Last weekend, I participated in a workshop called Cultural Cloth: Exploring and Expressing Our Cultural Histories, run by the fabulous Ann Flaherty. My fellow Carolina Mixed Media Artist Guild members were her 'guinea pigs,' since Ann is still fine-tuning her presentation of the class. I signed up eagerly since I'm always interested in cultural discussions and visual creations, then I hesitated, given the focus on quilt making in this 7-hour session. I was assured by Ann that not being a "fiber person" wasn't going to be a problem, so I forged ahead.
I decided to celebrate my Native American, African and African American heritages, and gave Ann some photographs of my family to transfer onto fabric prior to the class. My initial thought was to show the three groups of sisters as intertwined in some way, perhaps with African Adinkra symbols, feathers and beads. Once I began working with the fabrics, I realized I wanted to alternate Native American-looking fabrics with African ones. Once that decision was made, the color scheme came together easily, and the design of alternating strips seemed just right. The decision of how to place the photos was more complicated. The three photos are of sisters: two Native American Bradby sisters from about 1900, who were cousins of my grandmother and her sister (whose maiden names were Bradby), and me and my sister Melanie, posing in Boston in front of the Robert Gould Shaw memorial statue. After some working and reworking, I decided to place the photos within or across the fabrics as they related to the ethnicity of the sisters. So, the Bradby girls are fully within the Native American fabric, my grandmother and great aunt are mostly on the Native American, with a bit on the African (since they both married African American men), and the photo of Melanie and me straddle the two fabrics. The embellishments of feathers, twigs, beads and braids came together as the composition did; each photo is framed by what I think the sisters would have recognized as part of their worlds. I'm proud of the result. Ann was right: it was a no-sew project, and being unfamiliar with fabrics and fibers wasn't a hindrance to completing the workshop.
Other Guild members celebrated cultures as diverse as German, Asian, Creole, Welsh, and the Southwestern US. Photos to come as we each complete our artist's statement and upload photos of the finished quilts to Ann for her use in future workshops.
Thanks, Ann, for an interesting exercise out of my comfort zone...it was a blast!