It's interesting how t-shirts have become a way to commemorate a vacation or the participation in activities like a fun run, graduation, or a choral performance. Young people work hard and are involved in so many activities that contribute to and shape their identity. Last week, I finished this Biography Quilt composed of a young person's activities throughout her young adult life at high school and college. I enjoyed puzzling these "t-shirt remembrances" into a quilt that memorializes her hard work, fun, and pride. I chose to collage them together filling in gaps with t-shirt remnants, and I quilted the squares in a square spiral. This quilt is going to be a Christmas gift. I hope the recipient can snuggle up under it, bask in her achievements, and remember of all that she was a part.
If you are interested in commissioning a Biography Quilt composed of a loved one's T-shirts, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I look forward to creating a quilted document out of your t-shirts!!!
A year ago this November, my Uncle Chuck died very suddenly and unexpectedly. He was just a few years older than my Mom. The two were close growing up much like my brother Nick and I. It was sort of eerie that I had been thinking about my Uncle Chuck on the day he died, before I even knew he was sick. I had been walking in the upper meadow when I came across a severed garter snake laying belly up. I stopped to consider it and thought of how my Uncle Chuck used to throw garter snakes at my Mom to tease her when they were kids. After a bit, I continued my walk. I didn't know that at that time he was being admitted to the hospital for emergency surgery.
As my Uncle Chuck was letting go of life, I was letting go of a job and of control over my professional life. It was the beginning of a transition to self-employment for me, and my Mom wanted to support me by giving me work. After Uncle Chuck passed, she commissioned memory quilts made from his clothes for my cousins, Chuck's two daughters. My Aunt Sharon gathered shirts, ties, p.j.'s, his hospital scrubs, fishing shirts, hankies, and old scouting scarves. After sorting them, I realized that they were so colorful! This surprised me. It shouldn't have because my Uncle Chuck was such a big personality who would be the first to break into song or tell a joke at a party. He loved his family and lived a full life. In fact, Uncle Chuck was so full of life that he embodied Santa Claus' spirit and would play him for family parties during the holiday season. He'd bring generosity and joy with him wherever he went.
Years and years ago, after I was first diagnosed with Thyroid disease and feeling sluggish, tired, and depressed. He invited Pat and I to his cottage in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. He made me soup and told me that it was OK to be depressed and sick. He'd gone through it himself and fought his way out of it. He told me that I would get better, too. It meant a lot to me to have him reach out to me when I felt so isolated and like a failure. I have thought of that moment a lot through my life, and every time that I hesitate in following my instincts or get stuck in the sludge of depression, I think of how Uncle Chuck worked his way out of illness to live a life on Lake Geneva as an expert fishing guide.
So, I chose a log cabin pattern to reflect this sense of family and home that I think Uncle Chuck embodied. The log cabin pattern features a central square with strips encircling it to make a larger square. I chose to make my central square larger than traditional to emphasize his big heart, and I pieced the squares by color: red, yellow, green, blue, and neutrals. The backings are pieced from his scouting bandannas, which date from the mid-sixties.
I have to say while piecing these quilts, I had this overwhelming sense of joy and well-being. I felt connected to Uncle Chuck on his lake --especially while cutting up his fishing shirts. And I felt that the joy of doing something I love, quilting, mirrored his joy of fishing. My Mom gifted these quilts to my cousins yesterday, and I hope they can be sources of comfort for them. I sewed them into textile versions of an embrace to wrap around them whenever they need a hug from their Dad. I am so grateful to my Mom for this commission, to my Aunt Sharon for trusting me with Uncle Chuck's clothes, and to Uncle Chuck for accompanying me on my creative journey. I love you and miss you Godfather!!!
Honestly, one of the things I'm most proud of in life is my Bullet Journaling process. Bullet Journaling is a customizable planning method for keeping track of goals, lists, tasks, and calendars. I adore it because I can design the planner to meet my needs and be creative in the process of staying on task. I'm also obsessed with the concept of time---marking it, using it to its fullest, and just recognizing that it has passed. Bullet Journaling is done on paper with ink which lends tangibility to the abstractness of time.
Sometimes, I think my bullet journals are more interesting than the art that I'm making. So, I thought I'd share my system. There are infinite ways to bullet journal, and many other journalists feature much neater handwriting and style. I like to keep things loose and sloppy, BUT the sloppiness is contained and organized. Ultimately, I know what I need to be focusing on today while keeping future goals in mind.
I begin by binding a simple pamphlet with five sheets of 11" x 17" paper and a card stock cover. As pictured above, I decorate the cover and paint a layer of gloss medium to protect it.
On the inside cover, I write out my long term goals. On the opposite page, my monthly goals
The center fold is dedicated to the month's calendar where I can see at a glance what appointments, soccer games, etc. are scheduled. I can also see project deadlines and map out projects over the weeks.
On the front pages, I plan my weeks. I divide my weekly goals among the seven days.
Each week, I also have a chart to keep track of my daily goals. I fill in the square if I have achieved that tasks, and at the end of the week, I can see how well I'm doing in any area. If it looks like I'm neglecting something, I can reassess whether it is important to me, and if it is, figure out a way to prioritize it in my day. Overtime, my perfect day evolves as I refine what is important to me.
On the latter pages (post centerfold), I keep lists of things----things to remember for next month, project ideas, podcasts I want to listen to, books I want to read, marketing ideas, groceries lists, brainstorms, and all kinds of loose ends that pop into my head, that I want to hold on to. I transfer these lists from month to month keeping what I want to hold on to and letting go what seems less important.
I keep my journal open and next to me while I work. Then, when I get inspired, I can quickly jot that idea down before I lose it. Also, I'm constantly listening to podcasts and often hear inspiring tidbits. I often will jot a quote that I love on the back cover. That way, I get to carry around that nugget of wisdom with me for the whole month.
I plan on creating a case for these pamphlets when the year is finished.
I can't speak enough about this method. I feel like it's my creative partner or something. There are oodles of tutorials on YouTube if you want to seek out ways that other people engage with it. This is just what works for me, and I'm sure I will continue to develop it as time goes by!
Below are some quotes that I have written down:
When I journal, I prefer graph paper and Pilot G-2 (10) pens. I usually write in cursive, because it's like a secret code my modern children will never be able to crack. Cursive also feels subversive. That and writing words out completely. Now, I'm just sounding like an old person. Anyway, graph paper is where you figure things out. In my journal, it's whatever is going on in my life. In a more traditional context, it's math problems, comparative graphs, and informative charts.
Quilts are often based on grids, and in the fine art world, Piet Mondrian would argue that the grid is a manifestation of equality. There is no hierarchy between foreground and background. With this quilt, I wanted to play with these concepts and see what would happen if I dyed grids and then pieced them together improvisationally. I chose blue dyes to refer to the traditionally blue of graph paper, and the triangles are interruptions. Maybe they are the pieces of the problem being solved? In my original design I included X's appliqued to the squares, but I abandoned this plan. It didn't seem right. I think I like the openness of the grid.
It was a fun project, and it has inspired more ideas for future quilts and other projects. Below are some pictures of the process!
I'm aware that there is a disconnect between what I hope to accomplish with the growing seasons and how much time I actually apply to making those goals flourish. You read it here first: 2018 is going to be the year that I schedule in gardening--practice gardening. I love weeding, but this year I so often pushed it to the bottom of the list. I realize that I need to rearrange my making schedule and expectations to accommodate the required tending. There is so much to learn and no better way to learn than actually doing it. What an underwhelming lesson to learn! That said, I spent some time in the garden photographing some recent quilts, which I will be writing about a little later, and I couldn't help but turn the lens on some of the darlings growing there (and Ninja too). So enjoy the photos and next year, watch out weeds! I'm coming for you!
Anna Lentz, artist, writer, and creativity coach who blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.