The Body Language Quilts
I was raised to keep the peace and to avoid confrontation. This worked well in a Southern family with four children, and helped us all to learn skills of diplomacy. But, when I left home in my twenties I realized that the premise of “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” didn’t always work. Especially in the male dominated aviation field, in which I was working. So, I slowly shifted my outlook regarding conflict and confrontation, eventually becoming more comfortable with them.
Thinking about this personal transition, I decided to make a somewhat autobiographical quilt about it. And, although it was specific to my own situation, I knew it would also represent the growth all women experience through the years. Thus, I began work on the first piece in my Body Language series, Woman Found.
Since I wanted to represent three stages of life, a triptych was the perfect choice. Each section has a subtitle. From left to right they are Twenty Something: Woman Unfolding, Thirty Something: Confidence Emerging, and Forty Something: Courage Found.
Each piece is composed from many horizontal strips of fabric. These range from silk to synthetic suede. Words are included in each portion, helping to tell the story. They say things like “Don’t rock the boat,” in the first torso, and “Stand up for yourself,” in the third one.
I was very happy with my ability to tell a story with this format, and began to plan additional pieces. With each one, I wanted to edit out as many details as possible, telling the story with just a silhouette and a few words.
Additional Quilts in the Series
Next in the series was Reconciliation. With this one I wanted to represent two adults embracing, but I intended to keep the gender vague. Perhaps it could represent a husband and wife. Or maybe an adult child and parent.
If you’re a parent, you undoubtedly know the feeling of a scared child leaning up against your hip for comfort and protection. This tender moment is the one I wanted to depict in my next quilt, Security.
Whispered Prayers features an expectant mother asking for God’s protection and help.
The most recent piece in the series shows the relationship between an elderly man and a younger woman. Maybe his daughter? Or another relative, or a kind nurse. It’s called Caring.
I always like to examine my quilts, (and quilt series,) to decide what works and what doesn’t, both visually and technically.
Visually, I’m extremely happy with these pieces. Many people have found them to be very touching, and this pleases me. Reconciliation has been frequently licensed for use in literature and websites: everything from Norwegian conferences, to business reports, to church programs.
It’s been fun to try to tell powerful stories with very few details. And a great lesson in reading body language.