Yesterday I watched Mad Men marathon style. This is a fascinating fictional show telling the story of a Madison Avenue advertising firm, it’s growth and changes over the years as they compete for ads and work towards becoming a powerhouse in the market. Historically accurate or not it is a well told story with characters that grow and change over the years. The writers tackle some serious issues of the time rather well.
Every time I heard the following quote I stopped whatever I was doing and listened:
Nostalgia – it’s delicate, but potent. Teddy told me that in Greek, “nostalgia” literally means “the pain from an old wound.” It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine. It goes backwards, and forwards… it takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called the wheel, it’s called the carousel. It let’s us travel the way a child travels – around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know are loved.
Nostalgia…is a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. Quilts…are a twinge in our hearts far more powerful than fabric and memory alone.
The memory of our quilts is just as important as the quilts themselves. I don’t have the first quilts or the first patchwork place mats I ever made. I often wonder the fate of that first quilt, it certainly has a powerful presence in my mind. I remember where I purchased some of the fabric, where I purchased the hoop, the batting, I remember over heating a polyester batiste compromising the fiber to the point where it was easy enough for the batting to migrate through, using needles to death. Images flash in my minds eye with each memory. I can see that quilt. I can feel that joy of finishing and giving the gift. There are things I could be embarrassed about however it was my first quilt, and I was learning. That quilt was the beginning of a life time journey in quilt making.
Each quilt tells a story, evokes a memory and memory is attached at the hip to emotional responses. Quilters wear their hearts on the quilts. It’s like we write up all that is in our heart, the beauty and grace, the pain and fear, the acceptance and non-acceptance, all of it end up on our quilts. Other quilters respond to something in the quilt. Often it’s the beauty of the quilt that captures their attention, then the quilter will go deeper. I love watching quilters respond to quilts hanging at a quilt show, breezing by some, stopping in their tracks to see another, to engage with it and, therefore, the quilt maker.
Storytelling is very much part of our humanity and our culture. There are stories that we love to hear over and over again; stories that bring us great joy, stories that recount painful life experiences, stories of healing and hope, stories of growth. The story is an essential component to who we are. Quilting is nothing if not relational: who we are to ourselves; who we are to our neighbors and friends; who we are to our community. Quilting is still a place to gather and share our experience, spend time with one another, teach and learn and share a common experience. Writing down the stories of our quilts becomes so much more important as we recognize how they tell us more about who we are. The story of the quilt might be as simple as name, address, dates of start and completion; the story might include the fabrics and batting used; or if like Twilight in the Bronx pictured above there is a tale to that quilt that I love to share – in part because the look of wonder on the faces of the hearers is rather delightful, when I share that Twilight was quilted twice, once primarily in black thread with most of that stitching picked out and then again with the colors now all over the surface. It is a quilt that still speaks to my heart and vies for the award of “Teri’s favorite” on a daily basis. Please don’t tell the other quilts.
Storytelling is akin to quilting in that the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. The story doesn’t ever need to be a “bestseller”, it just needs to be told. I’d like to sit here from my laptop and tell you to go tell the stories of your quilts by writing them down, recording vids yada, yada. What I say matters precious little in the long run, but your story matters, who you are as a quilt maker matters and that is worth preserving.