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One Stitch at a Time: Reflections

Updated: Sep 28, 2019

Guest Artist: Marsha Clarke Sept. 4th and 5th



Marsha began her personal story with the first quilt made for her as a baby by her grandmother.  She shared her progression as a quilter from the first quilt she made back in 1991, Pine Trees, using hand made cardboard templates cut out with scissors to her more recent work, The Places We Dwell. The Places We Dwell quilt has 14 houses on it.  Each representing a place that she has lived.  The numbers on the houses are the house numbers where she actually lived.  The quilt is very personal because she connects it to all of the drives she took with her mother.  They drove back to previous residences which kept the memory of these houses fresh. 


More recently, she took a course from Janet Bolton on making Textile Pictures.  She shared a piece she made from that course fabricated from a pair of her dad's jeans.  He had just passed away and the items she used to make the picture were personal items she related to her dad.  One of her central messages in the lecture was that you need to make your art personal.  Have fun doing it but also make it connect to your life.


Do You Measure Up?, a quilted self-portrait was a representation not only of Marsha's face but also of how she sees herself and others.  The construction of the quilt was challenging because it made her look so closely at herself to get the image right. The title reflects on how competitive the world is and the traps we fall into because of this sense of competition. 



She purchased a second-hand longarm machine from a friend but it sat for a long time unused because she was afraid of ruining a quilt because of her lack of experience.  I can definitely relate to her story here as I have a quilt that I have left unfinished because it is my first personal design and I am afraid of ruining it in the quilting.  I want to use freemotion quilting to give the negative space dimension but feel intimidated to start because I could ruin the entire piece.  My rationalization is to wait until I have more experience before I finish the quilt but really, it is as Marsha says, a hump to get over. 


I chuckled when she shared her first use of the longarm using "a ruler with a death grip".  Marsha has a great sense of humour, evident in her name for her longarm machine, "Lucy".  Images of Lucille Ball working on an assembly line definitely jumped into my head when she was sharing her story.  Her later works generally mix machine and hand quilting.  She uses hand quilting for the sections of the quilt where she wants the stitches perfect and machine for the rest.


Marsha's work also reflects her relationship with her quilting friends. When she and her friends travel, they bring back fabric to  share with each other. One of the pieces she shared was a quilted heart made from strips of fabric shared by her quilting friends. She participates in block exchanges where extra challenges are included to make her think outside of the box. 



An example of this is a more recent work based upon a Jen Kingwell pattern.  Marsha loves working with a Jen Kingwell pattern because each block is unique-- so you don't get bored completing the pattern.  It is a very challenging pattern because there are a lot of partial seams and of course, as often happens with kits, you run out of fabric and have the additional challenge of adding new fabric that works with the overall design.  Her friends wanted to make the quilt as well so Marsha had to make the blocks before they each met and then instruct her quilting buddies on how to make the block in the easiest way possible. Her personal growth was in coming up with easier and clearer ways to make the blocks for her friends.  This challenged Marsha to keep on task so that she was ready each week with a block and she was rewarded with all of the quality time spent sharing their lives with each other when her quilting group met.


Finally, Marsha shared her 5 points of wisdom for quilting with others:


1. Not everyone sees colour in the same way.

2. Everyone's 1/4 inch is different

3. You will never use all or most of your scraps on any project-- you always buy more to complete the project

4. Tolerance and Patience are important when working with others

5. Quilting is not "Foreign Policy" there is lots of room for creativity and room for all to participate.





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