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Week #2
This work was done by Roann Mathias in Memphis in 1998 for the session “Variations on Romans”, in 26 Seeds: a Year to Grow. In her own words:
This piece was done in the “26 Seeds” class in Memphis, TN in 1998. It was my second time to go through Reggie’s yearlong class. This was the assignment from the first month, using 12 shades of gray and the speedball b nib. The first time I took the class, I did the Sandburg poem, The People Yes, in the assigned earth tone colors. I really loved the challenge of working with the grays on black. I saw each assignment as a challenge to my skills, inventiveness and creativity. First there was choosing the text. At that time, I had three young children and making time to do the homework was extremely challenging. I found great comfort in the words of this poem, Quiltmaker, by Luci Shaw.

"I make them warm to keep my family from freezing; I make them beautiful to keep my heart from breaking.” --From the journal of a prairie woman, 1870

"To keep a husband and five children warm,
she quilts them covers thick as drifts against
the door. Through every fleshy square white threads needle their almost invisible tracks; her hours
count each small suture that holds together
the raw-cut, uncolored edges of her life.

She pieces each one beautiful, and summer bright
to thaw her frozen soul. Under her fingers
the scraps grow to green birds and purple
improbable leaves; deeper than calico, her mid-winter mind bursts into flowers. She watches them unfold between the double stars, the wedding rings.”
Once I the text and an idea for a piece, which was always complex, I went into problem-solving mode. How would all the words fit? What quilt design should I use and how should I lay it out? My working process involved a lot of research, and by that I mean, I bought a lot of quilting magazines! It took me a while to choose a pattern, being the perfectionist that I am. In the end, I felt really happy with the colors, the designs and even the lettering. I am sure that I worked on this piece more than once at 4 am, after being woken up by one of my kids.

I really did see the exercise as a problem to solve. Figuring out the layout alone was a huge part of that. I incorporated 3 different styles of capitals, at 3 different sizes. The words all had to fit into a rectangle on a certain size of paper (Arches cover black). The quilt pattern for the border also had to fit that size. THEN, I still had to mix all the colors and do the lettering. I am not sure that I would have the patience or determination to complete this kind of piece now, but I am so glad that I did it. It is one of my favorite pieces that I did for homework over the years.
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