Last year at Fiber College, I stitched under a tent with a group of quilters from Gee’s Bend. You can read about my experience here, and some time I’ll write about how transformative that afternoon was. When I heard about Alice Seeger’s film that emerged from her experience with the special Alabama ladies, Do It Your Way, I couldn’t wait to interview her. I hope you’ll join me in spreading the word about Alice’s Indiegogo campaign and donate what you’re able to it!
Do you remember when you first heard about the Quilters of Gee’s Bend? What drew you to their work?
Although I’ve made a few quilts, they were really nothing serious: gifts for boyfriends, baby shower presents, stuff like that. I don’t consider myself a quilter. I was a weaver and Teaching Artist, founder of Hands On History Inc. presenting arts education in public schools. In 2003 I received a grant from NYFA to work with David Marquis of Marquis Studio in Brooklyn NY as a mentor. I traveled to his office for a meeting, as I was leaving he gave me tickets to the Whitney Museum exhibit The Quilts of Gee’s Bend. It was the last week of the show. I was impressed by the quilts but also interested in the story about the place and the people of Gee’s Bend.
How did your interest in filmmaking develop?
My Dad had a “Super 8” home movie camera. When we were young, my brother and I liked to create little silent films using cards to spell out the dialog. I bought my own digital camcorder just before I went to Arizona in 2001 to do research for an arts residency entitled “Threads of Civilization: Traditional Weaving of the Navajo.” I stayed in a Hogan on the Navajo reservation. The following year my research took me to Peru. I created a films to use in my programs and as documentation for the grants I received.
What were some of the stand-out moments as you filmed last summer?
I was involved in the planning of the Gee’s Bend visit to Fiber College starting in January. I had just moved to Maine and didn’t have anything else to do. Astrig asked me to join the initial meetings between Penobscot Marine Museum, Maine FiberArts and Fiber College. Katharine Cobey was also valuable voice in the process. When the Gee’s Bend quilts arrived in June, it became my task to inventory, photograph and see that the quilts made it to the two exhibits.
When the ladies stepped into the tent on the first morning and began to sing…. the hair stood up on the back of my neck, tears came to my eyes and it became a little hard to breathe! I will never forget it! The forum at the church was pretty amazing, and the reactions of all the students as they finished their quilts from the two-day workshop was a lot of fun to witness!
Tell me a little about what you hope to achieve by traveling to Alabama. What are you most excited about hearing/seeing, etc?
I’m taking donated fabric down to Alabama, I’m looking forward to seeing Miss Revil, Miss China and Miss Stella Mae. I also want to see the places related to the Voting Rights protests that Miss Revil spoke about and learn more about that story. Quilts are expressions of the lives of the quilters, where they live, what they see, the colors of the sky, the land and the river. I hope to get footage and stories to give a better picture of their lives.
Why is this film important?
Art can bring together people from very different backgrounds to create peace and understanding.
Why are the Gee’s Bend quilters important?
They didn’t wait until they had the “right” materials or equipment, training or time to create quilts. They make quilts like most people eat or breath, they just do it. They don’t need anyone’s permission or need to follow rules or recipes.
How does their work impact yours?
They inspire courage.
Anything else you want my readers to know?
If you were at Fiber College and have a story to tell, I’d like to hear it! You could be part of the film. I would also appreciate your support in raising funds and awareness for my Do It Your Way Indiegogo Campaign.