I often pour months of work into making my art quilts. Added on to the usual time that any hand work takes, I’m obsessive about covering most of the surface with buttons and beads, so even more time gets added on. As much as I love what I do, if I’m thinking of leaving a legacy, I couldn’t have picked a much more fragile art form. (Sand paintings immediately came to mind, so OK, there are some media that don’t last as long as fabric does.) I’ve always said that since I didn’t have any children, except for the several thousand that I taught over 27 years, that my art quilts are what I’m leaving behind and that’s why I lavish so much attention on them.
The topic for this blog came about when I was visiting a friend recently who very graciously saved a box of craft supplies from an estate sale when they bought a house in West Virginia, in the mountains here on the East Coast of the USA. The couple had died and everything went. The former owner had made various small items and sold them at local craft shows. In the story that I’ve made up about her, as I actually know nothing about her except gleanings that I have from looking at the contents of the box, she probably made these items in hopes of making extra money, as I do know that that area does not have a lot of job opportunities. especially for older women. I also know the prices of the materials that were in the box, which were inexpensive items from a local craft store, so I’m guessing that she didn’t have a lot of money.
These are some of the items that were in the box that had taken more time to make. The lower, brown ones are baked polymer clay that was pressed into a mold, fired in a low temp oven, painted, and then a hanging string was added. Most of the circles were pretty crudely crafted, so I don’t know if the intent was to make a child-like object or that was her skill level. The upper yellow piece is a painted sand dollar. A lot more time was spent creating the blue flowers in three tones. West Virginia is a long way from any beach, so I don’t know if she went there sometimes, had a friend who do, or found a source for these shells at a craft store.
In the box of supplies, there was also a bag of polymer clay flowers. While you can buy them in a craft store, by looking at the quality of the edges of some of these, I imagine that she made many of them. Some of the ones that were probably commercially made have wires in the back, such as the yellow one on this pic. Without an attachment wire, the others would have to have been glued in place. I’ve experimented some myself with polymer clay, but found the pieces that I made to be easily breakable, so I didn’t practice very much. I do know that they don’t hold up well to being in water, so adding them on to anything that might need washing wouldn’t be very practical. At the top of this photo, you can see some green frog, or “goggly” eyes that get used oftentimes in making stuffed animals. There was also a small bag of large, flat eyes about 2″ or 5 cm in diameter, so again, I’m guessing that she might have made stuffed animals, perhaps for a local church bazaar.
Digging deeper into the contents of the box, I found a number of beaded angels, like the one in the bottom center of this photo. These items lead me to believe that these were also made for a church bazaar or perhaps a Christmas craft sale. In the upper part of the photo are some long oval painted paper beads and scattered around them are some inexpensive purple plastic faceted beads. I crossed the scene with two of the many spools of sheer ribbons that were in the box. The original owner seemed to have a love for shiny things, which is something that we both share. Perhaps that’s why I feel drawn to her.
My friend who bought the house and its contents said that the sale was done outside in the rain, so that’s why the cardboard box in the first photo is all droopy. I can imagine the spirit of the woman who used to live there looking down, perhaps with some sadness, at the plight of her craft supplies, that she probably had to save up for, being out in the rain. Once we’re gone, things don’t matter, but I fee compelled to honor the creative spirit of this woman that I never met and the drive she had to make and create with the materials that she had. I hope that she knows that I see the sacrifices that she had to make to do what she loved, and that perhaps this story will inspire others to think more consciously about what they’re leaving behind.
What sacrifices have you had to make to create in your medium? Do you see youself as leaving a legacy with your art work, and if so, how do you see it as being important?
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