two • The Art of Health-Related Quiltmaking
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18 | T he production techniques and designs used by quilt artists in their work associated with health and well-being are as varied as the individuals who make them. There are, however, certain materials, patterns, motifs, color palettes, and techniques that are closely connected to quilts and the experience of illness, healing, and well-being. The art quilt movement, along with the Internet’s ability to connect individuals from around the world who share common interests, has set the stage for new virtual communities of artists who are interested in both art quilts and health.1 Facebook, email Listservs, Instagram , and Pinterest sites abound with examples of the connectedness and support these artists have for one another and their similar artistic—and healing—pursuits. Some individual studio artists have developed special interests in quilts and health issues, often stemming from their own personal experience with an illness, or that of a loved one, and have created bodies of work wholly devoted to health issues. Their websites, Facebook pages, blogs, and other social media they use to describe, showcase, and promote their work are constant testimonies to their passion for this subject. Some of these groups have developed exhibitions of the creations of members, displays that reside online in addition to being shown in typical settings for quilt exhibitions, such as museums, galleries, and local community spaces but increasingly in hospitals, a setting that until recently was not a typical place where quilts would be seen as art. Materials and Patterns Certainly, clothing of the deceased has traditionally been used in making quilts designed to comfort those who are grieving. The clothing and fabric stashes of deceased quilters are also often donated to quilt groups to make “charity quilts.” Quilts are also made from the fabric of clothing worn by caregivers. More and more common are those referred to as “scrub quilts,” as they are made out of scrubs and uniforms worn by hospital workers and other healthcare workers.2 Quilts have even been made from the bandanas worn by those who have lost hair during chemotherapy treatment.3 One inventive individual, Samantha Hodge Williams, used very personal material to educate others about her severe health problems in coping with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). She constructed a large bed-size quilt of the empty saline bags that had been used over a period of six weeks for her IV treatments. At times she could barely stay conscious and even lost consciousness, but she wanted to make someThe Art of Health-Related Quiltmaking two} | 19 Figure 2.1. Charlie Wood’s Stoma Quilt, Margaret Wood, Phoenix, Arizona, 1996. 44.75" × 50.75". Collection of the artist. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. Margaret Wood (Navajo/Seminole) made this quilt nearly two years after the death of her father as a tangible expression of his experience with throat cancer, a radiation mask, medical care, and family caregiving. She describes the quilt as follows: In the center is a white plastic mesh face, which is the actual radiation mask my father used for six weeks. The X’s on the quilt represent the X’s marked by radiologists on my father’s mask to pinpoint where radiation treatment was to be directed. Radiation targets on the body are marked with permanent marker while masks are made for patients who need facial radiation targets. I put in Seminole patchwork because my father is Seminole and blue colors since his favorite color was blue. The red and white borders represent the cigarettes that caused the cancer, and the appliquéd [tracings of] hands symbolize some of the people, especially family, that helped him on his healing journey. (Margaret Wood, email to Beth Donaldson, February 24, 2016; see also Quilt Index, http://www.quiltindex.org/fulldisplay.php?kid=6B-FF-0.) 20 | thing that could represent to members of an influential CFS committee just how sick she was. Her illness prevented her from attending the meeting, but others held the quilt up for the committee to see, and it proved a powerful statement of the impact of the disease on patients .4 Artist Amy Orr used recycled plastic medical cards to make a quilt in the Log Cabin pattern as an homage to the Affordable Care Act, a health support structure that was important in her own struggle with illness. Other artists, such as Laura Petrovich-Cheney, incorporate into their work materials that are scavenged from disasters. She, like others, finds solace and optimism in putting the broken...


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