At The International Quilt Study Center and Museum in Lincoln Nebraska I spoke to an audience of over 120 people about improvisation and patchwork. At the beginning of one of these talks I typically ask the audience if they have seen the Gee's Bend Quilts and if so what they experienced standing in front of one of them, "What did you notice? What makes the Gee's Bend Quilts so great?"
Often people answer by saying things about color or design, but typically people give me the deeper answer I'm hoping for... a sense of presence, an essence of freedom, the delight of the unexpected, an energy or power in the "making do." At IQSCM one of the audience members, the husband of a quilt maker, took it a step further.
He had heard the Gee's Bend Quilters speak about their quilts as something honest. Indeed when he stood in front of the Gee's Bend quilts he was moved by the sense of honesty they conveyed.
The quilts weren't striving to compete, or copy, or teach, or impress, or be anything more than the truthful, authentic expression and honest engagement of the makers with themselves and the materials.
I am thankful that he introduced this simple word into the discussion. In The Improv Handbook I talk about the difference between seeking to be authentic vs original, but the idea of being honest in your work takes it home to a deeper level --don't you think!
What does it mean to be honest when I create? What am I being honest about? Who am I being honest to?
I would be remiss if I didn't credit the warm hospitality and flexibility of the staff at IQSCM. It truly was a pleasure to work with such a professional, and passionate institution dedicated to quilting and quilt makers across the world; AND the efforts of Lori and Kris, and the members of the Omaha and Lincoln MQG for getting the word out about my talk, and for showing up! It was an incredible turnout and a highlight of my book tour. THANK YOU!