were we lived. You could only be safe by traveling east. The land trail was on Indian Road, known today as Highway 42. You had only a 50/50 change of making it to the Roanoke River to a dugout if you traveled the land trail. The safest way was down river on the Contentnea. If trouble came you could hide your dugout in the bushes and hide yourself in the mud.
So, my geometric quilt pattern will be “Flying Geese” pointing east. As a child I didn’t understand why Roanoke Island was considered a sanctuary. Research has revealed the wisdom of all my grandmother’s stories because Roanoke Island was an end stop on the Underground Railroad. Their was a Freedmen’s Colony of indigenous and African peoples until the end of the Civil War. Unlike Indian Woods, we were free on Roanoke Island. Many Algonquin people lived together the Tuscaroa, Meherrin, Nottoway, Machapunga, Chowanook along with runaway African slaves led down the Roanoke River by Quaker women using “Flying Geese” and “Boat” quilt patterns to show the way. Union troops controlled the Island and we were considered contraband. I have a great-grandfather who was freeborn on the Banks during the Civil War and escaped with his pregnant mother to safety on Roanoke Island. Next, I’ll need to explore the “What If?” possibilities of using a “Flying Geese” historical quilt pattern as a visual metaphor for an improvisational modern quilt design.
Improvisational ~ To make, provide or arrange from whatever material are readily available. To compose, execute or arrange anything extemporaneously. (Dictionary.com)
Improvisational Quilting ~ To piece without rules. To use a variety of different fabrics sew together incorporating aspects of a style with no clear pre-planned path. (Craftsy) To engage in “creative play” with fabric color, pattern and texture.
Modern Quilting ~ “Modern quilts are primarily functional and inspired by modern design. Modern quilters work in different styles and define modern quilting in different ways, but several characteristics often appear which may help identify a modern quilt. These include, but are not limited to: the use of bold colors and prints, high contrast and graphic areas of solid color, improvisational piecing, minimalism, expansive negative space, and alternate grid work. “Modern traditionalism” or the updating of classic quilt designs is also often seen in modern quilting.” (Verbatim from Modern Quilt Guild Website)
Modern Art ~ “The history of modern art is also the history of the progressive loss of arts audience. Art has increasingly become the concern of the artist and the bafflement of the public.” Gauguain | “Art is a line around your thoughts.” Gustav Klimt |
~ A defined style of art created in the 1920’s until the end of WWII in the 1950’s.
Everyone who knows me as a creative hands person, knows that I owe by loyalty to Penland School of Crafts. I love Penland the way some women love a man. I love Penland because it’s the place on Earth that consistently provides me with an opportunity to transform my life and my creative hands. A brown skin Indian girl who talks funny with a deep Southern drawl is accepted and treated as an equal in an exclusive and privileged world or art and professional craft. I feel loved at Penland and feel that I coming home after being away for a year to share love with my art family which is now the only family I have that still alive. I’m even trusted with responsibilities to help produce Penland’s Big Auction as the coordinator in charge in VHQ (Auction Volunteer Headquarters)
Consequently, this year’s Penland learning experience is unplanned and unscripted. My first learning choice was in Drawing as Stitching during 1st session. However, my mooma passed on the Friday before I was to leave for Penland on Saturday. I really felt like I need help in mastering the process of how to drawing my work onto my quilts. Evidently, the Holy Spirit thinks I can figure it out on my own. I was waitlisted for LUKE Haynes class entitled “Seams Legit: Reconstructed Quilts.”
He describes this class as using fabric to create quilt geometries from textures and colors. We’ll cover various ways to create quilts from patterns and ways of using fabrics to make quilts of your own design. We’ll start with a few assignments and then design and make our own individual projects with help from Haynes and the other learners. Be ready to create and think outside the usual.
My Creative Task: To create my own quilt design concept incorporating geometric quilt patterns, textures and colors using improvisational methods according with the standards and guidelines of the Modern Quilt Guild.
I’ll contemplate my choices, mull them around in my brain, dream about the “What I tonight. Tomorrow I’ll begin sketching ideas and drawing a plan. I don’t have much time to fuss, I have 25 days to design a working plan that’s ready to explore.
A Healing Balm To Comfort Grief: Free Writing, Drawing, Indigo Dyeing & Stitching
As an acknowledgment to my momma’s Crossing Over one month today, I’m sharing my Free Write Blog post. To honor promises that I made to my momma, Doris Lee Jones, her mother, Minnie Eva Woodard and my grandmother caregiver, Mattie (Yat) Burnette Randolph that I would write our stories and share them with the world, that day is today for me. I recently enrolled in my third online writing class at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Their motto is “Your Voice: We Find It Together, You Keep It Forever.” One of the class assignments is to complete handwritten timed free writings. After completing one last week and another this week, I realized I have stumbled upon a creative gold mine. So once again I’m journaling my journey, this time with the purpose of healing my broken grieving heart.
I remember one month ago my momma struggling to breath and making a raspy gurgling sound. For the first time that morning when I held her hand, she wasn’t able to hold on to mine. I remember momma’s eyes and mouth were open. She turned her head blinking her eyes in rapid succession until she could focus on her one and only baby girl child. I’ll always remember the tenderness of her eyes as they filled with tears at seeing me for the last time. I knew my momma was about to cross over but it seemed unconceivable that she was leaving me. In a quite whisper momma’s quivering lips mouthed “I love you and I like you too!” “I love you and I like you, too!” I shouted back to make sure she could hear me as she transitioned to the other side.
Momma had taught me as a child that love and like are different side of our heart. I remember her wanting me to feel secure and loved. I was strong and held back my tears to respect our Ancient Algonquin teachings of not crying at The Crossing Over. Mama and Yat taught that we should cry and wail when a person was born not at The Crossing Over. I kept that teaching for both Mat and Mama and was determined to keep it for my momma. It’s about respect for traditions on Eastern North Carolina Skaru’re Ancestral homeland. Today, one month later, I’m sitting alone crying myself a river.
I remember Momma’s passing as a difficult one witnessing her struggling for seven years with dementia, four years of failing to thrive to the degree of requiring a peg tube, and two years of dying by incremental amounts everyday after three falls. The last two falls happened after our sweet dog Snoop died. Momma lost something when Snoop left us that I can’t explain in words. It’s like the light of her soul embers went dim. I miss my momma and I miss Snoop Dog. When I’m alone I cry for them both, and Mamma and Yat. Oh, how I miss them. I know I’m crying for myself because I’m overwhelmed by the condition of my momma’s house and my own. Clutter has taken over to a dangerous and unhealthy degree. I’m crying because I’m afraid of being alone in the world.
I try to be a good, kind and considerate person to others, but people that I care about misunderstand me. They pretend to be my friend for some benefit and turn their backs on me because of my reaction to drama they create. It happened recently with two people that I’m connected with through Penland School of Crafts. Loosing them both really hurts my heart but I don’t do drama and I can’t turn back time.
I hate and despise drama. Some people’s insecurities require that they create drama and surround themselves with it as a kind of buffer agent to protect their brokenness. But drama sets my teeth on edge, like trying to chew razor blades. I grew up in a multi-generational home and knew by the age of seven that I hated drama. The reality of life is teaching me that loving someone means letting go. If we can’t get along in harmony then it’s best if we part as friends. Life is too short and fragile for ripping some a new one, being angry, discontent or sitting around plotting and scheming mischief. As an artist, I can’t afford to travel down the road of discontent. That’s the devil’s highway. It may look enticing but it’s a one-way glitzy road to ruin.
The blessing of a new year is the privilege to roll the dial back to 001. Being at one signifies a new day, a brand new start, having another opportunity to get living life right. My reward to myself is a continuous 28-day pledge to draw, make color and journal the process. I’m a teaching artist, what I do and how I do it is defined by the truth that art heals. Creative hands belong to all of us. It’s what connects us to all of humankind.
Section #1 ~ Clean Up My Own Mess: Drawing as Centering: Jan 1 to Fat Tuesday (2/9) | It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be by Paul Arden
Section #2 ~ Season of Lent in Oil Painting Methods (Ash Wednesday [2/10] to Easter Tuesday [3/29]) | Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Art Making by David Bayles & Ted Orland | Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival | Web Link | February 25 – 28 | Hampton, VA
Section #3: Indigo Blues Quilts ~ March 30 to The Gathering (April 28, 29 & 30) | Web Link | Show Your Work: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity & Get Discovered by Austin Kleon.
Organize Learning & Focus on Drawing as Centering | History of Humankind Through Mark Making | Oldest known art (Africa, France, Mesopotamia, China, Ancient America)
Get myself enrolled in a summer class at Penland School of Crafts. A bonus if I can also enroll in more than one summer class or in a Fall Concentration.
Some children are born under difficult circumstances. From the time we slide out of our mother’s, life is complicated. Children need love! At some point as responsible adult human beings, we are blessed with the opportunity to love, nurture, support and empower a child. Today, I celebrate my bundle of joy that came to me, having survived horrible foster care. Libby Lynn teaches me to see hope in her tender-heart, inspiration in her bravery and stamina in her fierce work ethnic. Most of all, Libby teaches me how to love a baby girl child. Happy Birthday Libby Lynn! My baby girl was born as an artist with me on Penland Mountain.
As difficult as it can be to attend a university, teaching at one is harder, especially working as an adjunct. But, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m blessed with a dream job teaching at a small Christian school nestled around a beautiful park. I drive through rural Eastern North Carolina to Squirrel Park beside Lake Vann. I love Chowan and I adore my learners. I’m an adjunct, who is content to be a contract, teaching artist. I’m thankful to God for this opportunity, for each breath and each new day.
As I finish this semester, I’m reminded that it’s been seven years, almost to the day, since I was confirmed at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Sylva, NC. Seven years since I’ve been standing on the prayers of Miss Lucy and The Moses of the Mountains, Bishop Morgan. This adventure and my connection to Penland School of Crafts started in the summer of 1990 but was revealed by the Holy Spirit and manifested itself in my life during the Bishop’s Homily during Confirmation. I’m more amazed than anyone with the transformation in my life by God’s creative hands. On my own, it’s no way I can drive two hours to and from Chowan to teach four courses to 85 learners, manage my mother’s declining health, make new art and participate in a Triangle Art Show. None of this is Carola! This is all Divine Mercy!
After crying for twenty hours because I’m going to be an orphan soon, I surrender all. I’m at the end of my bloodline because I’m dirt and river water. I’m Toisnoit Skaru:re to Contentnea Creek, a Gatekeepers off-spring that hid in plain sight for 300 years. I’m this black earth where people from Fort Neyuheru:ke hid in Toisnoit Swamp with turtles. The place where X marks the spot where runners went out in all directions to carry the word of our birthing center being burned alive described as our “Big Trouble Come to the People – Scatter!”
Bits and pieces of our story got told to me by Howell Woodard, Bud Harris and Paul Randolph. Even as a young child I listened to the stories. From Mat Randolph and her Mother, Mary, I learned creative hands and silent stillness. Yes, I’m going to be an orphan soon but it’s part of this journey. “We have to take the bitter with the sweet!” It’s just the way of things! It’s not personal, it just is. Life isn’t fair! We aren’t all equal. I’m having to walk out all of my fears in life with nothing and no body but Jesus. It’s about submission to God’s will for my life.
I’ve lived to see The People come home and to dance with them on Homeland. The Triune God protected a great number of Algonquin people in Eastern and Coastal Virginia and Carolina. At 65 looking backward on my Earth Walk, I’ve witnessed God’s Glory, when the Holy Spirit shows up and shows off! Where the Holy Spirit is so strong that it knocks you down on the floor. So, I sojourn back and forth over the ancient Algonquin Trails from Toisnoit to Chowanook back to Toisnoit. I’m a Blues Traveler, and Indian woman riding out the Indigo Blues!