Thursday, June 10, 2010

I Had A Dream

At some point I realized that what was holding me back from doing something significant in quilts was the fact that I was always trying to do something beautiful. It is not so much the striving for beauty that was messing me up as the fact that I was trying to please others thereby, and it is not by pleasing others that you find a way to do something powerful and individual.

Subsequently I found myself going off into directions that, far from pleasing others, seem to be alienating them. I don't know where this path is going to lead me eventually, but in the short run it is taking me away from the pleasing place.

I think it started a few years ago when I had a dream of a graffiti quilt, an ugly pink field with the word "QUILT" across the bottom in big, spray painted letters. I actually talked to a graffiti artist about painting a apiece of fabric for me, but he was repelled by the idea. He seemed disgusted that I had suggested it. Now, that is funny: the idea of putting graffiti on a quilt disgusts quilters and graffiti artists alike, because the worst possible thing is for them to be associated with each other.

This spring I ran across this idea in an old notebook and realized that it would be perfect for a bias tape quilt. Graffiti, I figured, would so obscure whatever was in the background that it would not matter what the background consisted of. So I just assembled an abstract field of scraps upon which I could scribble. The day I started sewing it, I received in the mail a package of bias tape from a woman who had seen my lecture in Seattle the week before. It was all various shades of pink. Obviously, fate wanted me to execute my pink graffiti in a sort of mirror image of the one in my dream.

As my friend Barbara Brackman said when she saw some of my new quilts, "Sometimes you can be TOO abstract." Maybe so, but at least I am no longer being a people pleaser--that's for sure.


  1. I'm going to print this post and frame it. Joe, I think you're brilliant. I think your quilts are amazing and meaningful and deep and honest. Thank you for your inspiration.

  2. Joe, I am your newest fan and member. I saw your pbs craft America the other day and now am watching all videos and reading your blog. This graffiti quilt and your writings about it made me laugh out loud tonight. I just yesterday went around my town taking pics of all the graffiti I could find because a graffiti quilt has been stuck in my head for quite some time....thanks for pushing freedom! You're a great encouragement! Lisa above in 2012 said you were brilliant...I think she was right. Now I've added you to my bucket list.