Monday, September 22, 2008

With Bees in our Bonnets

I don't know what pioneer women would have thought of the results but they certainly would have sanctioned the impulse:

The quilting bee was an imporant means of socializing for colonial and pioneer women (and man). Through the winter months, the women would piece their quilt tops. Since there was no central heating in these homes, there was usually only one main heated room that was too crowded during the winter months for a quilt frame to be assembled. When the weather became warmer, an invitation was sent to the surrounding neighbors for the quilting bee.

On the day of the quilting bee, the quilters would arrive early and begin marking the quilt top which had been put into the quilt frame by the hostess. The quilters would then being to quilt the top while exchanging conversation. The quilt had to finished before the husbands and beaus showed up in the late afternoon when dinner was served to all, the hostess being given a chance to show off her cooking skills. After dinner, there was very often a square dance or country dance with fiddles accompanying the dancers. The quilting bee was an important part of the social life of these people surpassed only by religious gatherings. (from

On Saturday, a room full of multi-talented women gathered at Orr Street Studios for Lisa Bartlett's "Spare Parts" mixed media bee. We arrived at 10 am and began rifling through acres of fabulous ephemera she'd generously set out for us to ransack. Lisa had us draw numbers to pick from large pieces such as old wooden boxes, clock casings, and such for use as bases for our pieces. I drew #1 and got a plum prize: an old telephone box.

After serving ourselves coffee and snacks Lisa had laid out, we got busy with paint, papers, glues, drills, scissors, screws and wire on long tables arranged in a rectangle so we could all see each other, chat and pass the gel medium. I was surprised at the absence of sustained chatter. As each person immersed deeper into her project she grew quieter with concentration. But we yakked away at the lunch break, over organic salad, fruit and hummus. Because we were at our places working, we did not really see much of what each other had been up to until the end when we laid our stuff out in the gallery area. I was amazed at what emerged from the day, including and especially from those who had never even dabbled in this before. We were all euphoric by this time: high on the atmosphere, the joy of making and messy hands, and the all day proximity to very special friends. Friends and family showed up at 4:30 to view the art, have a glass of wine and pick out their own gems from the still substantial leftovers. The only thing missing was the square dance after.

Shown above is the before and after of my piece. Thanks, Lisa!

1 comment:

jenni said...

I am very impressed! Lovely.