We all have that one question that we get asked. Maybe we like to wear an orange hat, or maybe we like to walk our cat in public, whatever your particular peculiarity is, it will bring up questions to those who don’t know the story and who have a genuine curiosity or just want an entry into conversation.
Mine is: “so, you’re a man…making quilts.”
Often a statement rather than an ask.
Which I can understand, what question would one ask?
When we don’t have much precedence often we want to explain it.
The statement stops just short of “why?”
The “why?” is implied.
I had a lovely conversation this morning with Abby Glassenberg from WhileSheNaps.com for her podcast and she asked “That Question”
I have been frustrated of late answering to the gender dichotomy conundrum.
[Cue soapbox here]
Because let me not be defined by my gender! let me not have to create works that are a reflection of the single most obvious difference between me and the standard!!
Let me not be defined by my “otherness” but rather my “sameness”!!!
Welcome to the world of being a minority!!!
The same question over and over and over till you start to look back at the audience through that as a filter before they even bring it up.
This experience begs the question back to myself:
What it must be like to be in a minority that you cant turn off?!
When I leave quilting circles or just walk the streets I am “regular”.
I can choose when to call out my quilter life and be asked if it’s because of a sexual preference or if I find the community accepting etc.
Gender binary has been in challenge for a long time. We still have a long way to go.
[I’ll not get into politics or larger social group dynamics here, safe to say there are a lot of things to converse about. ]
I most often-if I can-use the question to wedge in some historical trivia about female empowerment that is implicit in the rise of the quilt in American history and how I am honored to learn from those masters who came before me, who just happened to be women.
Quilting was an ok pastime for women when their private times were governed. Quilts were a commerce that was acceptable for women to create before they were legally allowed to hold jobs or property. These household objects amounted to a tangible expression of community and self-control that was devoid in some houses and in the lives of some humans.
What must it have been like to have to create an excuse to socialize or to make a little spending money?
I would venture a guess that over the next few generations we will see dissolution of the strict boundaries between genders. Access to skills and information is [primarily] no longer given in the home, it’s given in the school and online, neither of which have a pedagogy that is particularly gender partisan. I am a product of that. I learned from everyone and everywhere and most of my studies and learning was out of the home.
I don’t like questions about my gender as it relates to my work, because in my mind it’s a choice for everyone. That is true, but the difference is that for women quilting has with it a history of empowerment and community and family and for me, it has some fun fuzzy fabrics to play with.
I say the better question is to ask every woman why she quilts and listen to the story.
I get to answer because I am the outlier, but my story is a new one. The real truth to quilting, and its Deep histories and love, comes from the women that have lived with it as an element of lifestyle.
I am here to learn from them and hopefully grow forward together as a community of makers.
Here is a resource for the stories of quilters: