Gee’s Bent

Whhuh. I made it to Gee’s Bend.

What a wonderful and heart-wrenching day.

I am as organically bent, reshaped, by the generosity and patience of that community

as are their signature nonlinear stiches and quilt block edges.

And now, as ever, I have a bent for Gee’s Bend.

recommended reading* and my Gee’s Bend Quilters’ Collective original below

Doris Pettway let me quilt on her latest with her for hours. Her mother, Leola, and sister China are in the documentary film: "The Quiltmakers of Gee's Bend."

As a self-taught not-technically-skilled quilter who machines and hand knots on the floor, how’s this for my first time ever quilting on a frame and being shown proper technique!

Doris Pettway (above) let me quilt on her latest with her for 2+ hours. Her mother, Leola, and her sister, China, have quilts amongst those published and are in the documentary film: “The Quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend.” I had driven all around Gee’s Bend (no interest in Camden) and wasn’t finding the Collective building itself, thus the pulling into the ferry welcome center for guidance. What a diversion!

This ferry welcome center is designed with wonderful natural light and panelled walls that look quilted.

The ferry welcome center is designed with wonderful natural light and wood paneled walls that look quilted.

 

You can see a portion of my rows lower down, and Doris's rows above. I do not rock the needle as deftly and cannot get my stitches as short.

You can see a portion of my rows in the lower half, and Doris’s rows above. I do not rock the needle as deftly and cannot get my stitches as short.

Below are some miksang images for inspiration down the road in my quilting practice.

(per Sherri Lynn Wood’s idea to collect sketches and ideas thusly…)

from Orrville, AL:

DSCN4213

DSCN4212

 

 

 

 

.

from Montgomery, AL: none other than windows of the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church

DSCN4224

DSCN4225

 

 

 

 

.

from Auburn, AL environs:

DSCN4171

DSCN4204DSCN4198

 

It just isn’t manifesting in words, how incredible and unplanned, how auspicious, uplifting and saddening this day was. I left ~6am; thought I’d be in Montgomery by noon. After driving and crying away from Gee’s Bend, and after no food all day until a frightening Chinese restaurant lunch in Selma ~2pm (I never expected to stay in Gee’s Bend so long), I finally leaned into Maya Lin’s Civil Rights Memorial sculpture ~4pm and cried some more. The SPLC receptionist asked how I was, saw my face, and asked if I wanted to see the film, it’s only 18 minutes, she said. Yes, I said. I needed to sit down alone in a dark room and sob differently. It was cleansing and horrifying and wonderful.

My original Gee's Bend Quilters' Collective treasure, signed by a Mary L. Pettway, 2012. approx. 1sq. ft. I was happy to learn that all the monies stay in the community now; the messy indebtedness to some middle man type arrangement from the peak fame boom has expired.

My original Gee’s Bend Quilters’ Collective treasure, signed by Mary L. Pettway, 2012. approx. 1sq. ft. This was all I could afford that exemplifies the organic quality of patching and quilting that the Collective is famous for. I was happy to learn that all the monies stay in the community now; the messy indebtedness to some middle man type arrangements from the peak fame boom has expired.

By the time the day’s hosts of the Collective building were ready for me and showed me around and shared much of their experience living in Gee’s Bend, contending with outsiders like me, how family members are, and a holiday dessert recipe, I forgot to take any photos of the stunning quilts I saw. As I feel and smell and see my memories fading, I’m okay to not have taken any such more from them…

In preparing for this trip, I found no dependably current info, and had to trust all would work out… Posts and blogs and articles about Gee’s Bend seemed to cease ~2012. Though there is interesting info out there.

Remember why the Gee’s Bend ferry service was suspended for 44! years between 1962-2006, arghhh.

A commenter on this post bemoans the uninspiring machine work and store-bought fabrics they found: http://deepsouthmag.com/2012/04/the-future-of-gees-bend/

I was prepared for being disappointed by the status of the quilters’ quality of life after decades of being exploited, and maybe by less than inspiring quilt work.

I found incredibly sincere and kind and open people all over that place, with all the outdoor signs abounding, and a certain directness about their experience with folks having taken advantage of them in the past.

There is an even mix of store-bought and scrap fabric, and machine and hand techniques used in the quilts available to see and/or purchase. Doris was working with new fabric, yet she hand-pieced the morning star patchwork in that king sized quilt we were stitching. I can’t imagine ever hand-piecing patchwork… Yet, after my experience with Doris, I have a feel and appreciation for hand quilting that I plan to explore further.

A fun one on another quilter’s visit: http://katespaindesigns.blogspot.com/2013/01/quilting-crossroads-gees-bend-alabama.html#.VlUu1SaFNMt

A dense one covering the closer in community politics as well as larger cultural politics involved and great expressions from some of the quilters themselves: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/fabric-of-their-lives-132757004/?sessionGUID=1aa9062e-8399-9a57-38a3-d0a108901622&no-ist=&page=1

A great source of thumbnail images of so many of the quilts: http://www.auburn.edu/academic/other/geesbend/explore/catalog/slideshow/index.htm

*Please share your sources on Gee’s Bend info!

Advertisements

One Response to “Gee’s Bent”

  1. about ’round | embodhiment Says:

    […] there’s a whole other juicy aspect waking up and deepening ever more since visiting Gee’s Bend. It’s the most obvious thing – the quilting itself. I will not be able to arrange the […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: