Ever since I can remember my mother has been an avid quilter. Her work ranges from household décor like pillowcases to hats, gloves, and my favorite: bedspreads that in the coldest nights keep you warmer than any overpriced comforter.
Just recently my mother presented me with my own quilt, handmade and woven with love. After a couple of weeks of using the bedspread, I was faced with a dilemma. How could I preserve it while enjoying it? Years from now, I want to be able to sit back and appreciate its beauty but after a couple of winter seasons it will become worn out and stretched.
Harlem Girls Quilting Circle (HGQC), established in 2000 by Ife Felix and Bernerdine Jennings, provides the transition from traditional to modern style of quilting that is appealing to the eyes and uplifting to the soul.
Recently, I attended a HGQC exhibit and fell into a world of lavish colors. Each piece had the resemblance of a deep and profound history associated with it. As I looked on, I couldn’t help but imagine the artists as they were creating their work.
My mother’s quilt then came to mind, folded neatly in the top-left corner of my closet.
“It’s a freedom you have,” says Anna Alvarez. “The traditional route is fine; sometimes it’s going to cover your bed. It becomes art, something you hang on your wall,” she adds. Alvarez has been quilting for 10 years. Her bright, star-covered quilt decorated the wall with a glowing essence. “The stars are not precise,” she pointed out. “I didn’t want perfection.”
With that freedom comes individualism. “You can embellish and make it yours,” says Pat Mabry. “You can do what you want and it becomes your tradition.”
HGQC is keeping the art of quilting alive and in the process, enhancing the bond of sisterhood. As I spoke to the group members, it was easy to see that a pact had been made.
“We meet once a month. We eat, we talk, and we work,” says Mabry. “It’s a good way to come together and develop sisterhood.”
Valerie Deas, a textile/visual artist and art teacher has been working with international/domestic Batik fabric for a while. “I enjoy the challenge of working with many colors. It’s like a puzzle spectrum. Sometimes it’s confusing, sometimes it’s not but when it comes together a beautiful textile story is created.” She beamed next to her work at the exhibit, a contemporary piece using Batik. Batik, which involves dyeing cloth using a resist, is a technique that has been around for more than 2,000 years.
Deas says that while quilting has been associated with old people, the work of the group is very contemporary. “We changed the old, traditional style of quilting.”
That night I returned from the exhibit with my mother’s quilt heavily on my mind. I retrieved it from the closet and laid it out on my bed. I wondered then of all its possibilities.
For more information about HGQC, contact Valerie Deas at V1023@aol.com.