Friday, December 24, 2010

Family Time

Happy holiday season everyone!

In light of the holiday, I thought I would use Dr. Gaither's family quilt and her quilting workshops as inspiration for this posting. The holidays are always a time for family and friends to gather together. If your gatherings are anything like mine, they always involve story telling and reminiscing. People always sitting around the breakfast or lunch or dinner table or any other area of the house telling stories and sharing memories about years past, people absent, or, in my case, telling embarrassing stories about people present and watching them squirm.

With all of this story telling going on, why not try to document these stories. Have someone write them down, pull out a video camera and record them, or better yet, tell them visually through a quilt square. When Dr. Gaither leads her quilt workshops, she always starts off by asking participants a few key questions to get them started. She asks them to think about a person, place, or event that is special to them. She then asks them to pick one of the items on the list to focus on for their square. Then, she asks them to think about what details stand out. In the case of a person, what do you remember about them? Did they have a favorite color? Something they always said? What did they like to do? She then asks them to think about their relationship with that person, place, or event. Why is it special to them? Why did they select it? After brainstorming through all of it, she then asks people to look through the various materials around them and select things that will help them tell the story they have told on the paper in front of them.

Need a little help seeing how this actually pans out? Let's take Dr. Gaither's My Memory Is Only As Good As Yours project where she is asking friends, family, and acquaintances to create circles talking about their relationship to her. A few weeks ago, I started working with Dr. Gaither's 6 year old niece Rockelle on her circle. I used Dr. Gaither's questions and started talking with Rockelle about her great aunt. I asked her what her she liked to do with her Aunt Joan. I then asked her what words she would use to describe her Aunt Joan. We talked about how Dr. Gaither teaches her big words like perspicacious and microscopic.

After our talk, we went into Dr. Gaither's supplies and selected bright shiny gold fabric that reflects Dr. Gaither's bright personality. Rockelle selected beads and shells that reminded her of the beach, one of Dr. Gaither's favorite places to go. She then created a party scene using the shells and brightly colored rope to illustrate how much she loves going to parties with her aunt. We used letter beads to include the words that Rockelle used to describe her great aunt. We also included a few of the big words she has learned in pink and blue letter beads - the two colors Rockelle identified as hers and Dr. Gaither's favorite colors. To finish the circle off we included two photos of them, one of them quilting and laughing while working on the Watermen's quilt and another of them dancing together at the My American Series opening reception. Quite a lot of information coming from such a few questions and all very meaningful to the people involved.

I encourage you to think about how you can incorporate this into your holiday gatherings. Many people have talked about how they plan to make it an activity for each family member to tell their own story and create a family quilt. It is just the type of project that people stand back from not wanting to get involved at first and then suddenly they are offering suggestions and wanting to get involved. Try it and see how you get on. Make sure to report back to us and let us know how you do.

Have a great holiday!

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