I’m home. Back in my studio staring at a new quilt on the design wall that has been forming there for the past two months. Back in this beloved place after the heady and heartfelt weekend just spent in Athens Ohio attending the opening of Quilt National ’19, I feel different. Even though the same nagging questions and doubts are there, the same impulse to make that one piece of fabric a little more yellow, and the same resolve to sew the bottom left corner together completely before doing any more changes or additions, I feel newfound confidence to keep doing what I uniquely do. I trust my knowing that where I am with this piece is exactly where I am supposed to be. I feel called to dive in and yet calm enough to just sit and stare. I’m home.
There is no question that something transformative happens when immersed in a group of individuals who share your passion and have produced exquisite work. Work that is unquestionably and undeniably ART.
Keeping my feet on the ground when first entering the gallery at The Dairy Barn Arts Center was not easy. The space is lofty, bright and vast. We, the participating artists, had been invited to be the the very first to see the show. We had been instructed to go find our piece, to make sure all was as it should be. I circled the gallery slowly, not really seeing, but rather feeling the impact of a group of quilts expertly and beautifully displayed in a way that let me know I someplace special. And then I saw the quilt that I call ‘Celestial Twins’. It simply glowed. I stood transfixed in the love I had poured into its making. Felt the thrill of accomplishment and the joy of being so included. Soon enough I would be able to re-focus and begin the first of many many rounds of circling slowly to take in the sheer magnitude of beauty surrounding me. But for that moment, I let myself truly celebrate me.
There were all the other wonderful pieces to experience, yes, but what made this weekend so rich for me was meeting and connecting with so many of the artists. From the moment I walked through the front door, I began to have animated conversations. Margarita was the first, standing just inside the door with a brilliant smile and introduction. I then introduced myself to Erika and Isabelle, both from Germany, and discovered that Erika is also an architect! I then met Carson, who lives in a neighboring town here in Massachusetts. I would continue to connect with each of them throughout the weekend. This was all in the fifteen minutes before the doors actually opened.
The first hour in the gallery was characterized by one encounter after another of mutual smiles, looking at each other’s name tag, introductions, and then like giddy kids, saying to each other, “show me your quilt”! In this space I met Irene, Jean, Tim and Pat. Introduced myself to Yael and Judy whose quilts I greatly admired. Found Margarita and began a second round with her. And so on.
Later, I sat down in an empty chair next to Martha at the artist’s banquet. We shared our excitement at being part of Quilt National for the first time. Without preamble she asked, “So, who are your people?” I knew what she meant…who are the people I share my quilt life with? Who are the people who get why I do this? I rambled on about my years attending Quilting by the Lake and some dear friends I have made there. I shared about the arts community that I have become part of in my town, as one of two fabric artists amongst dozens of painters, sculptors, and artisans. In the midst of such camaraderie there at the opening night, I felt the ping of knowing that in this moment, here in Athens Ohio, I was with my people. And like the others who have continued to be part of my life from afar, I would leave here with new friends and connections that I could also enjoy from afar. I had the stark and clear realization that for me to be with my people, I would have to keep doing this work, with the same dedication and commitment that brought me here.
The weekend quickly took on the quality of a series of circles intersecting over and over again. At the beginning and end of each day, I would get to download with my long time friend Pat who I was sharing a room with. By Sunday morning I had made many new friends, now including Julia, Jill, and Diane. Email, Facebook and Instagram accounts were exchanged along with promises of staying in touch.
I now sit in my studio staring at the beginning of something new, aware that making ART and experiencing ART is always in relationship, patiently waiting for the infusion of so much presence.