I have asked my mother to leave me one thing: an entirely handmade and hand-quilted quilt (that sounds funny). I believe by now it is over 50 years old. We grew up in Utah amid the dominant religion bred quilters. Fabulous quilters. If you were Mormon, it was likely that you quilted. And my mom, who was not Mormon, made this incredible quilt with her dear friend and submitted it to the local fair. Who ever thought a nice Jewish girl in Salt Lake City, Utah could win first prize in the State Fair in quilting category?
I only started quilting myself 10 years ago. One class in wonky squares gifted to me by my mom and I was hooked. I have been quilting in ten-minute increments ever since. As a therapist, I only ever get ten-minute increments between clients. I have found this to be just enough time to quickly sew a couple of pieces together to create a weighted expression of my love. I thought I had struck gold when someone commissioned me to do a baby quilt. I thought getting paid might take the fun out of it so I charged an arm and a leg, thinking she would say no, and I would keep my passion, just that. She did just the opposite, she agreed to my very high price and honored my artistry even more by allowing me to choose every last detail of her quilt. She trusted me. I started feeling like an artist.
Recently, I stated out loud, “I am an artist. Even though I am constantly engaged with my artistic hands, knitting, quilting, doodling, painting and teaching women how to use creativity to explore issues meriting transformation in their lives, I never called myself an artist! I had no idea that my diverse play in textiles constituted me being an artist. I gave that label to my mother, sister, and father for their painting and sophisticated creativity because I believed they merited the title.
I grew up around art. Both of my parents are artists. My father painted and my mother was very crafty. She had a needlepoint store in our home. I adored being surrounded by the colors, the textures and the comings and goings of the women in our community. I loved doing needlepoint as well.
I feel very fortunate to inherit my mother’s creative passions as well as many of her creative collections: knitting needles, yarn, fabulous scissors and hand-me-down fabric. In every bag or box of fabric, I have inherited from my mom, there were always 2×2 squares in all different fabrics. It was as if she had the same idea of which kind of quilt she wanted to make, but her color scheme kept changing. And changing. I ended up with a huge basket of colorful squares that I was told to throw out by an organizer. And after she left one of our sessions, I thought how could I throw out such a box of treasures?! I went through the trash and pulled out the magical squares and started sewing them together.
Refurbishing my mother’s squares was therapeutic. I have been so critical of her overspending on fabric and notions and her way too big stash (if there is such a thing) of fabric. I encountered a certain joy in the mix of fabrics and felt grateful for the variety of her collection. Square-by-square and strip-by-strip, I was reframing my critique of her and forced myself to look in the mirror. I had inherited her ways. Both the good and the complicated. I, too, had many creative passions. I was a crafter and yet hadn’t considered myself an artist. I had my own overspending tendencies as well as an incessant passion for fabulous colors, textures, and notions. We shared the way we like to nest. We both loved piles of yummy things around us and if we eventually complete a piece of art, hallelujah. But truly that has never been the ultimate goal for either of us.
So over these past months, I have continued to sew together all of these tiny squares into a quilt – a completed quilt which I love and adore. I recently showed my mom “our quilt.” I had planned on giving it to my daughter for her Bat Mitzvah. My mom rather enthusiastically pointed out that we loved it the same and that I should keep it. She suggested that perhaps we could share it. I could tell she loved it as much as I do. After all, it is full of healing in its own right. Her artistic and creative legacy passed onto me one square at a time and my legacy of creative expression also getting passed on to my children, one “square” at a time.