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Orchard Pathways

Detail from Orchard Pathways, 2021 (42″ x 61.5″”)
Cotton fabric, machine pieced, hand quilted
Sharon Carrier

Come run with me on rutted dirt roads past farmhouse, barn, and zigzag fence.

Turn with me down winding trails through flowering fields and grasses green.

Walk with me on orchard pathways with saplings arranged in neat, hopeful rows.

Smell the dark earth where infant seeds sleep, wistfully dreaming about blue skies.

Taste the river, its clear water flowing, separating seeds and sending roots down.

Feel the waves of heat that beckon tender shoots to rise and tendrils to climb.

Smell the petals of blooming flowers, their sweet fragrance adrift in dusk’s amber light.

Feel the winds that one day will rush past grandiose trees with limbs stretching wide.

Stroll with me on pathways and trails and familiar dirt roads that lead us back home.

(All photographs in this post are mine. Please do not use them without my permission.)

These Truths

These Truths, 2020 (59″ x 59″)
Cotton fabric, machine pieced, machine and hand quilted
Sharon Carrier

I designed These Truths during the summer of 2020 when George Floyd’s senseless death replayed on cable news. The officer’s knee pressed against Floyd’s neck became emblematic of America’s painful perpetuation of racial injustices.

Floyd’s invocation of his deceased mother and his unheeded pleas–“I can’t breathe”– gave new life to Black Lives Matter. In a global pandemic, multiracial protestors filled streets to demand a reckoning, and voters responded with their ballots. It was as if the experiences of Black and Brown people finally got imprinted on America’s White conscience.

While making These Truths, I felt the weight of history–the pain and perseverance of individuals with skin tones different than mine. I learned about American abolitionists Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman and other women activists of the Civil Rights Movement including Ella Baker, Daisy Bates, Septima Poinsette Clark, Fannie Lou Hamer, Dorothy Height, Diane Nash, and Jo Ann Robinson. I internalized their legacies and questioned my own.

With the promise of new leadership under President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, “equality” and “justice for all” have a chance of becoming more than democratic ideals. They must become our truth.

(All photographs in this post are mine. Please do not use them without my permission.)

(I appreciate quilt holder and organizer/activist Chelsea Carrier’s assistance with this post.)

Provence

It was a trip like no other. Just me and my daughter for three weeks in Portugal, Madrid, Barcelona, and the southern region of France known as Provence. I can’t describe our entire journey, so I’ll offer a glimpse of Provence, which had been a dream destination of mine until, together, we made it a reality in 2017.

Just as I had imagined, Provence holds a magical quality. From hills dotted with charming villages to city centers featuring broad avenues and upscale shops, Provence offers Old World charm and artistic refinement.

Lavender fields are plentiful in the countryside of Provence.
Mont Sainte-Victoire was a favorite subject for Cezanne. We also visited his perfectly preserved studio.
Van Gogh lived for a time in Arles, where he painted the night sky and street lights reflecting on the Rhone River.
Aix-en-Provence is famous for its many fountains.
Visual treasures awaited us around every corner.

We used almost every mode of travel on our trip, but explored each destination primarily on foot. I don’t think I’ve walked as much in my life! But every step was worth it, especially at the end of each day when we typically would climb up several flights of stairs–usually made of stone–to unwind in our comfy accommodations with great food and drink and stunning views!

As planners, my daughter and I mapped out each action-packed day in advance. In addition to museums, historical sites, and a few guided tours, we left plenty of time to wander.

In open-air markets we bought hand-crafted earrings and mused over odd antiquities. You might guess that I was drawn to the wide assortment of fabrics. The textiles of Provence reflect the variety and character of the region with their rich Mediterranean colors and traditional motifs and borders.

It was a hard choice, but I finally selected several gorgeous fabrics in yellows and blues for a quilt (or two). How could I resist?

As I reflect on this trip of a lifetime, I’m glad we didn’t wait for some better time to go. “Don’t postpone joy,” my daughter likes to say, and she’s right.

We have wonderful memories and photos, and–before too long–we’ll have a finished quilt to remind us of our travels and, of course, the joies de la vie!

(All photos in this post are mine. Please do not use them without my permission.)

Elements

Detail from Elements, 2018 (32 1/2″ x 26″)
Reverse appliqué and machine quilted
Sharon Carrier

Mighty ocean waves crash forward

with rhythmic predictability,

and hefty winds howl with disregard.

In defiance, we put up thin wooden fences

to hold blowing sand grains in place and

erect stilt houses to outsmart surging tides.

While these powerful forces threaten to overtake us,

we tenderly embrace our fragile existence and hope

that we and this place can grow old together,

with gurgling tidal currents and

dancing sea foam at our feet.

(All photographs in this post are mine. Please do not use them without my permission.)

My Corner of the Universe

My Corner of the Universe, 2018 – Sharon Carrier
82″ x 92” – machine pieced, free-motion quilted

Like cosmic explorers gliding into another world, we gently land under a canopy of stars and audaciously stake our claim here—at the edge of everything.

Down the way, at the intersection where sunrises and sunsets cross, fellow travelers ebb and flow with the seasons.

We stay—along with wild horses, deer, and coyote—to ride out epic fall storms and chilling winter blasts.

Just when we’ve had enough, spring returns to open delicate flowers and to warm our hearts.

Then summer rushes in to play, running down sun-drenched beaches and swimming in whirling ocean waters.

Ironically, this otherworldly place, forever in motion, evokes a quiet stillness, anchored in tranquility.

(All photographs in this post are mine. Please do not use them without my permission.)

Home and Wanderlust

Years ago our family’s garage housed a series of bird nests. A missing plexiglass window in the garage door allowed the birds to enter and exit as they pleased. Each spring the birds nested on top of the garage opener and tossed twigs on our car below.

We could hear the babies chirp and see their parents flying back and forth to feed them. The fledglings eventually spilled out of the nest, flapping and flailing across the concrete floor, making their way into the world beyond the nest.

Maybe it’s this pandemic we’re living through that has me thinking about staying home versus traveling to new places. Don’t get me wrong, I love my creative time at home (and I am extremely thankful to have one), but I also enjoy a good adventure!

My quests do not always work out well. Other times they do, like the time my husband and I went to Ireland and discovered my Irish family roots. Perhaps it’s biological, this wanderlust that drives us beyond the safety of the familiar and known to the exciting unknown.

With teenage exuberance and curiosity, my once-upon-a-time-long-long-ago boyfriend and I defied a “no trespassing” sign to take a shortcut through private property.

I crouched under the barbed-wire fence above while he held down the bottom wire for me to step over. Suddenly he lost his grip, and the lower wire sprang up, striking my ankle. Although I didn’t see the barb that gouged me, I did see—much to my horror—a great amount of blood covering my foot. Lesson learned: no shortcuts! I still have the scar, but definitely not the boyfriend.

My children’s favorite bedtime story was The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. I loved reading Potter’s beautifully illustrated stories that bring you into the imaginary world of Peter, his siblings, and widowed mother who live in a cozy home complete with an oven and other human conveniences. Peter’s mother makes sure her bunnies have good meals and proper clothes to wear. She forbids Peter from going into Mr. McGregor’s garden (where bad things would surely happen), but he and his cousin Benjamin Bunny can’t help themselves. They escape to the garden where mischief ensues.

I found this vintage Peter Rabbit fabric that someday will become a baby quilt.

When I taught humanities to college students eons ago, I introduced them to the ideas of scholar Joseph Campbell, who explained that cultures share mythical heroic archetypes whose epic journeys define and transform them. Think of The Wizard of Oz. Through her tornado-spun adventure, Dorothy overcomes her wistful longings and realizes her own agency and power. Even tattered Peter Rabbit returns from his mischievous garden escapade grateful for the love and comforts of home.

Before the coronavirus hit, my husband and I visited our daughter in Iowa. She knew it would mean a lot to me to visit the Iowa Quilt Museum, so we drove to Winterset in Madison County.

If you’ve seen the movie, you’re already familiar with the historic covered bridges there.

After our own tour of several covered bridges, we arrived at the Iowa Quilt Museum.

I highly recommend the Iowa Quilt Museum, located on the charming town square in Winterset.

It took us a couple of hours to walk through a special exhibit of magnificent quilts by Marianne Fons and Liz Porter. One particular quilt caught my eye. Its label stated that Fons gained inspiration from the medallion (or frame) quilts in the book Quilt Treasures of Great Britain.

There I am, standing in front of the British Frame Quilt by Marianne Fons and Toni Fisher.

I later bought the book (published by the Heritage Search of the Quilters’ Guild, 1995), which traces the history and scope of quilt makers in the British Isles and their extraordinary medallion quilts.

Interestingly, the Iowa Statehouse, which my husband and I later visited, has stunning floor mosaics in the medallion style.

I took this photo of the Iowa Statehouse, bathed in the golden light of the setting sun.

But I digress.

Back to the road trip. Leaving Winterset, I really enjoyed the rural landscape of barns and fields.

Perhaps due to the unusual clouds, I casually asked my Midwestern daughter about tornadoes. By this time she was already assessing the cloud formations and increasingly green sky, but didn’t share her concerns until our phones started buzzing with a tornado alert.

With no shelter in sight, I imagined the two of us, still buckled into the rental car, spinning in the air, and NOT landing in Oz!

With her ruby red slipper firmly pressed against the gas pedal, my amazing daughter confidently raced down the highway toward our exit. There’s no place like home, but THAT was a great adventure!

After returning from Iowa, I designed a new quilt top in the traditional medallion style. As soon as my backing fabric arrives by mail, I will quilt it. Thankfully, I have lots of time at home to do just that!

(All photographs in this post are mine. Please do not use them without my permission.)

Crown of Thorns

Creative ideas can flow from things we see and know, but what about things we can’t see and don’t yet know? Do they have a role to play? That’s where this story begins.

Wanting to make a contemporary medallion quilt, I started with a modern variation of a “bear paw” block. I liked the look of the spikes shooting outward like a starburst. For the fabric I chose a Kathy Deggendorfer design from her Wild by Nature collection for Maywood Studio. The orange tonal circles and dots were fun and dynamic–just what I needed for the medallion block. Things really started shaping up when I added bordering fabrics suggestive of flowering plants, river currents, and wild animals.

About this time, news broke about COVID-19. After seeing enlarged images of the spikey virus plastered across the media, I lamented, “Oh no! My quilt looks like that!” I put that unpleasant thought aside and kept going.

I auditioned several fabrics and designs for the outer border and didn’t like what I was coming up with. Who said that creativity is easy? I asked my husband for his opinion and ended up taking his suggestion. (I am really surprised he is so good at this. Years ago, I concluded that he was colorblind based on the clothes he thought matched.)

For my corner blocks, I chose purple, not thinking at the time about its symbolism in art to connote royalty, divinity, and spirituality. I then experimented with the “friendship star” block. My husband said it looked like one of those medieval weapons of war that soldiers would throw at their enemies. So much for friendship!

With the piecing completed, I started quilting straight lines through the center medallion. It didn’t look quite right until I intersected the grid with wavy lines.

Quilting my way to the outer edges, I added denser quilting in some borders and swirls in others, creating a satisfying variety of visual effects and textures.

We were now well into the Easter month and news of COVID-19’s global devastation had intensified. We all feared the worst was yet to come with a rising death toll in Italy, Spain, and now the United States.

It was during this time that my quilt’s name came into focus: Crown of Thorns. Most people will recognize this term as an instrument of suffering in Christ’s Passion. As an art student, I had seen many paintings of crucified Jesus bearing the thorny “crown” (corona in Latin), which his tormentors had thrust upon his head to mock and torture him.

Detail from Crown of Thorns, 2020 – Sharon Carrier

Later, I learned that virologists who studied earlier coronaviruses under a microscope had named them for their identifiable spiked projections that create a halo effect, like that of the solar corona.

I plan to keep this quilt. Besides its visual attraction, it will remind me—especially in moments of self-doubt—to trust the creative process. By persisting through each creative decision, eventually I will end up with something meaningful to me and, I hope, to others.

Wrapped in Love

(Cocoa Beach, FL, c. 1964) Frothy waves and gentle currents push me along until I emerge on the shore like a small sand crab, happily drenched and sand encrusted. At a distance I see my watchful, worried mother summoning me to return. She greets me with a colorful beach towel–wrapping it around my entire body–until I dash for the ocean once again.

Creativity for me is like an adventure I feel compelled to take without knowing where it will lead.

This particular adventure starts with my longing to make quilts for Ellie and Willow, my “nieces” I’ll call them (rather than digress into our family genealogy). With intel from their mother about the girls’ favorite colors, I get started. A geo-floral charm pack of bright pinks, greens, and blues in a four-patch pattern form the main element of Ellie’s very pink quilt. Squares of dreamy lavender, soft green, white, and purple polka dots create a playful patchwork for Willow’s “Irish quilt” as my son would later call it.

While I keep the piecing simple–reminiscent of vintage quilts–I let my imagination run wild with my free-motion quilting. It is great fun and allows me to practice some new techniques and ruler work. I even include the girls’ names.

As the quilts come together so does the unexpected opportunity to give the quilts to the girls in person. My sisters and I join our extended family at their picturesque cottage on Lake Erie, where each evening begins with a convening of neighbors at the water’s edge to watch the sunset.

With everyone assembled, I present the quilts to a chorus of oohs and ahs. Later that day, little Willow asks, “Why did you make me a quilt?” “Because I love you,” I reply. “I love you, too,” she says. Cue my heart melt!

What started as my desire to make quilts for my nieces led me on a creative journey that brought our family members together again, across miles and generations, to share precious memories and to create new ones.

Now, nearly one year later, I think of cool summer nights at the cottage and imagine Ellie and Willow snuggled under their quilts, wrapped in love.

Creativity and Connection

Hello and welcome to my blog! My name is Sharon, and I am excited to share with you a little about life on the Outer Banks, NC, and how I spend most of my time: creating quilts.

Designing my own quilts takes me back to my childhood. One of my earliest memories involved covering my parents’ bedroom wall with a gigantic spiderweb drawn in green crayon. I was so proud of my masterpiece that I added my name, multiple times. When my mother discovered what I had been up to in the back of the house, she wasn’t angry or didn’t show it. She asked about my drawing, and I beamed while explaining it to her. Creativity was prized in our home.

In this blog, I’ll share what inspires me and my quilting. I’ll also share the challenges. Mostly, I hope to connect with others and to provide a platform to discuss creativity. What are the intellectual and emotional quotients we bring to the creative process? What can we learn from each other? I am eager to find out!