Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Connie captured the spirit in her quilts

The late Connie Bloom's description of how the 2008 Brooke McMahan tribute quilt came about typifies Connie’s approach to her work and to people.

Connie’s attention to detail was incredible in her fabric art masterpieces.

I’ll let Connie tell it, from her web site:

Brooke’s Memorial, 2008

The large quilt was made for Beacon Journal reporter Kim McMahan in 2008 from the belongings of her beautiful daughter, Brooke, who died in 2004. I felt the presence of this talented young woman guiding me throughout the eight months it took to create, and during that time, my own mother died.

Making this quilt was an exercise in compassion, a meditation, a prayer, and when my grief was at its worst after my mother's death, Brooke and her quilt pulled me through a storm of misery. I came out the other side understanding things that I still can't articulate.

I set Brooke's quilt against a water background, because she was a swimmer. Her Special Olympics gold medal dangles from the zipper pull of the pocket at the center top. If you look closely, you'll see Brooke's photograph peeking out of the pocket. Her jewelry, class pin and buttons from her clothes are embedded in the piece, bright sparklies that call the viewer closer but don't show well in photographs.

Brooke loved the Titanic, so I made a photo transfer of a sign from the great ship and stitched it in. A piece of her swim towel, which says McMahan, floats along the right hand side. The three large pink squares began with three of her favorite T-shirts. The dogs and cupid and other motifs were cut from her clothes. The entire quilt was pieced, an engineering feat that requires special knowhow when combining fabrics of different weights and textures.

Brooke's mom told me that Brooke loved all of God's creatures, so I introduced other elements to express that, including fish and flowers. Abstract elements such as checkerboards were made from her favorite knits and cottons -- sweaters, dresses, parkas, blouses, skirts and other garments, some thin and stretchy, some thick and nubby, all combined in the finished piece. That is a feat of engineering that strikes fear in the hearts of many a stitcher.

Kim was emotionally overwhelmed when she came to pick up the finished work, which was roughly 3 x 5 feet. The art quilt hangs in her family room.

As an appropriate postscript, Kim wrote that she told her husband, in case their home caught on fire, to grab the Brooke memorial quilt and then run out of the house. That masterpiece means so much to Kim, and it meant so much to Connie.

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