Most of you know that I am a founding member of Cloth in Common a small international group of artists. Every two months, we get an unusual prompt from one of our members. We then create an individual response to the prompt by creating an original artwork.
Every Tuesday during this two month period one of us will write a blog post for the Cloth in Common website. These posts are our written responses to the prompt—what we are thinking about, what materials, or visuals ideas we are exploring.
This time the prompt was Dis-Unity. The journey I took with this prompt went well beyond creating a new quilt. Here is what happened.
Personally, I have some very strong opinions about almost everything. Art, exercise, aging, politics, food, entertainment—I know what I think about each and every one of these things. Normally I do not use social media to express these beliefs. This is a decision I made early on. I want my blog, my social media in general, to be a place of positive, creative energy.
Still, the last two years have been hard. We are a nation divided on so many things, and there is a part of me that feels it is wrong not to speak out. That silence is complicity.
During the middle of this two month period, I went to QuiltCon 2019. There were political quilts everywhere. I was inspired.
So, when it came time for me to write the Cloth in Common weekly blog, I had this weird urge to jump into the fray—add my words to the cacophony of voices blaring their ideas across social media. I tried to create a Bill Maher style rant—creative, critical, and cranky. I was going to use the prompt Dis-Unity to complain.
I paired my words with images of the quilt Colors Unfurled aka If Betsy Ross Had my Stash. In 2008, I created this quilt to serve as a visual celebration of Barrack Obama’s nomination for the Presidency.
Shortly after I posted the blog, I received this comment (edited for clarity) on my personal blog.
“Your blog post was offensive to me….keep your opinions to yourself and just quilt…… you’ve lost me and I’m sure others.”
And then Lisa Walton, President of the SAQA board and fellow member of Cloth in Common, contacted me to let me know that while she normally shares Cloth in Common blog posts on her Facebook page, she had to take mine down because it was getting so many negative comments.
I thought about this. Did I really want to be a part of the hate? No, I did not. Lesson learned—As enticing as it may feel to write in all caps and figuratively stomp your feet. Don’t do it. Don’t hate back.
Hating just contributes to the problems we are now having, and I am hanging my head low for having joined in on this.
So, I took my original words down. I replaced them with new words you can read here.
Back in the studio, I decided to make a word quilt. Because, well, words are what this prompt has become for me. How to speak wisely, clearly, and honorably? What to say? I kept going back to a saying that has always resonated with me.
Then I got the idea to build the quilt backwards, posting each letter on Instagram with a shout out of love for the women in history and in my life who have worked to be agents of positive change.
So that is what happened. In hindsight, I think I made a poor decision. I regret my earlier blog post, but I also know I needed to do it to get to where I am standing now. I learned a very important lesson about communication, social media, and who I want to be as an artist and advocate.
I want any space I hold here on social media to welcome anyone who loves quilts, art, and creativity, anyone who aspires to be a better parent, artist, and partner, and anyone who wants to find common ground.