Friday, February 18, 2011

The Space Between, Part 1

The morning of January 26, I started work on the piece above for a juried invitational called “The Space Between,” which will be co-curated by Leslie Tucker Jenison and Jamie Fingal. That afternoon, I got the news that my mother had died unexpectedly, in her sleep, early that morning.

In the three weeks since then, I have been consumed by grief, handling the details of affairs that came in the wake of my mother’s death, and trying to tread water. I have not had the time or the interest in working on my art. And the thought of returning to this piece, which was interrupted by such a devastating event, chilled me.

But the deadline for this exhibition looms. And making art is healing. So today I finished painting the fabric, cleaned my studio, and started stitching.

These two photos show the piece after painting, but before any stitching. It is 36" x 48".

This piece features four bluejay feathers I have found on my daily walks. Some of the feathers are blue on both sides, with interesting black splotches. Some are blue on one side and black and gray on the other. I have always collected feathers, nests and egg shells; as a child I loved to look for birds’ nests, and I even made them, out of mud and grass, let them dry, and perched them in trees. My mother gave me bits of brightly colored yarn to hang in branches in the springtime, for the birds to use as construction material, and then we would go on walks, looking for nests with glints of yellow, pink or purple. 

I read once that birds keep themselves warm by trapping and heating the air in the space between their feathers. The feathers themselves are not warm, in the same way that a blanket or quilt is not warm, but merely act to hold our body’s heat close to us. This phenomenon is what inspired this piece. I have not started thinking about a name yet.

In 2010, Leslie and Jamie’s exhibit Beneath the Surface premiered at International Quilt Festival in Long Beach, California, and also showed at International Quilt Festival in Houston

It included work by Jamie Fingal and Leslie Tucker Jenison, Natalya Aikens, Frances Holliday Alford, Loris Bogue, Deborah Boschert, Peggy Calvert, Phyllis Campbell, Paula Chung, Joanell Connolly, Gerrie Congdon, Cindy Cooksey, Jane Davila, Muna Elias, Barb Forrister, Terry Grant, Desiree Habicht, Pamela Price Klebaum, Sherry Kleinman, Jane LaFazio, Jayne Larson, Linda T. Minton, Susie Monday, Jeannie Palmer Moore, Rachel Parris, Karen Stiehl Osborn, Judy Perez, Yvonne Porcella, Wen Redmond, Karen Rips, Carolyn Ryan, Sarah Ann Smith, Virginia Spiegel, Cynthia St. Charles, Ann Turley, Terry Waldron and Kathy York.  

This year’s exhibit will also premiere at International Quilt Festival in Long Beach, July 29-31, 2011. I hope my piece is juried in. I’ll post more about my progress in the weeks ahead. 


  1. Susan, how difficult it must be to go back to work on this piece. I hope it helps to distract you from the grief, at least for periods of time. I am having such a hard time finding the time to work on my piece, which ironically is about the space between mothers and children. Such an interesting theme--open to so many interpretations. I look forward to seeing your completed piece. The idea and what you have shown are so beautiful.

  2. Yes, creative work is very distracting for me. Since I have to concentrate so much, I can't think about anything else.

    Since my mom died, I have had a lot of ideas for interpreting the theme with something about my mom and me... the space between us seems so very huge now, and yet her spirit seems so very close to me at times.

    But of course I could not complete any piece based on these ideas in time for the March 11 deadline. But I am sure I will create work around it in the future. My mother was also very artistic, and a quilter, and she was very proud of my accomplishments.

    I hope you find time to finish your piece, because I certainly want to see it! :-)

  3. I was in the week of finals, when I lost my mom.
    Was really hard keeping it together in class and trying to host family members.

    I think your piece is beautiful without the stitching, can't wait to see how it comes out.

    My thoughts are with you and your family.


  4. Susan, Your work is just awesome. If that pc. doesn't get juried in I'll be shocked. I am sorry for your loss of your mother. How hard it must be to concentrate on your work, but like you said, it can also be very healing. I can't wait to see your progress on "In Between". What an beautiful pc. of work.

  5. No matter what you do this quilt will have bitter sweet memories. You are 100% right in saying art/crafting is a therapy - it can be hard to work on this piece but you can be sure that your Mother is with you in some way every time you work on it and when you look at it in the future. Some say each time they find a feather (like a penny), when out and about or tidying up around home it's a gift from a love one not around us any more. You have a stunning quilt here and I think it's a blessing from your Mum - embrace it with love.

  6. My heart goes out to you as you grow through the grieving of your mother! I lost my dad a couple years ago, still have mom. THis piece is amazing with the detailed feathers. I am in Awe! It may well become your most favorite piece. Since you are connected to your mom through it. I also lost a husband to a drunk driver, I know that we do loose our desire to create when death happens. Thankfully it is healing to do the creativity process but it is also good to just take time and heal until the time is right to move on. God bless you with peace.

  7. My deepest condolences on the loss of your mother. This quilt is beautiful so far and I look forward to seeing the finished work. Every time that you look at this piece, you will think of your mother. In a way, it is because of her that it exists, as it sounds like she imparted the "eyes" to see the beauty of the feathers as well as nurturing the artistic abilities used to create it. Completing it will be a tribute to her as much as helping to heal your heart just a little.

  8. Susan, the piece is stunning. your mom would be so proud of it. She was a terrific lady and I know you miss her a lot. Nancy

  9. Thanks to all of you who have commented and given me more strength to move forward on this piece. You can't know how much it means to read your sweet thoughts. My love to you all.

  10. Susan,
    My deepest sympathy for the loss of your mother. She certainly would be proud of the beautiful intricate feathers in this project. Art can be a terrific healer. May God bless you and keep you through the difficult times ahead.

  11. I know it must be so hard right now. My deepest sympathy for your sudden loss. Your mom sounds like a women who encouraged you to explore and see the beauty in nature. She would be so proud of the beautiful work. The feathers are wonderful, cannot wait to the finished quilt.

  12. We missed having you with us on Friday but so happy that you were working on your art! Amazing!

  13. Beautiful feathers! Your mother would be so proud of you for any work you do now and in the future as you knew she loved seeing and encouraging you in the past. I think of my dad looking down on what I make and encouraging me too - sometimes I have conversations with him in my head about things going on in my life and that makes me feel closer to him. No matter what age we loose a parent it leaves a large hole but it gets better little by little as time passes. You don't ever forget but the pain isn't so raw. Keep working to make yourself and your mother proud.

  14. Hi Susan
    I am glad you were able to get back to working on this piece. It looks like it is going to be fabulous!

  15. I love this piece and I'm sure it will be wonderful.
    Please accept my condolences on the loss of your mother. It is so hard to lose a parent.

  16. I am sorry for your loss, losing a parent is such a hard experience.

    I love this piece and can't wait to see it in person

  17. I am so sorry about your loss. It is so difficult when a parent passes. I am sending you a nice warm hug for comfort.


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