Art Sisters

Last month I told you about my teaching legacy (see previous post Fun In The Classroom.)  This month I had the pleasure to visit the old town where both my parents taught, in central California.  The small town is called Winton, and the demographics are 72% Hispanic, with emphasis on agriculture.  We grew up right next door, in Atwater, a town of 12,000, adjacent to Castle Air Force Base.  My sister, Celine, now teaches first-grade, at the newer school, Winfield Elementary.

Me & my sister, Celine standing in front of a Winfield Elementary “quilt”

As an adult, finding a bonding element with family can sometimes be difficult.  Teaching an art lesson at Celine’s school was a wonderful way to witness the students’ learning and see her environment at the same time.  I could talk forever about sewing, quilting and art.  She, not so much.  Celine had a marvelous start to sewing.  I remember her creating one of those “shift” dresses: no detail in design, just fabric.  She picked a great artful 1960′s print, really mod, in the flamboyant style of an Emilio Pucci design.


Emilio Pucci and his famous printed silks

Lesson learned: always take the time to fit your garment to yourself or your model, for best results.  Celine’s results were not as she desired and she vowed to never sew again.  BTW, she kept that promise.  Most of the sewing I do today requires no fitting strategies.  Maybe Celine will try quilting?  It doesn’t require extensive fittings, but does involve math and measurements, to align all the blocks and borders.  Dream on, eh?  Celine does have a high appreciation for art and is quite good at sketching.  Gratefully, she also feels quilts make excellent art.


Perhaps my favorite block, composed by an older student, after seeing the “Ice Cream Cones” quilt from my book

I was enthusiastically greeted by four, first-grade girls who admired my “Grandmother’s Flower Garden” quilt and asked if they could keep it cozy for me.  It’s not often that visiting artists stop in for a show & tell, or even a hands-on lesson.  These students were ready and willing.


Carlos’ block with stitch detail. Artists use the familiar for inspiration.

They immediately accepted the premise of “quilts as art” and quickly sorted through tables of fabric to select strips and blocks for construction.  Some were a bit bogged down in making their assemblages, while others were fast to design, then took their time to glue.  The lucky ones could stay and add stitch detail to their quilt blocks.


Block by Jared. Note the use of fabric selvage edge!

Each block is amazingly creative and new in format and design.  I love teaching this lesson as every artist incorporates their own personal viewpoint into their work.  No two blocks are alike, even if duplicate fabric is used and the artists are sitting next to each other.


Stunning collection of squares and strips with additional stitching

Unexpectedly surprising is to see the results of other artists using my fabrics.  The unique combination of prints, use of light and dark colors, and scale of design is very inspiring.


Love how this student reassembled the Hawaiian-themed image in her block

Recently, I taught this lesson to my near-90-year-old mom, a 1944 art-major graduate of Rosemont College in Pennsylvania.  It was fun to watch her pick and arrange blocks too.  She kept to a monochromatic format of greens.  Art at any age is renewing.