I am a fiber artist and writer living outside of Boston. My two boys are in their twenties and live many miles west, leaving my husband and me to share our home with a slightly crazed mutt named Finn. Creative time is split between writing, quilting, and paper and digital collage.
Since my mother was an art teacher, although I’m not formally art trained, I’m not quite self-taught either. In our house growing up, crayons got dumped into a shoe box and scrap paper brought home from Dad’s office. Not that many coloring books around. Later, as a family we enjoyed the tribal exercise of re-arranging furniture (nearly seasonally) and voicing opinions on where to hang mirrors or art. My mother considered creativity a given and therefore so did her children. What a gift! She also had a mantra that I hew to more and more as I get older: beautiful work comes from beautiful materials.
It seems so long ago now, but in high school, I crocheted and kept journals. College found me making collages, learning to hand spin and dye fiber with natural materials, and writing — mostly poems. I’m not confident with pen and paper, but enjoy drawing. I’m also not a very accomplished seamstress, but somehow got hooked on making quilts in the late 80’s. Tellingly, after passing the Massachusetts bar exam in 1989, I deferred my hoity-toity job downtown in order to make a quilt.
I didn’t start sewing in earnest until my first pregnancy, which coincided with buying a house. Curtains, chair pads, crib bumpers, pillows, tiny onesies were all imperative nesting activities. The job downtown was left behind and the next job with a non-profit was on its way out, too. Somewhere along the line, I took a class with the Maine quilter Susan Carlson, whose collage approach to quilting ignited me. A Ruth McDowell workshop followed and I learned that precise piecing is about as appealing as tax law — I cannot and will not do either. More recently, I’ve studied online, particularly with Jude Hill at Spirit Cloth. From her introspective and poetic approach, I’ve learned to slow down and pay attention in a whole new way. She’s helped me remember things my mother taught me long ago — about beautiful materials, about the value of process.
Selling has been on pause lately, but I have offered my work for purchase over the years — mostly at local, juried craft fairs, but also at galleries in Maine and New York. I participated in Newton Open Studios for a bunch of years, most recently in 2018. I keep a small etsy shop mostly going. I used to teach a fair amount and used to make a wide array of things — purses, dolls, blankets, wall quilts, sachets, pillows. These days, it’s mostly small quilts, dolls, and pouches.
Writing is just about a daily practice. For many years now, I’ve been taking classes taught in the Amherst Writers’ Method and in June of 2019 undertook the Facilitator training. I’ve been teaching ever since. This blog has been up and running for more than ten years now, but until recently most of my writing’s been a fairly private endeavor. No more. A novel is in the works and I hope to finish it before I die.
Set in South Carolina in the 1740’s, the research and travel associated with this writing project have been life changing. So have the instructive and challenging dialogues happening in the public sphere about cultural appropriation and the ease with which whites focus on Black pain to the exclusion of all else. There are no easy answers.
Maybe I’ll ultimately decide that as a white person, I don’t get to provide the answers about my manuscript, but for now, I keep chugging along. Two justifications underpin my persistence. The first rationale is that Southern history during slavery is American history and therefore is my history. This view comports with the idea that it is incumbent on all white Americans to take responsibility for slavery and its long, ugly, and ongoing shadow. Shouldering responsibility is crucial even if our particular families were not slave owners and maybe not even on this side of the Atlantic during those years.
The second rationale has to do with the imagination — its uses, its range, its entitlements. Shouldn’t imagination be able to roam far and wide? I want to live in a society where anyone can write a book about anything. Otherwise, I’d be stuck writing about suburbia in New England.
In no way do I hold out the idea that reading about slavery for the better part of ten years makes me better able to understand what it means to be Black in this country. Not saying that even a little. It does, however, prepare the ground for becoming an anti-racist and may provide enough authentic detail to craft Black characters in a piece of historic fiction.
We shall see.
I swear the next writing adventure will be about a suburban fuck up looking for redemption in all the wrong places.