Thursday, April 5, 2012

Made by hand....

When does something become more than just a hobby?  At what point in the creation process does a project or an urge to create turn from a private moment in time to a work of art?  I was lucky enough to follow that process recently with a friend in my quilting group.

Leona Harden lost her son 10 years ago to Schizophrenia.  Yes, the big "elephant" in the middle of the room.  The side of many that is struggled against daily, that sadly some become too fooled by the lies their brain tells them to continue the struggle and decide that life is not enough.  It takes a long, long time for those who love to get past that...  all the levels of grieving, all the guilt and "what ifs", and the helpless feelings that keep them "stuck" in that moment.

Leona's son was a young artist attending college in the USA.  A promising talent, Alex also had a love of drawing, and was known throughout his circle for his insight into the process.  His death at 21 left a huge hole nothing else could ever fill.  But it's what we do when that hole needs filling that becomes the memorial to a young life gone too soon.  Leona took a concept she had been thinking of for a very long time, and with her talents as a textile artist and her ability to "think outside the box" she has created an amazing tribute to her son, and a piece of art that I hope will raise awareness among the young.. that sometimes when we are at our darkest there are still those who WILL catch us when we fall.

This amazing wall quilt was constructed using photographs and imagery that Leona compiled into a dream of love to fill that hole... literally.  Some of these tiny applique pieces are only 1/4 of an inch in size, and they have been painstakingly laid over one another, then overstitched with threads to give the entire piece movement and life.  She posted photos of the process and shared the development and techniques freely with our online group of quilters.  It was a privilege to watch, and an honor to be a part of the process.  We were all encouraged to give constructive feedback, asked how we felt about colour choices, layout, textures, fabric choices...  we all were given a chance to cheer with each successful stage completed, and learn from any "mistakes"; yes, Leona ripped stitches and changed things as she went, like most of us do when we are working on our textile art.

This is NOT your average quilt.  It's finished dimensions are about 100 inches in width and 60 inches in height.  It is meant to be a piece of art, as well as a window into the love a mother bears her son...  This beautiful creation has now been shared with the world.  "For Alex - Love Mom" has won "Best In Show" and has now been featured in a local quilting program in Leona's home State of Tennessee.  The best news so far has been a request for Leona to bring her work to the college where her son attended, to display the art, lecture on the technique, and bring awareness of Schizophrenia to the other young people attending the college.

Art is ephemeral;  nothing is forever, and while it exists if it isn't shared with the world it is wasted.  In the same vein, each one of us is also a work of art.  We are not here forever, and the only immortality we have are the memories we leave and the lives we touch.  Share your talent with the world; share your thoughts, your gifts, your strengths... sing, paint, sew, build, make music, exchange ideas and ideals, grasp the hand of the person beside you and lift them up with you.  And realize that art is created by us and for us, and that not everyone has to like us, but as long as we love ourselves and do what we love it doesn't really matter what the world thinks of our art... after all, it's all great or it's all crap, depending on the place where the viewer is coming from, and that's okay.

Sew.... I'm back in the studio, creating some more art...  I'm happy to get feedback, ready to rip out a few stitches and start parts of it over until I get it right, just like I can do that now with myself.  Yes, nothing is perfect, but it's those imperfections that others see that give art it's life, and make life into art...   so I can think "outside the box"... but that's enough philosophy for now, it's back to puppies and laundry before I get to play, and in the meantime I'll have a caffe mocha vodka valium latte to go...