23 May, 2012

Reflections



I'm feeling a bit reflective, bear with me.

Being a quilter, for me, is intrinsically tied to being a mother. Sure, I quilted before I had my first baby. It wasn't until I had The Monster, however, that I became a quilter. As I became a mother, so I became a quilter.

It wasn't a SHAZAM! kind of moment where birthing a child suddenly gave me colour clarity or sewing skills. Nor was it a direct result of sewing cute little baby things. Rather, it was a gradual development of an inevitable compulsion.

This is why I say inevitable.




Long before I had kids I won the 8th grade Home Ec Award. All this really means is that I was the quickest to sew together my sweat pants and I'd mastered granola. The next year I lost out and suffered the indignity of crimped hair for the school fashion show. At the time I though I'd come a long, long way from the tube dresses I made for my Barbie dolls.

My first quilt was for my boyfriend's (now husband), first nephew. A simple yellow, white, and grey Irish Chain. I got bruises carrying the heavy old machine of my mom's to and from the train station. The bruises aren't my only injuries. I sliced my finger with a rotary cutter once - I'm now missing a tip. And my wrists and hands have more than a few iron burns. All for the love of quilting.

I shudder to think what I've spent in all my years of quilting. My stash is large, but not the biggest you'll ever see. It certainly doesn't reflect the fact that I've made about 100 quilts since that first quilt 14 years ago.



All that money and those injuries are fine. That's because I'm a quilter. Just like the sleepless nights, heartache, and stress of being a mother - it comes with the job. Hmm, those things come with being a quilter too.

In the first year of The Monster's life I found myself with a lot of time on my hands. She was an amazing napper and our house is only so big. It stayed as clean as it could and I was left with hours of free time every day. In time my two or three quilts a year became one a month.

That full year of mat leave produced about 10 quilts and a profound change in my being. I find it hard to describe it adequately, but becoming a mother led me to accept my true self.

After junior high I put away the sewing machine and laid down the pen I used to write stories. The focus for me was on training for swimming, then rowing. Once those were gone it was all about boys and beer. I tried to resurrect my creativity by going to journalism school, but it didn't stick. But the creative nature was there, lurking, but never gone.

That year after The Monster's birth changed all that. If I was going to be a good mama I needed full honesty with her and with myself. Not only did I have to put aside my hang-ups about my physical and creative self, I had to put my compulsions at the fore. I needed to create and I needed to embrace that. Complete honesty gave me the confidence to do that. Doing so made me a better mother, I have no doubt about that.

Now, another daughter and our son later, there is no less confidence and the compulsion grows. That's why it feels right to sew on the dining room table, to sketch quilts with the girls, to take my son to Quilt Market.

Without becoming a mother I would not be a quilter. And because I am both I am fiercely proud of it. No one will ever take that away, no matter how hard they try.

I am Cheryl Arkison, Mama to her babies and quilter to all.





26 comments:

Jody said...

Thanks for sharing Cheryl...and by the way Happy Birthday!!! I totally relate to how you feel about creativity and the compulsion to create:)

Anonymous said...

oh, a lovely post. And a very happy birthday to you!

Karen S in Edmonton

Esch House Quilts said...

I hadn't thought of the parallels before, but you're right. Being a mom and being a quilter are not what I do - they are both who I am.

Esch House Quilts said...

Forgot to say - Happy Birthday!

elle said...

I get what you are saying. You a a quick study. Took me much longer and I'm still getting it all together.

roxi said...

I really enjoy reading your blogs Cheryl. Happy Birthday & thanks for sharing with us, your creativity. (writen & sewn)

Megan said...

Beautiful words. Beautiful family. What a gift - to be your true self and share that self with the people you love. Thanks for your generosity in sharing with all of us as well.

Carla said...

That is beautiful and I get it. Being a mother gave me the freedom to "indulge" in quilting and I discovered out of all the things I've tried, I express myself best through quilting and mothering. I love it.

beth lehman said...

food for thought - how and why and what we create. i didn't start sewing (again) until i was a mother either. i never felt artistic before...

happy, happy birthday to you this day!

Carla said...

Lovely post Cheryl. Congrats on being both and doing both well : )

MariQuilts said...

Great post Cheryl,I can relate in many ways. My creativity was my saving grace during my child rearing years.

Tina Short said...

What a wonderful post, I'm welling up. Sounds like you are now very comfortable with who you are and what you do - keep on doing it, everything you have produced is gorgeous (children and quilts)!!
Tina xx

Josie McRazie said...

First off... Happy Birthday!! Yup Amanda Jean gave you up!! LOL Second I am sorry to say I also suffered from crimped hair! What were we thinking!! LOL You have a lot to be proud of! Your family is beautiful and your quilting a close second ;)!!

Nicole said...

Happy birthday, and congratulations on articulating so clearly a personal mission statement if you will.

Jan | Daisy Janie said...

Wonderful post. It filled my heart right up! So glad to know you, Cheryl. I often (prob too often) reflect upon pivotal moments and turning points that led me to here.... interesting and powerful at times. Hope your reflections keep you going for a looooong time! xo

amandajean said...

what a great post, Cheryl. it was lovely to read your reflections. and i love that first photo of you and Nikolai.

CitricSugar said...

Beautiful post. Sounds like Market was a blast - I keep seeing happy faces of people I read all over the place. I love that it was a place you were comfortable going with a baby. Kinda sums up quilting. You are so totally right.

Fran said...

That's such a lovely post & made me quite teary. I identified with lots of what you've said even though I'm fairly new to quilting. Happy birthday & thanks for sharing. I've loved your blog since I found it & have your book on my birthday wishlist.

Fareen said...

Awww, I loved this! Hope you had a great birthday!

Ginny said...

So lovely! Happy Birthday to you and yours!

Live a Colorful Life said...

I'm SOOO happy I was able to meet you. This is a wonderful post. And Nikolai is too adorable!

Beth said...

Lovely post and adorable kiddos all three. Happy Birthday.

Anonymous said...

Aww - that is so Cheryl - love it! I especially like the orange pillow with Mog on it - heehee. Of course the picture on the slide is awesome!

Hope your birthday was spectacular! Love you!
Amy

Sharon T said...

What a beautiful post...I am writing this with tears in my eyes. You certainly touched a nerve with this fellow quilter! I am a Mom, I am a Grandmom, I am a quilter!

Liz DandeliondD said...

What a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.
It really struck a chord with me. I am a fairly new sewista - tied in with the birth of my second child.
I feel more ME now I have my family and hobby than ever before.
xxxx

Corynne said...

I just wanted to say thank you for this post! I am new to blogging but not to being creative, So much of my life seems to be the same as yours. I have always been creative and a quilter for the last 10 years or so. Before that it was sewing doll clother and cross stitch. I too went to j-school to satisfy that creativity in the real world to no avail. Since the birth of my son (who also goes every where so I can nurse him) I too have accepted that being creative is who I am and not just a hobby. Thanks for reaffirming what I have been thinking - I think I feel a blog post coming on. Be blessed!