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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Beyond the Barrier--Women Quilting in Prison

As I mentioned earlier, on Sunday I drove to Dublin, Ohio to meet with Karen Musgrave. Karen was in Dublin so that she could interview some of the women who were involved in the Beyond the Barrier program for the Alliance for American Quilter's Save Our Stories program.

Karen has put up some of the interviews and will continue to post them on the SOS website as she gets them ready. You can see the interviews at:

Just look for the ones by Karen.

In addition, she has written about her experience interviewing them on her blog:

And finally, Lisa Ellis put up the quilts on the Sacred Threads website, so if you want to see an overall, and detail of the quilts which were shown, you may find them there:

Many of the women who participated had never quilted before. Many do not feel that they are "real quilters." I assure you, they are and that while their technique may improve with more practice (and I don't know a single quilter to whom this doesn't apply), their story and the emotions that they have sewn into their quilts are phenomenal. Surely, if the women of Gee's Bend have gotten a lot of attention, the quilters of the Ohio correctional facility deserve it as well.

Karen has asked that you share comments that she will then pass on to the quilters, and I hope that you will take the time to do so.

According to Karen, Chaplain Jami Burns is considering discontinuing the program as only 16 of the thirty women actually finished their quilts. I consider this a success when you read the women's stories and what they have gotten out of it. Quilting isn't for everyone, and surely the journey is the important part, not necessarily a completed project.

In addition, many quilters take a long time to finish projects....sometimes working on something seems to heavy and you put it away, only to take it out again and complete it later. Sometimes other things just get in the way. Although "to finish is divine" is true, sometimes I take a while to finish--I have finished items lately that have been in the works for 10 years.

The socializing and fellowship which goes on is also important. I know it is to me and I'm not in prison, so I can only imagine that it is more the case for women who are.

Lastly, not everyone who takes up a needle wishes to stay with it. Not liking quilting is OK. Maybe something else strikes more of a chord, or perhaps it just isn't the right time.

I would hope that if you read this blog, you might consider posting a comment on Karen's blog for the quilters. If you post comments here, or email me, I would be happy to forward on your comments to Chaplain Burns. If you live in the area of a correctional institute for women, or if you live near Marysville, Ohio, I hope you would consider helping,or being a mentor to start or keep a program like this running.


Connections said...

First, you're wonderful! Thanks for sharing this on your blog. The program was set up because the quilts were going to be shown at Sacred Threads. Now that that is over and no invitation from Sacred Threads to have them exhibit again. Chaplain Burns is not opposed to doing the program again in the future. There is a Community Stitching Post so quilts are continuing to be made, they just aren't personal. With gratitude, Karen

Michigoose said...

Thanks for clearing this up, Karen! I was hesitant to put it up until I knew for sure, and I can see I should have waited. However, it still seems a shame, as I feel that these art quilts (as opposed to their working quilts) are a place where they can work out their paths while they are stitching. To me, these are certainly therapeutic quilts.

I'm not sure that having all the quilts as a element of Sacred Threads makes every two years make sense, but certainly these women could enter individually, and perhaps that would make more of an impact. However, I'm sure that Chaplain Burns an all are up to their noses in things.

I'm sure that the Sacred Threads board, and "that quilt Lady" (Vikki Pignatelli as she is so commonly referred to in the interviews) can will be able to look at this and come up with something which makes sense for all and encourages the reformatory stitchers.

Thanks for doing all that you do for the quilt world, Karen. Putting it up on my measly little blog is nothing.


Vivien said...

I'm glad you posted this, Lisa, because this kind of thing needs as much publicity as it can get. I'm off to Karen's blog now to post.