|Genevieve Kaplan and Joan Gaither with |
the National Black Theatre Festival Quilt.
There are other stories on here that have been more serious in tone, striking into the heart of the person that I have been so honored to call my friend and sister. For Dr. Gaither quilting is her release and way of expressing emotion and sentiment in a way that cannot always be expressed in a conversation. For me it is writing. Hence why we make such a good team. She creates and I document her work through my posts, articles, and other writings. In this way we are able to celebrate each other as well as the people and places documented in the quilts. It is my hope that you readers are able to see this celebration in the posts and the quilts.
|Katherine's Quilt, (c) Dr. Joan M.E. Gaither|
This is something that I have been thinking about quite often over the past few weeks and months. The concept behind these quilts is a positive and loving one – allowing people to honor those who have touched their lives and the lives of others through fond memories and stories. This is the root of documentary storyquilting. It is at the heart and soul of what makes Dr. Gaither’s works powerful, emotional connectors between people, places, and events. When she begins brainstorming quilt subjects with workshop participants, she does not say “pick a person, place, or event and create a picture of them.” Instead she asks participants to think of their memories. "What are three things you associate with them? What are three words you would use to describe them? Is there a color, smell, action, habit, etc. that you think of when you remember them?”
(c) Dr. Joan M.E. Gaither
By using these types of questions to encourage memories to flow, each person is able to connect to their subject through a space of warm memories and love. I have often thought that it is a good way to think about life and those around us in general. Dr. Gaither said in her description of Kayla’s Quilt, a work done in memory of a family member who died in their childhood, “it helps us to be more aware and to protect ourselves and those around us.” Especially in trying times, this way of thinking represents what we can do to help us heal. “Sometimes forces around us are stronger than what we can handle on our own.” Through Dr. Gaither’s quilts and her special way of capturing memories, it allows one to celebrate while moving forward.
By putting all of the information she gathers into a quilt, Dr. Gaither is able to interpret people visually while creating an artwork out of something commonly associated with home, warmth, and love. She often talks about quilting being an age-old tradition that gathered people together to share stories and memories. I know this to be true based on what I have witnessed at the community quilting sessions over the past several years. People sit down to quilt and begin to share their stories, creating connections that perhaps never would have happened otherwise. Whether these connections are fleeting or last a lifetime, they have been created through the love around them. Dr. Gaither’s quilts take that concept of creating quilts with love one step further by incorporating images and memories into the quilt itself, allowing the subject to literally cover this symbol of comfort and protection. The memories included on the quilt become intertwined with the concept of a quilt providing cover for the person using them. In doing so, whomever experiences the quilt is forever covered with their love.