Friday, November 13, 2009

First Black Watermen of the Chesapeake Quilting Session

Yesterday marked the first public quilting session for the Black Watermen of the Chesapeake quilt and what an event it was. People from all over Maryland came out to the Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center in Annapolis to add their stitches to the quilt, share their family stories, bring photos to be added to the quilt, provide oral history interviews, and simply have a good time.

The quilting session also saw several members of the media including representatives from the Capital in Annapolis, The Baltimore Sun, and the Capital News Service from the University of Maryland. Be sure to check your newspapers over the next few days for articles on the quilt and the quilting sessions. True to form, Dr. Gaither made everyone in attendance (well, except for me, although I am still not quite sure how I managed not to) add at least a few stitches to the quilt, members of the media included. The image to the left shows the photographer from the Sun learning how to stitch from Dr. Gaither. I can certainly say from personal experience that being asked to sew on an artwork such as the BoC quilt is a bit unnerving when you really haven't sewn before. Fortunately for those such as myself, there wasn't any shortage of good teachers at the quilting session to help make the learning curve a little less steep.

During the quilting sessions, we ran a film created by Vince Leggett detailing the history and contributions of the watermen to Maryland's history. This film provided a glimpse into an aspect of Maryland's history that I was unaware of and helped to educate me on life around the Chesapeake Bay. Coming from Central Illinois where I was surrounded by corn and soybean fields rather than waterways, life on and around the water is a completely new concept for me. It is amazing to listen to the stories on how the industry operates and the many facets of life on the Chesapeake Bay. As the quilting sessions progress, I am excited to learn more stories about the people living and working on the Chesapeake Bay.

At the session, we had one gentleman come to participate who, upon seeing the film, realized he used to fish with one of the watermen featured in the film. Uncovering connections between different people seems to be a hallmark of the public quilting sessions whether it be for the BoC quilt, J2WH, or the Community Quilt which is part of the Trails, Tracks, Tarmac exhibit. Whenever people come together to work on these quilts they seem to discover connections and relationships with other people they never realized. It is one of my favorite parts of the community quilting process. You never know what you will discover about yourself and the people around you.

We will post some of the stories to the blog as we get them and share oral history video if we can. Photos of the sessions will go online as the quilting sessions progress both within the posts and in a slide show on the right hand side of the blog.

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