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Meet The 70273 Project Data Angels

I told you about The Missus (The 70273 Project Online Searchable Database), now allow me to introduce you to the Host of Data Angels that is bringing it to life. I recently asked them the same three questions, and here are their answers, presented in alphabetical order by first name. If you’d like to know what the Data Angels do when they’re not bent over their computers entering data into The Missus, head this way.

 

Barbara Walsh (Minnesota, USA)

Q: Why did you get involved with The 70273 Project?
A: I have several family members that would 100% have been given 2 red X’s, perhaps even myself with my poor vision and scoliosis. How can someone not want to be involved is the question I ask.

Q: Why did you become a Data Angel?
A: We were in the thick of the pandemic. My children’s school and sporting activities had all been shut down, and I got a good glimpse of what retirement will look like for me – even if it is 15+ years down the road. I have several hobbies, but not being active with any groups (my church quilting group shut down as well) was eye opening. With so much time on my hands, I needed a project, a group, a cause. I had already made some blocks, and was waiting for some block bundles to come my way, and I thought “How much data entry could there be?” I figured a few hours of data entry and I would be done. I still cannot comprehend how much is done and is still to do. Such important work, and I am so pleased to be a very small part of it.  (True confession: Jeanne, I am in your camp on the “S” (spreadsheet) word. I can barely say it! My career really isn’t a tech heavy profession, so emails and word documents are pretty much all I do . . . till now.)

Q: Why is The 70273 Project important?
A: My life’s work is dedicated to the honoring and remembering those that go before us. To have 70,273 individuals snuffed out because of someone’s idea of imperfection is unimaginable. To not have been remembered, honored, or buried properly is unthinkable to me. By participating in this project, i feel we are giving those 70,273 souls their due respect, honor, and in a strange way, a burial.

 

Gladys Loewen, Coordinator (Canada)

Q: Why did you get involved with The 70273 Project?
A: I became involved with the project because it speaks to various aspects of my identity. I identify as disabled, and I have worked for 25 years in the field of higher education and disability, so this project pulled me because of that. As well, my ancestors were German Mennonites from what used to be Prussia, and they later moved to Russia for religious freedom and pristine farmland. My grandparents and parents were born in various parts of the former USSR. In the late 1920s, after the Bolshevik Revolution when German communities were targeted for being different as outsiders, both sets of grandparents escaped Russia as Mennonite Refugees. My mother was 4 and my dad 8 when their families arrived in Canada, penniless. So this adds to my interest in The 70273 Project. And lastly, I am a quilter, and for that reason, our lives intersected at the International Quilt Festival in 2017. As a quilter, I knew I wanted to make a quilt for the project as soon as I saw the special exhibit in Houston. And of course, I have been teaching my grandkids how to sew, which made making a quilt with my 9 year old grandson an important project.

Q: Why did you become a Data Angel?
A: I became a Data Angel because I am retired; skilled at coordinating and managing details; and I wanted to be part of a community. The Data Angels have become a team, a community, even though we are spread out from Canada to Argentina and from the Pacific Coast to the East Coast. I started doing data entry work several months after Kevin Thomas, nancy Carroll, and Lori Grillo started. nancy offered to meet on a phone call and walk me through my questions on how to get started. We chatted several times after that, and eventually we met so I could pick up her two quilts to bring to the AHEAD conference. I met her again when Tari Vickery came to visit, so that is where my community began with the Dta Angels. And now my role has shifted to Coordinator, so I continue to find ways to encourage and support the community feeling, a feeling of being in a safe, supportive place.

 

Lara Ferguson (California, USA)

Q: Why did you get involved with The 70273 Project?
A: Because I passionately agree with this statement you made from the beginning, “I want this to be so big, so immense that people cannot look away, cannot say they didn’t see it.” I wanted to be part of that.

Q: Why did you become a Data Angel?
A: I work in IT, and I thought I might be useful. I love a good data entry project!

Q: Why is The 70273 Project important?
A: I don’t want any part of that history to be repeated, and I think people sometimes need help remembering and personalizing the stories of those who died.

 

Maria Conway (Argentina)

Q: Why did you get involved with The 70273 Project?
A: Once I read your first post on this project, i was completely hooked, and I couldn’t not participate! My sister in disabled. She lives with me, so it really touched my heart. This was at the very beginning of the project, and I remember thinking “this woman is completely crazy. She’s never gong to finish making and collecting 70,000+ blocks, so i’d better help1”

Q: Why did you become a Data Angel?
A: It’s something else I can do to help now that we’ve completed all the blocks. I’d love helping with putting together quilts, but I’m so far away, and the post here is to dreadful, so that’s really not feasible. And data entry is something I enjoy doing and am good at.

Q: Why is The 70273 Project important?
A: I find it very important to always speak against violence, especially against those who can’t defend themselves. I had no idea this happened. You always hear about the killings of Jews and gays, and that was absolutely terrible. The killing of disabled people is a work of pure evil, and people should know this happened so as to not let history repeat itself.

 

Patricia Taylor (Wisconsin, USA)

Q: Why did you become involved with The 70273 Project?
A: I first learned about The 70273 Project when we attended the Minnesota Quilt Show in 2018 and met you for the first time. I remember returning home, and all I could think about was the story you shared and the images of those pairs of red X’s so tenderly sewn into all the quilts on exhibit. The tiny christening dress is the one that stayed most in my heart.

Q: Why did you become a Data Angel?
A: I made blocks and quilts, and when this opportunity came along, my husband taught me the basics of working with an Excelt spreadsheet and declared me ready to join, so there was no turning back – I had to join the team! My computer skills are quite limited – especially compared with the rest of the group, but even the limited efforts I make are so rewarding, and seeing all this information come together is fabulous.

Q: Why is The 70273 Project important?
A: To think of another person being murdered for any reason is unthinkable, but to know there were 70,273 people murdered because they were deemed “imperfect” is almost unbelievable. We cannot let these people or this atrocity go unremembered.

 

Peggy Thomas, Lead Data Angel (Georgia, USA)

Q; Why did you get involved with The 70273 Project?
A: I think it was serendipity – of course it was! Two things collided: I had recently sold my business and had a vague idea  that I might want to make a quilt again after 30+ years since my first one. Second, my son is Autistic, so anything touching disabilities – especially if it raises awareness – is dear to me.

Q: Why did you become a Data Angel?
A: I knew – and said aloud – at our first hands-on work day at the Peachtree City Library that you needed help getting all this information out of your head and into a computer. You gave me a bit of back story and told me of plans for the future, then gave me crate blanche and off I merrily went.

Q: Why is The 70273 Project important?
A: The story behind The 70273 Project immediately moved me. When I thought about all the amazing people I’ve met over the years who would have received a death sentence in the form of two red X’s, I knew I would be involved for the duration of the project.

 

Roberta Pabst (California, USA)

Q: Why did you get involved with The 70273 Project?
A: Susan Bianchi made a short mention of the project during a “show and tell” session at a Santa Clara Valley Quilt Association meeting. It spoke to me, and I followed up. I can see in the database that Sue and the members of her art quilt group all made blocks and sent them in.

Q: Why did you become a Data Angel?
A: I like to use the skills I have to help whenever I can.

Q: Why is The 70273 Project important?
A: It tells a story that needs to be told. It honors those who cannot speak for themselves. It reminds us that each person is important, even – or maybe especially – those who are different or dependent or hidden from everyday awareness. We don’t believe that such an atrocity could have ever happened, but we need to believe it to help inform our every day decisions. It can make us better people to feel the magnitude of what was done.

 

Sacha Brady (Indiana, USA)

Q: Why did you get involved with The 70273 Project?
A: It was a profound idea with great visual impact, something large and educational and creative that I had the skills to be a part of. All of those aspects appeal to me.

Q: Why did you become a Data Angel?
A: Becoming a Data Angel was another way I could put my skills to use for the cause. I thought it would be busy work to pass the time during the pandemic, but it has turned into much more for me:P problem solving, troubleshooting, being part of a collaborative community. All of those aspects appeal to me, too.

Q: Why is The 70273 Project important?
A: Honoring people’s lives; grieving ourselves; facing hard truths; understanding that we are all connected and resilient even when life is fragile; and channeling our feelings into creative productivity are powerful and important. The 70273 Project is all of those things.

 

 

 

Kevin Thomas (Georgia, USA)

Kevin was our very first Data Angel, so we invited him to join us on the call, and I asked him the same questions. Here are his answers:

Q: Why did you get involved with The 70273 Project?
A: My mother has a lead role in it.

Q: Why did you become a Data Angel?
A: Because I believe in the project.

Q: Why is The 70273 Project important?
A: It brings awareness to a previously unacknowledged aspect of history.

 

We are grateful for the service and contributions of these retired Data Angels: 

Kathy Carfagno (USA)
Lori Grillo (USA)
Nancy Carroll (Canada, deceased)

A Peek Behind the Scenes at Our Online Searchable Database

9 smiling people

 

The Big, Fat, Crazy Idea

When The Big, Fat, Crazy Idea whooshed in and sat on my shoulder that day in late January 2016 – ten days before launch so I didn’t have time to think myself out of it – she showed me everything in a span of about 3 nanos. She showed me pairs of red X’s on white or slightly off-white backgrounds that stretched as far as my eyes could see (this was pre-wet macular days, so you can believe me when I say that was a lot of pairs of red x’s). She showed me the blocks; she showed me quilts stretching around the world; she showed me sorrow and smiles.

Having heard maybe three sentences about Aktion T4 in the documentary I was watching, I had no idea what the pairs of red X’s symbolized or why they were on backgrounds of shades of white. And quilts? I make art quilts, so the large quilts made from blocks puzzled me. I researched, I learned, I understood. I marveled at the thoroughness with which this Big, Fat, Crazy Idea presented herself to me.

Besdies fabric, she showed me people of all ages looking at a screen, their fingers running down and across the screen, searching. Once their fingers stopped, entire faces smiled. Sometimes bodies danced with excitement. Eventually I understood that these people were searching an online database, finding ancestors, friends, and family who are part of The 70273 Project. In the vision, this was I’m delighted to tell you, cause for great celebration. They, by blood or love, were a part of something important, something bigger than themselves. They were proud to be part of such a legacy, and they stepped away from the screen standing a little taller and vowing to keep the stories alive – the atrocity of the murders and how caring, compassionate people from around the world came together in kindness.

 

Enter Peggy Thomas & a Host of Data Angels

Though we met because of The 70273 Project, neither of us can remember the specifics about our first meeting. It’s as though we’ve known each other for a lifetime. Peggy instantly understood The 70273 Project in its entirety, (though I wish I had a nickel for every time she started a sentence with “At first I thought you were crazy” in the beginning!, and at the first hands-on workday of The 70273 Project, she announced that I needed to get all this information out of my head. With that, she quickly took over data organization and management, becoming Lead Data Angel and putting together a Host of Data Angels extraordinaire. If y’all have ever lead an organization, you know what a tremendous gift it is when somebody like Peggy and Gladys and the Data Angels keep you in the loop while strongly encouraging you to stay out! (Back story: I can’t even say the word “spreadsheet” – it catches in my mouth – so we have a Landscape Oriented Table or Database. I am fluent in neither of those lands, so the Data Angels invite me to stay out for fear I’ll knock something over.)

 

Meet The Missus

The Host of Data Angels are creating that online searchable database where people can go to find their blocks, which quilts their blocks are in, and where in the world those quilts are on any given day. Exhibit curators will be able to search for quilts by location of Makers, by quilt size, by whatever criteria they want to use in deciding which quilts to put on display. (As it is now, Curators email me, telling me how much space is available, and The Engineer and I have to look through the quilts and do the math to decide which quilts to send – though I do also search the labels to find quilts that were made in whole or in part by people in the vicinity of the exhibit. I can’t even begin to tell you how much time this online searchable database is going to save us and how easy it will be for Curators, Organizers, and Individuals to find information.) Other information you’ll be able to see which Makers have blocks in each quilt, when the quilt was finished, and where each quilt has been on exhibit. Like I said, it’s beyond phenomenal! And as if all that isn’t enough, I am assured it will can also be searched audibly, making it universally accessible.

Yes, really.

Wondering why I call it The Missus? Well, you’ll need to invite me to do a presentation for your group and ask me then.

 

Meet the Data Angels

The Data Angels and I huddled around our computers recently, and I asked them each the same questions. Come right this way to meet them and read their answers.

Happy Fifth Birthday to The 70273 Project!

white cloth embellished with pairs of red X’s that are all different sizes and shades of red

The 70273 Project Quilt 52, a Middling made by Margaret Williams

Can y’all believe it was FIVE years ago today when I mashed the publish button on the blog post launching The 70273 Project? So much has happened in our lives, in this project, in the world since then. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be unveiling several new adventures happening in The 70273 Project and introduce you to the volunteers who are carrying the torch for each adventure. If you haven’t already subscribed to the blog, perhaps you’d like to. Or maybe you’d like to join join The 70273 Project Campfire, our Facebook group or like our Facebook page

I’m sure you have questions, so I’ll celebrate our Big Day the way I began it five years ago: by posting and answering questions you may have.

Q: How many people have been commemorated to date?
A: We have issued numbers to slightly over 72,000 pairs of red X’s, though there are some gaps in the numbers that will be filled in and we still have blocks and quilts to be processed, so check back often for updates.

Q: How many quilts do we have?
A: We have given out up to Quilt #850, though again, there are some gaps in the numbers that will be filled in as new quilts come in. The Engineer still guesstimates we’ll have around 1200 when we’re done.

Q: How on earth do you track numbers and blocks and quilts?
A: I am delighted to tell you that I don’t! We have a merry band of Data Angels, and I will be introducing you to them over the next couple of weeks. They are a group of women who are creative, dedicated problem solvers, and what they are doing is nothing short of phenomenal. Just wait’ll you hear.

Q: Are you still accepting blocks and quilts?
A: We are mostly focusing on catching up with all we have going on right now, plus the pandemic makes it rather hard to host exhibits and block-making parties, but yes. If you’d like to make blocks or quilts, we won’t turn them away because we know that 70,273 is the number of murdered committed and documented by Aktion T4. Actual numbers could easily be more than 300,000. Chilling, isn’t it? There are other ways to become part of The 70273 Project, though as you’ll see in the next Q and A. And there are some new adventures opening up this year that might captivate your interest and attention.

Q: Is there anything you still need help with?
A: I love this question, and the answer is a hearty Yes! Read on, and click here if you’d like to raise your hand and offer to help. We need:
~ volunteers to take bundles of blocks and turn them into tops and/or quilts.
~ folks to quilt the tops.
~ people to create quilt labels (from information we send). This is something done on the computer using email, so it’s something that can be done from anywhere in the world.
~ We need hands-on volunteers who live in the vicinity of Fayette County, Georgia to print the labels on fabric that’s been specially treated to go through inkjet printers then sew them onto the backs of the quilts. Or you could just offer to print the labels and deliver them to whoever is going to sew them onto the quilts.
~ We need folks to add or amend hanging sleeves on some of the quilts.
~ We also need money. We keep our overhead low, but there are still expenses. There’s some annual overhead, and now we need things like the fabric for the labels and storage. Oh my goodness do we need storage! If you’re willing to make a donation, you can send a check (U.S. banks only, please) to The 70273 Project, Inc. / POB 994 / Cashiers, NC 28717. We are an official 501(c)(3) organization, so with your thank you note, we’ll tuck in a tax form you can use next year. You can also make a donation via the PayPal Giving Fund.

In closing, a question from me to you:
Q: Would you like to see where in the world The 70273 Project has touched down in one way or another?
A: Scroll all the way down to the bottom of this page, you’ll see a world that’s revolving on its axis. See all those red dots? People from all those dots have come to visit our web site, seeking info, volunteering to participate, sharing stories, commemorating lives we honor, and/or keeping up with our progress.

We’re not done yet, y’all, so please keep showing up and sharing the project with others.

Now go treat yourself to a cupcake. Me, I’m headed to my mother’s house where she is doing what she does every Valentine’s Day for I’m not gonna’ tell you how many years – baking my birthday cake, using the pan and recipe that her mother before her used to bake my birthday cake. You can bet your sweet patooties I’ll be raising a forkful by way of toasting y’all with gratitude.

Losses or Gains?

snow on trees

Snow on Christmas Eve
Icy roads before midnight.
Santa made it, though,
thanks to Rudolph’s fierce
determination.

Snow covered trees around the waterfall

snow covered trees around the waterfall

This morning,
the men are up
earlier than the tots
on Christmas morning,
out to do battle with nature
who’s proving a formidable foe
(just as I warned.)
(I mean foretold.)
In their crosshairs:
getting off our slick mountain road
with little if any regard
for all the other potentially hazardous roads
awaiting them.

While all scurry frantically,
in angst at plans disrupted,
their eagerness to leave
lands like families of porcupines on my heart.

Have they learned nothing from 2020,
The Great Teacher
who gave us so gave us so many
opportunities
to learn
and reframe?

At the knee of 2020,
we learn to
consider plans made as suggestions
or possibilities
to jot task lists in pencil
instead of ink,
to linger.

She gives us countless opportunities
to sample a slower-paced life,
our 2020,
to remember how it feels to
spend entire days letting books
be our planes, trains, and automobiles;
to replace text message with
pen, paper, envelopes, and stamps;
to reacquaint ourselves with
childlike wonder
enjoying games made from bits found
and food made from leftovers
and the awe of trees
newly-defined by snow.

snow covered trees and branches

Now I leave the fantasy land of my studio
and rejoin the chaos of angst –
noses pressed to the
panes in the door,
watching the thermometer,
willing it to reach 32 degrees Fahrenheit,
where –
in their own fantasy land –
the snow and ice will magically poof,
disappearing so they can
hit the road
hours after they’d planned,
moving a little faster
to make up for all the time lost.

Refrigerator Shrine

Short and squatty with a handle that pulled out to open the door, Grandmother’s Frigidaire is home to an important piece of my family history, a story of a first and a last . . .

The first and only time Grandmother Hewell told me “No” was the day I – the apple orchard of her eye – reached to the back of the squatty, boxy, white-on-the-outside-turquoise-on-the-inside refrigerator intending to help myself to the Zero candy bar in the back left corner of the second shelf. Her loud, abrupt “NO” startled me. She offered no explanation, just “You leave that alone,” as she pushed me to the side and closed the refrigerator door.

I was stunned. Grandmother had never denied me anything – not a single thing. My wish was her command, and I didn’t have to clean some funny-shaped lantern to get her attention. But that fateful day, all I got was a resolute, unwavering NO.

a boy holding a baby in front of an old car parked beside an unpainted house

Crawford Jr. plays with 6 month old Baby Gene

William Eugene Hewell – was he my uncle or is he my uncle? I never know whether to use past or present tense when talking about people who are so alive inside me but aren’t readily available to hug or sit beside or laugh with.

Laugh with.

Everybody I ask to tell me about my Uncle Gene says the same three things:
~ I can’t think of him without seeing him sitting up on that tractor seat.
~ I remember him popping wheelies in the front of the school before the bell rang.
~ He was funny. Lord a-mercy how that man did make us laugh. I never knew anybody as funny as your Uncle Gene.

William Eugene Hewell was born on March 31, 1933, a mere five weeks before five armed bandits held the family hostage while waiting on the bank’s vault to open so they could relieve it of its money bags. Uncle Gene was the last of five children born to Grandmother and Granddaddy. Before him, there was Juanita who lived 4 days. Edgar and Earl were twins, one living for an hour, the other stillborn. Then there was Crawford Junior, my daddy. He was five when Uncle Gene was born.

a young boy sits behind the wheel of a tractor

12 year old uncle Gene behind the wheel of the tractor

Zero candy bars were Uncle Gene’s favorite. The morning of December 19, 1951, he pulled the handle to open the refrigerator door, placing his beloved Zero candy bar in the back left corner so it would be nice and cold when he came in later that afternoon. He kissed his mother on the cheek, said something to make her laugh and shake her head, then went out the back door. He hopped up on the tractor and headed off to spend the day pulling stumps up on the property. Though I can’t imagine how he reached the pedals, family lore – those sacred stories that remain forever impervious to logic – holds that Uncle Gene learned to drive a tractor when he was 8 years old. Two years later,  Granddaddy began renting out the tractor, sending Uncle Gene along to operate it. Details aside, it stands true that Uncle Gene knew his way around tractors.

But this day, something went terribly, horribly, unspeakably wrong.

He put the chain too high up on the stump, some tell me. Others say he put the chain too low. Either way, the result remains the same. As Uncle Gene began to move the tractor forward, it reared up and flipped over on him, crushing him instantly. I am told that my wiry, small-framed granddaddy found my rotund uncle, lifted the tractor off him, and carried Uncle Gene back to the house where he laid him on the bed he shared with my grandmother.

Granddaddy Hewell drove a silver stake in the ground to mark the spot. Grandmother kept that Zero candy bar as her private refrigerator memorial to the son she loved to immensely. Years later, Crawford created his memorial to his brother Gene by naming his firstborn child after him. He spelled her name Jeanne.

newspaper article about the death of Eugene Hewell

 

P.S. Uncle Gene died on December 19, 1951. Twelve years later to the day, Granddaddy Hewell died. He died in his sleep, and because the attending doctor couldn’t be sure whether he died before or after midnight, he chose to let Granddaddy’s death stand forever as the same day his younger son was killed.

P.S. 2 I am currently writing a book about what happened to my family on May 5-6, 1933 and having a big time as my daddy would say, learning more about myself as I look back at those who preceded me.

Twenty Years Is Both a Long Time and No Time At All

“In the language of the deaf, the sign for ‘remember’ begins with the sign for ‘know’: the fingertips of the right hand touch the forehead. But merely to know is not enough, so the sign for ‘remain’ follows: the thumbs of each hand touch and, in this joined position, move steadily forward into the future. Thus a knowing that remains, never lost, forever: memory.”
~~~ Myron Uhlberg in Hands of My Father: A Hearing Boy, His Deaf Parents, and the Language of Love

Twenty years.

My daddy died died twenty years ago today, and I still ache with griefcrave one more hug, long to hear him call me Doll just one more time. Every December 2 I become a cauldron of grief – sorrow, anger, pensiveness, no sense of direction.  I usually spend the day doing soft, soulful things like writing, remembering, walking, but with the recent fullness of my life, I had no time to pre-plan. My waking thought was to read something written by someone else remembering and grieving for their daddy, and while that felt like a winner of an idea, what, exactly, I would read remained a question mark. Then, as Magic would have it, I went to the bookshelves in my studio this morning in search of another book for another reason, when the book aforementioned book  leapt off the shelf and into my hands.

Remembering.
It’s what I do.
It’s who I am.
Stories of remembering are my oxygen.

In August 2000, two weeks after delivering the book I wrote about my father-in-law to each of his children and grandchildren, Bones woke me up whispering, “Write a book about your daddy, and do it now.”

“Are you kidding me?” I countered. “I am exhausted, depleted, worn slap out.” (I kept the father-in-law book a secret even from Andy, which meant much writing at night) The Voice of my Bones was not amused or swayed, and I’ve learned (the hard way) not to argue with Bones, so the following week I began gathering stories, photos, newspaper articles, interviews, whatever I could get my ears and hands on, about my daddy. I wrote. I scanned. I wrote some more, and the Monday before Thanksgiving, off it went  to the printer and binder. Everybody in the family would receive a leather-bound copy of this 400+ page book of memories about Daddy.

Four days later – the day after Thanksgiving – Daddy fell, hitting his head. Hard.

The Monday after Thanksgiving, I called Karen, the book binder. “I hear voices, you see, and well, Daddy fell last Friday and the voices I call My Bones tell me I need to get those books back asap. Can you help?” Without a single audible sign of exasperation, Karen said, “I can have one book to you on Saturday and the rest next Monday.”

First-Book-Arrives-Saturday started with all Daddy’s bells and whistles going off, his machine creating a cacophony of alert. I called family members. “If you want to see Daddy alive, you need to get here before noon,” I told them. They came trickling in. Friends followed. Finally, husband Andy and son Kipp walked in, brown package in hand.

In a rather bold move for a Southern girl raised to respect hospitality above (almost) all else, I asked the friends to  leave, gathered family around Daddy’s bed, and opened the package. I began reading at 1:05 p.m. A nurse stayed well past her shift’s end, keeping the machines shushed by holding her finger on the quiet button.

We took turns reading, arriving at “The End” at 4:50 p.m.

Daddy took his last breath at 4:55.

Though he never said a word, I know Daddy could hear his life review because from my position to the left of his pillow, I watched tears make their way down his face throughout the afternoon.

Take from this post whatever you will, just please promise me this:
~ If, God forbid, anybody you love should ever be in a coma or otherwise unable to communicate, take it upon yourself to make sure that only positive loving kindness is spoken within those four walls because I know – know to my very core – that they hear everything, and we all know that words are powerful.
~ You’ll take the time to capture your family’s stories. Start today. Record, write, ask, clip, copy, scan – gather and preserve those stories by whatever means available. You can shape them into narrative later, step one is to capture, and let’s face it: we never know. Preserving these stories will change your life (among other things, you will learn a lot about yourself) and future generations will call you good things and be forever grateful. Count on it.

The Story of Women Exhibit: Whispering Bones and Aunt Addie

I told you about Cannonball – a piece in The Rinse Cycle, Pivotal Epiphanies in a Woman’s Life Series –  being on exhibit at the the Milford Arts Council (a.k.a. the MAC) in Connecticut, and today I’m here to tell you about the other two pieces that were selected for inclusion in The Story of Women Exhibit  there . . .

 

The Rinse Cycle Series, Pivotal Epiphanies in a Woman’s Life:
Whispering Bones

About the Series:
We all have them – moments that startle us into utter clarity about the need for significant change. And if we’ve made enough trips around the sun, we know that it’s up to us to create the life we are meant to live, so we grab onto the thread that has guided so many before us – the thread that is being offered to us now – and begin. People – even those who initially quake in fear at how our change might affect their lives – fall in beside us, cheering us on. Ancestors gather round to aid and abet. People we’ll never know grab onto the thread, vowing to live a self-determined life, too. I immortalize the spark and the resolve in art quilts I call The Rinse Cycle, Pivotal Epiphanies in a Woman’s Life.

Size:
25.75” h x 18.5” w

Materials:
Scraps of fabric, commercial fabric, batting, embroidery floss

A Note About This Piece:
The “I Matter” note is tacked open in this photo and in the exhibit. When she finds her way back home to me, I will snip the threads holding the whisper open, fold it back into its envelope shape, and tie it closed using the strip of fabric underneath it.

Artist Statement:
When she needed it most, she heard a whispered sticky note.

 

Pink Galoshes Women: Aunt Addie

About the Series:
Pink Galoshes Women are those who, when confronted with obstacles, pull on their proverbial pink galoshes and tromp on through the mud and the muck to get to where they need and want to go.

Size:
19.5” h x 22.5” w

Materials:
Aunt Addie’s letters (printed, then chopped into chunks and reconnected to create background fabric of top) and photo transferred to fabric; vintage gloves and pearls; beads; embroidery floss; thread; batting; commercial fabric (back)

Artist Statement:
Committed to an insane asylum by six men because “she talked too much,” Aunt Addie found ways to quiet her soul if not her brain.

 

Viewing the Exhibit

The Story of Women is a hybrid – virtual AND brick-and-mortar – exhibit. To view the exhibit in person, visit the Milford Arts Council. To view from the comfort of your home, you have but to click right here.. Be sure to look for Black Wedding Dress, well-deserved winner of Best Story, by Karen Kassap. Right after the exhibit opened, Karen reached out to me via Instagram, and we are becoming the kind of friends I like best: appreciative, supportive, and encouraging. Add her friend Gale Zucker to that list, too. Gale went to see the exhibit yesterday, in support of her good friend, Karen, and afterwards she, too, reached out to me with supportive encouragement. Isn’t it lovely to be friends with so many women who are comfortable and confident enough in their own creative abilities that they feel no need to behave haughtily and be mean? I am blessed.

 

Dates and People’s Choice Award

The exhibit is open through November 19, 2020,. Scroll to the bottom of this page to cast your vote for the People’s Choice Award. Voting closes on November 18 to give them time to count the votes before announcing the winner at the close of the exhibit on November 19, 2020.  (Oh the jokes I could make were I one to delve into politics. But I’m not, so I won’t.)

The Story of Women Exhibit: Cannonball

I’m delighted to tell you that three of my girls were selected to be part of  The Story of Women Exhibit at the Milford Arts Center in – you guessed it – Milford, Connecticut. The exhibit opened online and in the brick-and-mortar gallery yesterday and remains open until November 19, 2020. Judge Shanna T. Melton put together a strong multi-media exhibit telling stories of women. Click here to hear from Executive Director Paige, then scroll on down to find links to the virtual exhibit, information about Judge Shanna, and on further down to find a ballot where you can take half a minute to vote for your favorite piece of art in the exhibit, the one you think should be awarded the coveted People’s Choice.

 

The Rinse Cycle, Pivotal Epiphanies in a Woman’s Life: Cannonball

 

We all have them – moments that startle us into utter clarity about the need for significant change. And if we’ve made enough trips around then sun, we know that it’s up to us to create the life we are meant to live, so we grab onto the thread that has guided so many women before us – the thread that is being offered to us now – and Begin. People – even those who initially quake in fear at the thought of how our change might affect their lives – fall in beside us, cheering us on. Ancestors gather round to aid and abet. People we’ll never know urge us on and vow to live a self-determined life of their own. I immortalize that spark and resolve in a series of art quilts I call The Rinse Cycle, Pivotal Epiphanies in a Woman’s Life. I call this one Cannonball.

 

 

“Then One Day she knew she would rather Dive in and make Waves than Drown in silence.”

 

 

Yes, the back of the swimsuit is on the back of the quilt. Of course it is!

 

The Other Two Girls

Swing back by sometime to read about Pink Galoshes Women: Aunt Addie and The Rinse Cycle, Pivotal Epiphanies in a Woman’s Life: Whispering Bones, my two other girls who are in The Story of Women Exhibit.

Travel bans may keep us from seeing the exhibit in person, but there’s not a ban strong enough to keep us from making art, right? I’d sure like to see and hear about what your hands are up to, and if you’re a mind to tell me, please leave a comment and/or connect with me on Instagram and Facebook.  Thank you, Milford Arts Center, for your continued dedication to being a facilitator for the arts that no travel ban can stop or even detour.

Unclaimed Hallelujah: Katie Belle Wesley Ballard

 

When the brown paper grocery bag from K. W. McElaney’s corner store was full of fabric scraps, they met in the middle of the road – Mrs. Callaway and my maternal grandmother. After exchanging pleasantries, they swapped bags then returned to their respective homes, spilling the bag’s contents on the kitchen table, marveling at the colors, the patterns, the possibilities. Soon enough, colors were sorted, patterns were chosen, cutting begun. Eventually her Davis treadle machine whirred with life, providing Grandmother the only walls she could lay claim to.

The simple act of me saying “yes” to receiving a garbage bag filled with scraps from an anonymous donor and turning them into quilts made Grandmother smile. I’m sure of it.

 

 

When the box arrived, I had no idea what I was going to do. My mind was a blank slate. I finished a few other projects, and with the calendar ticking, I got up one morning and before anything or anyone else could take the reins of my day, I opened the box, removed the garbage bag, then dumped the contents onto my design table. How I do love a beautiful jumble, the chaos of colors, the cacophony of shapes, the nostalgic imaginings of what the fabric had once been used for. Oh, the possibilities.

But still no ideas.

The calendar ticked louder.

I fiddled with the colorful bits of cloth and eventually began to See.

 

Christmas fabric . . .
Christmas mornings spent in Grandmother’s living room.
Gifts opened only after each of her 14 grandchildren played their two pieces on her black upright piano with the stool that rose and lowered by spinning.
Cousins showing off the 3 Santa gifts we were allowed to bring.
Granddaddy holding up a pair of freshly-unwrapped underwear, hollering across the room
”Katie Belle, are these from you?”
”What William?” she hollers back.
They had big ears – both of them did –
but they were for facial decoration only.
He asks again, “I said Are. These. From. You?”
With a chortle that would not be held back,
Grandmother says, “Oh William, of course they’re new.”

One strip of black and white fabric . . .
88 keys on a piano.
Grandmother’s full-ride scholarship to The Piano Conservatory
an adventure cut short
When her father harrumphed at the end of her first year
That young ladies didn’t need an education
especially in something as frivolous as piano
and declared that she would not be going back
and would instead spend her time in search of a husband.
Even a letter from the Dean
begging him to let Grandmother complete her studies
and telling of her immense talent
could not dissuade her father.
Whether Grandmother’s step-mother influenced the story or not,
we’ll never know.
I doubt anybody thought to ask before now.
She did meet and marry Granddaddy,
and every one of her five children
will tell you without hesitation
that he – Granddaddy –
married up.

Green . . .
How Grandmother enjoyed
cutting grass.
She had her own riding lawn mower
and she used it when the grass needed
cutting
or when she needed the grass to be cut.
Whichever need came first,
she would
strap on her battered straw hat,
take her seat on the mower
and commence to riding.
Another sound
providing her with walls,
a way to close out the world
and giver her space
to create her own.

Flowers . . .
Oh my goodness, flowers.
Grandmother’s entire yard was a flower garden
and how I would love to have just one more
day with her holding my hand,
treating me to a personalized guided tour,
checking on the health of each flowering plant
and telling me the name of the plane
and who gave her the cutting.

The fabric with flames . . .
Even as a teenager
there was nowhere I’d rather be
than at Grandmother’s house.
I stopped by
whenever I wanted.
We all did.
No appointment needed.
Walk-ins welcome.
The back screen door slamming behind me.
Mother forbade it at home,
but it is a sound that didn’t bother
Grandmother at all.

Gray . . .
Color of The South.
She was, after all,
the quintessential Southern Lady
without any of the pretense and subterfuge.

The Jetsons cartoon fabric . . .
Granddaddy died
knowing that Live Atlanta Wrestling
was the real deal
while the man on the moon was
staged.

Sock monkeys . . .
Grandmother always
and I do mean always
had time to stop and play
and talk
and, perhaps most importantly,
listen.

Comfort food could always
be found on Grandmother’s table.
Biscuits made from scratch three times every day.
Leftovers in the center of the table
hidden under a clean tablecloth
always available for snacking
or an impromptu meal.
She entered – and won – cake backing contests.

A rescued tablecloth holds these “scraps”
of memories and love
together
to create the second piece in my new series
called Unclaimed Hallelujahs,
this one a cape honoring
Katie Belle Wesley Ballard.
The woman I call Grandmother.

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