On Saturday, October 15 my friend Diana H and I attended the workshop Expanding Resilience Through the Metaphor of Icons at New Albany’s Carnegie Center for Art and History. It was held in conjunction with the closing of the exceptional exhibit Heartbeats: Art Quilts by Penny Sisto, and followed previous museum talks by Penny and the author of Mindful Resilience, Pamela Cotton, PhD.
Pamela and Penny shared personal experiences and their own paths to discovering internal resilience with participants who were invited to share their own experiences.
The two women led a remarkable group through the creation of art quilts of our own. I am sharing photos of the physical results of our labors that morning, but the intangible results were many. It began with Penny and Pamela sharing stories from their lives. Penny’s first story had me in tears as she talked about her family in the Orkney Islands. Pamela’s stories of her mother were heartwarming and insightful.
Penny had set each place with a beautiful hand-dyed fabric piece to serve as backgrounds for our personally iconic 'quilts'. As we arrived, we sat in front of the piece of fabric that ‘spoke’ to us. Then we were given round halos of beautiful fabrics and were asked to choose a face, which Penny had drawn and cut out for us. Each face had such expression! I chose one with a sweet smile. When we were later given pinkish fabric to cut for lips, I didn’t want to cover up her smile – but I did.
We were told to choose two items that spoke to us somehow from an array of varied items, some nostalgic, some pretty, some unusual. I chose a cloth tape measure and a pair of button bedecked navy blue dress gloves. I had almost chosen a rectangular doily of cutwork and lace, but opted for less frilliness and chose the gloves instead. The gloves were reminiscent of younger days when ladies dressed up for special events, which in those days included Sunday services and shopping downtown. The measuring tape was about keeping track of events, my two grandmothers, both of whom were seamstresses, and my youngest son who seems to measure his life very carefully. It was almost comical later when we each had to give up one of our pieces – after having attached some familial- or life- importance to them. I reluctantly gave up my tape measure to Rose, the lovely lady sitting to my right. She reluctantly gave up the lace piece that meant ‘family’ to her. The same lace rectangle that I had almost chosen! Actually, I would never have had the idea to use the tape measure as wonderfully as she did, so it worked out well.
Dave and Diana bickered over the bones they had chosen – very similar, but Diana’s had a hole in it, which David put to use by tying fabric through it, griping all the while about wanting ‘his’ bone back. Many other such little dramas unfolded, prompting Pamela to relay a story about her mother who easily gave up anything someone else wanted or needed. She was able to let go of material goods because of her deeply held belief that she would have what she needed when the time came.
While our glued, stitched and layered quilts are far cries from Penny’s multi-layered, multi-faceted works of art, still we learned from the process – as much about ourselves and each other as we did about art and quilting. I hope you will look up both Penny’s and Pamela’s websites to learn more about their work. You will be amazed and impressed.
I don’t know the names of every person who created the following pieces, but I was moved by each person and the feelings that flowed from their stories and the morning’s work.
Note to Fellow Participants, if you want to 'claim' yours, send me a note or leave a comment below. If you've added to yours since Saturday, send me a new picture if you want me to update it.