Monday, October 4, 2010

My Other Obsession

Much of my adult life I have been more a quilter than a writer. For years I told the stories I had about African American life with fabrics, thread and needles. Even though I loved books, I never thought I could write a novel, didn't think I was really smart enough to do that. But then a story, a story I knew was my story, caught my imagination and I was compelled to set out my writer's journey.

Writing fiction, I would find, was a lot like piecing and quilting fabric . You stitch thousands of words together to create an intricate pattern of theme, plot and characterization. Then, one by one, you layer all the pages, one on top to the others, to produce what you hope will be an interesting and powerful work. Over the years, I became more writer than quilter because I found I couldn't serve two obsessions properly. However, recently my fabric love came back to me in the form of an invitation to celebrate the anniversary of a quilting project I was involved in some 13 years ago.

In 1997 a few of my quilts were selected to appear in the book, African American Quiltmaking in Michigan put out by the Michigan State University Museum. I remember being so thrilled to be included. It felt wonderful to have my quilts documented as part of Michigan history. Afterwards, I felt confident enough to open a small studio where I taught African American quilting for years. Then, the writing fever hit and I became more of a novelist. I thought quilting for the most part was in my past.

Imagine my surprise when two weeks ago I got a invitation to the African American Quiltmaking in Michigan reunion. The Michigan State University Museum is holding reception for the quilt artists and quilt owners whose work were featured in the book and exhibit. The reception is a part of the Unpacking Collections: The legacy of Cuesta Benberry. A Symposium on Researching and Using Quilt History Collections. Saturday morning I will be heading up to Michigan State to celebrate the quilter I was and still am. I plan to do the full day of lectures in addition to going to the reception, because quilts and quiltmaking have become an an important part of my next novel. After ten years, my two artistic halves are now merging into a joyous creative whole and that is a wonderful thing.