Since 2002 I have been working with people through collaboration, consultation and commission to make improvised quilts from the clothing and materials of everyday life. This practice developed into an active, hands-on, therapeutic process for working through life transitions and bereavement, that I call Passage Quilting. For more information see the Passage Quilting Blog Archive, and Passage Quilting tutorial.
Sunny's western shirts, Wrangler chambray and a few Pendleton wools are his gift to his grandson, and the score for our quilt improvisation.
Eli Leon has collected over 1000 African-American quilts in the improvisational style and has exhibited them widely but have you seen the seven quilts he's made?
I can't imagine the depth and pain of a client's loss, but I can connect with it compassionately when I'm stitching on their quilt.
Many of you helped stitched names on navy blue coffins, during the virtual sewing circle I held last year. Now I'm working to hand stitch those coffins on the banner to spell the word MERCY. When this blanket is full of coffins, the coffins on the next prayer banner will spell the word GLORY.
The Prayer Banners will be hanging at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco next Sunday on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. There will be a participatory sewing circle in the sanctuary between liturgies, from 9:30 - 10:20 AM.
I started this mourning meditation in 2003. For more about the project's meaning and trajectory visit Prayer Banners: REPENT / MERCY / GLORY.
The Dolores Wolfe memorial quilt is basted and ready to be quilted. Ruth Anne, Dolores's daughter, will be joining me in June to begin the hand quilting as part of her bereavement process. Ruth Anne also wants to explore adding embellishments of buttons and other mementos from her mother's life, which she will be bringing with her from Cincinnati.
I really like how the quilt top came out. I didn't expect it to look like this but Ruth Anne's mother had such an interesting contrast of fine formal wear, with fitted and fanciful details, and rugged everyday clothing suited to someone who made her life as a farmer and crafts person.
The shapes of Dolores's clothing suggested peaks, and rolling hills, very folksy all in all. I also love the swirling movement of the shapes. Are these mountains or figures dancing? Or as Beth at Smazoochie commented earlier, an old-fashioned family portrait?
to pick up the pieces.
I like a messy work room when I'm working. It is comforting to see the remains lying where they fall. How about you?
Ever notice how scraps are like the loaves and fishes in the bible? Always multiplying.
Follow the evolution of the Wolfe memorial quilt.
Last week I was asked to present my work to Angela Hennessy's class at the California College of the Arts, called The Dying Salon. This studio class for graduate and undergraduates explores themes of death, loss, and bereavement in contemporary art. I was honored to be included in the syllabus. I presented images of the Passage Quilting™ and Prayer Banner projects, along with two other projects on afterlife, and transformation.
When I was in art school at Bard College in 2004, I presented Passage Quilts and the Prayer Banner for my third year critique. The question of whether my work was considered "Art" or not came up, as it always did while I was at Bard.
In 2011, the debate at CCA seems to be around conceptual vs. embodied art. My work falls in the embodied camp, but when I was in art school the frames used for defining "Art" were still under the spell of the post modern and avant-garde critique.
Recently a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, writing a story on the How-To-Homestead Tour, asked me this question...
In your opinion, why are traditional homesteading skills important in this age of technology and convenience?
The physical movement of our bodies in the act of making things imparts knowledge that can not be discovered conceptually or by thinking something through or by viewing a youtube video.
Then she asked me to rephrase for a broader audience, something less esoteric. I responded with...
The human genome project has shown that knowledge is encoded on a cellular level through our DNA. As a crafts person I believe that we can know certain things only through the repetitive and skillful movement of our bodies in space.
Body knowledge allows the potter to throw a perfect bowl, or a musician the ability to play their instrument with success. Mastering such things with our bodies or through our hands connects us to our physical environment in ways not possible through thought alone.
Where do you stand on embodied knowledge or embodied art? Have you learned things through your hands or your body from practicing your craft that you wouldn't have learned otherwise?
The images above are from my MFA thesis installation called the Realm of Complete Joy. More on this later...
Lauren Kenney asked me to make a memorial quilt out of her father's clothes as a gift for her mother. Lauren and her husband came to my studio with a few choice items of clothing, a gold coat beloved by her father in spite of her mother's sense of better taste, golf club covers, gloves, and towel, a favorite plaid shirt, old jean shorts and a pair of suspenders.
Walter was a down to earth kind of guy who used a rope as a belt when working out in the yard. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps, and as a Connecticut state police officer, and was a loyal Red Sox fan. By his clothes, I can see that Walter had a colorful and bold personality!
[slickr-flickr tag="pqwk" type="slideshow" size="m640"]
[slickr-flickr tag="pqc" size="original" type="slideshow"]
In December I was invited to lead a bereavement, memorial quilt making workshop in Cincinnati. Six people attended, each with the loss of a child, parent, or close friend. Everyone brought clothing of the person they were mourning to use as the material for their quilts.
We began the two day workshop sitting around an alter we made of photographs of the ones we loved and lost. Each person brought one piece of clothing to the alter and shared the story that it contained. Soon we were cutting up the wedding dresses, the jeans, the soft baby toys, the nightgowns, and the work shirts of our beloved.
After lunch the reconstruction began. We didn't have pre-determined patterns to follow. Each person worked intuitively and with the architecture of the clothing to reorder the fragments into new patterns and transformed relationships.
The next day we sat around the alter again and shared the many insights that came up overnight because of the process. People brought relief, fear, anger, sadness, gratitude, compassion, love, and forgiveness to the table. No one's feeling or experience was left out. The group was able to hold everyone's different expressions of grief.
We followed this time of sharing with another full day of cutting and sewing. We learned new patchwork and improvisational skills. We learned how to piece organically without rulers, how to sew knits, hand stitch delicate elements of clothing, and how to pull it all together into a composition. From my perspective it was an abundant time, full of sorrow, joy, friendship, and healing.
If you are interested in finding out more: Passage Quilting™ is a hands-on bereavement process that I developed and began facilitating in the fall of 2001.
Even though the war in Iraq is supposedly over, deadly emotional ramifications continue to persist. Join me for a virtual sewing circle in honor of Veteran's Day. Help stitch the names of soldiers who have died in the Iraq war as a meditative act of petition, prayer and compassion.
Announcing a Passage Quilting Workshop in Cincinnati, OH. This is a hands-on bereavement process, making memorial quilts from the clothing of the beloved.
My mom was born in 1943, and died on Christmas Eve in 2003 from pancreatic cancer. Today is her birthday.
My mom was always the life of the party. She loved bold colors and had a personality to match. The picture above was taken in May 2002 of her and me at my studio open house. She came to Durham to help me with the big party and quilt raffle I was having at the studio to raise money for art school. She was my biggest fan, full of love, hope, and pride for me.
She also lived with a lot of anxiety, insecurities and her fair share of defenses. But as she died her character flaws and defenses fell away. In the end she was so beautiful. The light of her love and her sweet natural spirit, glowed through her ailing body. Her life and even her death is a gift that I will always cherish.
Linda Susan Wood (1943-2003), two quilts made from my mother's clothing, 2006, each approx 70" wide. Read more about these quilts and my process of passage quilting here.
My name is Sherri Lynn Wood, and my grandmothers' names were Georgia Marie Wood (Grandma Wood), and Harriet Schmakel Waechter (Grandma Sam).
My hope for this blog is to share the scope of my creative interests, thoughts on the life/craft process, and to build a community around the concepts of grandmotherly wisdom, care, and devotion embedded in the making of craft.
This being said, my grandmothers were not saints. As a young child, I often felt shamed by my father's mother (although she totally mellowed out as she got older), and my mother's mother was very creative, but a little batty (and often overlooked as the main provider for a family of six). Both my grandmothers lived far away so I didn't get to know them to well. Harriet inspired me to sew. When I was in 4th grade she sent me beautiful swatches of fabric remnants left over from her drapery business.
I was fascinated when Georgia gave me a cowhide and wool carriage blanket, as she shared childhood stories about riding across the frozen Indiana farmland to attend winter wakes with her family in the horse drawn buggy. Apparently attending wakes, and attending to the dead were regular community events. It's hard to imagine.
Grandma's Everyday Madala, was made in 2002, from a vintage table cloth, crocheted doily and plastic flowers. Just as it was dedicated to the legacy of my grandmothers' vision and their devoted perseverance to the domestic life, to caring for the home and family, I now dedicate this blog in loving memory of my Grandma Wood and Grandma Sam.