Before I left Kenya to return to the United States, there were tough choices to make. In 2020, when Jonny and I lost our home on the shore of Lake Baringo, we had been through a similar process. Flood waters rose so high that the bathroom plumbing wouldn't flush, and the kitchen sink drain wouldn't work either. My stepdaughter and I worked hard and fast to pack everything in the house and send it to Nairobi, either into the house where we would soon live or into more permanent storage. So, I was well prepared for my next life phase, saying goodbye to Kenya.
A Marie Kondo fan, I had been working on downsizing for a while. Knowing that "You can't take it with you" made the process easier than it might have been. I gave away all my piano sheet music, painstakingly saved for over thirty years with no piano in sight, to a talented local musician, Michael James. Other pieces of the material culture of my life began to drift away as well. Soon, only my books and quilts were left.
The books would stay. Finally, they went to the Kenya Quilt Guild, suffering badly after a flood damaged many of their library books stored by a third party.
Initially, I thought of paying for excess baggage and bringing my quilts to the US, renting a public storage room, and plunking them there for safekeeping until I could find a way to sell them. However, research on storage facilities showed such an option was not advisable.
Near desperation, I called my friend, Pat Jentz, the Kenya Museum Society Chairperson. She came to my home and looked at my quilts; then she left--thrilled--with a bundle of the worst ones!
Ultimately, I set aside a precious few pieces I wanted to keep and donated the rest of my quilts to the Kenya Museum Society. I hoped the Society would sell the quilts fairly and use the funds for their projects. My logic was that during all the years of making the quilts, Jonny had supported me well, so that was my compensation for the work done. It seemed only right that any money raised by selling the quilts should go to the Nairobi National Museum, given that Jonny's parents and even himself were so much involved in establishing the Museum. Jonathan first curated the Nairobi Snake Park, and his parents, Louis and Mary, worked for the then Coryndon Museum.
Now, I am delighted to tell you that my quilts are selling! I received a report from Karen Peachey, who oversees this effort, that seven quilts have sold and earned KES 300,000/-. The inventory of quilts was for about 70 pieces, so at this rate, they can earn the Museum Society as much as KES 3,000,000/-. In US dollars, that's over $21,000. That doesn't seem like much for over 20 years of work, but it will be a lot of money for the Museum Society to put to good work.
I can relax, knowing that the Universe is in charge, that my quilts will go to good homes with people who liked them well enough to pay for them, and that the Kenya Museum Society is the winner!
Did you ever come across a product that you thought was so cool, everyone should have one?
Well, on my housesit in South Philly, the homeowner had this gadget in her kitchen. At first, I couldn't figure out what it was, but it looked terribly useful. I'm sorry now that I didn't take a picture of it, but you'll get the idea:
It was a cotton muslin bag about 6" deep, sewn onto a metal ring about 4 1/2" in diameter. The ends of the metal rod making the ring were inserted into a wooden handle. This simple kitchen gadget turned out to be a coffee maker!
A heavy coffee drinker myself, wondering how I could carry a pound of coffee and a single-serving plunge pot in my limited carry-on baggage, I immediately appreciated the possibilities. Of course, I did the logical thing: I consulted Amazon!
There, I did not find a cotton bag coffee maker like the one I'd seen, but I found this clever little thing (illustration shows two), lighter weight, more durable, and certainly cleaner (coffee somehow never comes out of cotton muslin) as it's dishwasher safe.
Not until I got to Charleston did I place the order, but having a cat chew my computer power cord put my business at risk. Needing to order a new cable, I tossed in the coffee maker as well (thus saving shipping charges), and I've been using it regularly ever since, made even easier by having a source of instant hot water in the home!
If you're a coffee drinker like me, and if you could even occasionally use a portable coffee maker, be sure to give this one a try!
And please! Let me know how you like it in the comments below, thanks!
Housesitting in Charleston, West Virginia, I visited the West Virginia State Museum yesterday. The Museum is remarkable and worth every effort to visit, tour, study, and enjoy--especially as admission is FREE!
Seeing West Virginia's historical memorabilia on display was a particularly emotional experience for me. I'm an amateur genealogist, and my grandparents and beyond were from West Virginia, so many of the exhibits tugged at my heartstrings.
More importantly, for our discussion here, my timing was excellent! Can you imagine my surprise to enter the building and be confronted by the West Virginia Quilters' annual quilt exhibition?
The building is beautiful, and the entry hall is dramatic in its own right. The show was bold and dramatic because viewers could take in many quilts in one view. The colors and patterns fairly danced on the walls!
The quilt display was impressive, especially for someone (like me) entering the hall for the first time. However, a close-up inspection of these beautiful quilts was impossible for obvious reasons.
Certainly, the quilts were protected from well-meaning "touchers," people who do not know that excessive handling of quilts damages them.
However, the quilts could not be viewed and appreciated close up in this venue. It was impossible to appreciate the fine detailing in design, not to mention the quality of the quilting stitches. The close-up shot below is not that; merely a blow-up of the image above.
My advice before you go to see this show? Take your binoculars!
Find a list of the winners and awards here. It's unfortunate that the site fails to publish photos of the winning quilts. It would be good to see which quilts took awards and prizes. Surely, these fine, talented, and hard-working quilt-makers deserve the right to display their work proudly.
Is the fear of copyright violation so paralyzing that no one shows anything anymore?
The rek Gallery in Tucker, Georgia, held an opening yesterday evening for a showing of the works of Santos Fernandez. I attended the opening, which seemed popular amongst others in attendance. Although a small gallery, perhaps 40-50 people enjoyed the viewings and perhaps made a purchase during the brief time I was there.
As a TrustedHousesitter visiting the area, I was favorably impressed by some of the work I saw. Vibrations of Picasso seemed present to my uneducated eye, but I loved the color palette present in much of Fernandez's work.
In truth, it's a palette that seems special to this part of the country, one almost carelessly adding large areas of deeply toned blue, turquoise, purple, red, magenta, green, and orange, a little like a full-saturation color wheel with accents of tints and shades. Indeed, the home I am in as I write echoes those colors, boldly displayed so as to add richness and depth to the space, much as Fernandez' strokes relied on the same colors to move visual objects forward and backward on the imaginary plane.
My sense of it is that Georgia celebrates color!
However, there were other artists whose work was on display yesterday evening. Imagine my surprise when I realized one of them is a quilter! For several reasons, it was exciting to see the work of Jennifer Hart of Lexington, Kentucky.
I was personally uncomfortable with the subject matter of Jennifer's work. Everything I saw was female in subject and virtually pornographic in approach. As an older woman, I am often dismayed to see the private parts of women used as subject matter for artworks, partly because doing so seems rather sensational, guaranteed to attract attention cheaply, and partly because I would like to think that some things are, and should remain, personal and special.
Nevertheless, Hart's work was meticulously executed and fully acceptable, to my mind, as art. Her skill in crafts(wo)manship was high. Every stitch counted, and if there was an imperfection, my trained eye could not detect it.
I especially appreciated learning about Hart's techniques. She works with colored pencils in most of her pieces, and she incorporates found objects like black lace in the most effective way.
Hart's pieces are not large, seemingly no more than about 30" on the longest side, and many works were smaller than that. Because they are small and densely quilted, and because she turns the outermost edges in to leave a clean finish without a frame or telltale quilt binding, the pieces hang beautifully flat, so much so that at first glance, I did not realize they were quilts.
Hart, I'm sure, and rightly, too, will argue that although craft is important, the content of her art takes priority. At least, that's what I discovered when I came across an article written by Katie Burkholder and published in February 2022 in The Georgia Voice. In the interview, Hart described a difficult and repressive childhood overcome by sheer force of will and determination. She is to be commended for her courage as well as her eye for meaningful content and intentional self-expression.
My takeaway from last night's opening, in addition to the enjoyment of imagery, color, and form present in the work of Santos Fernandez, was an enhanced understanding of the way in which art quilts hanging amongst other media fit into the picture beautifully. One has to look closely to appreciate that Hart's quilts are quilts, and they easily cross the barrier from the world of handicrafts into the world of truly fine art.
My compliments to the artist, Jennifer Hart!
Oh--and if you want to see Hart's (and other artists') work up close and personal, better hurry! The gallery is about to go close its doors and go digital . . .
Mostly, I post on Facebook to tell you about my travels and life experiences, point out people and things that I want to tell you about, and keep you updated on what's happening in my life as an art quilter.