In late 2008, Jami Burns, the prison chaplain at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville, Ohio, started a new activity for inmates of the prison. The women who participated would explore their lives and thoughts through the medium of quilting.
In many cases, these women had never quilted, and some were new to sewing as well. I found these pieces fascinating in what they revealed about the women as well as how the quilting opened them up. I thought I'd share some of the ones I found particularly moving or interesting.
Soon, the whole exhibition will be posted on the Sacred Threads website at http://www.sacredthreadsquilts.com/
This quilt (above) was made by Cynthia Standifer and is called "The Way Forward is with a Broken Heart." This piece was Cynthia's first attempt at quilting. Here's what she said about her piece:
"I have attempted to paint a picture with traditional quilting fabrics to obtain a quilt that would look like it was made by my grandmother who taught me to sew. The losses I experienced on my journey are reflected in the quilt. A million stitches have replaced a million tears in an attempt to heal my broken heart. This quilt is dedicated to all the women of the Arn Complex who have taken their losses and put them in the past while once again being stigmatized by the simple pink collars they wear--expectations and identity defined by their status as close and max inmates, not by who they are. Thank you to all my sisters who threaded eyes of needles I could not see, who donated and sold to me decorative threads from their own projects. To my bunkies who put up with pins on the floor and being asked million times, "What do you think about this?" To those who lent their artistic talents by drawing and cutting out shapes that my cramping hands could not manage with dull scissors and to the officers who helped provide tools that were needed. Thank you to all that helped make my vision a reality."
A personal note from the quilter: The quilter is a 57 year old first time "Art Quilter." She is incarcerated for taking the life of her son, and attempting to take her own life. Upon her release, she would like to pursue projects involving fabric art and developing desserts for diabetics especially those using chocolate as the primary ingredient.
Joy Major's quilt, "The Hands of Time" is one of several two-sided quilts in the "Breaking Barriers" part of the exhibition.
Her artist's statement includes the following poem:
Turn the Hands of time slowly, turn the hands of time back.
To a time that I've missed and bring those people back.
To a time of laughter, to a time of joy.
Turn the hands of time slowly, turn the hands of time back.The back of the quilt has columns of the names of the women who are imprisoned at Marysville and the length of their sentences.
The columns also have commentary, little snippets which have meaning. Some of them are oblique and obviously have meaning to individuals who are incarcerated or who understand the process better than I.
Joy's personal note states: "I was born to Sandford and Betty Major. I came to prison in January of 1998 and I'm serving a life sentence with parole eligibility upon twenty five full years. I enjoy reading and sewing. I spend most of my days doing community service work. Upon release I will return to Cincinnati Ohio.