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what success looks like

to me

with enthusiasm,

J

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Right in time for MLK Day: Respect Quilt no. 14, and a quilt sale!

Respect quilt no. 14 is now done, and heading off soon to Atlanta, GA to celebrate a great American writer: Tayari Jones! In the joyful spirit of love and brotherhood, I am also offering a sale of 50% off all “Seattle” and “Respect” quilts now until Friday January 21, 2022, on etsy!

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Next week: NAACP event features “Respect” wall-hangings!

I’m thrilled that my work will be included in the items auctioned by the King County NAACP during the Live Virtual Event next week! Two “Respect” wall-hangings–“For Him” (left) and “For Her” (right) will be featured. Details below!

Here’s to the great work done by the NAACP in Washington state and nation-wide!

1. “Respect” wall-hanging “For Him” (left, above)

2. “Respect” wall-hanging “For Her” (right, above)

The “Respect” wall-hangings: civil rights artwork for the home!

There are many symbols stitched in these wall hangings, such as the three little birds which conjure up Bob Marley’s song, the state names, and the two pockets which represent resourcefulness, grit, and homegrown American sweetness. The artworks represent an effort to honor Black culture in the USA, so that the history of struggles, the ongoing connection to Africa, and hopes for the future live on.

Both feature fabric from today’s leading designers—the historical vignettes of dignified African Americans are made of “Harlem Toile de Jouy” by Sheila Bridges and the silhouettes of Afro-wearing women by Aphrochic—both of Brooklyn, NY.

– Three patches declare our political statement: 1) a portrait in yellow and black of slain civil rights leader Malcolm X, 2) a cheery reminder of Bob Marley’s song “One Love,” and 3) the slogan “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance.”

– The back of “For Him” is made of plain red cotton; “For Her” is made of a blue and green African print resembling a palm tree or long-necked woman. Both are bordered with Japanese block prints from Hosekibako, an elegant resale shop in Seattle’s Int’l District; “For Him” features white cotton with brown bamboo and flowers; “For Her” features a dark blue cotton with large black lilies.

– Materials: cotton, satin, denim, flannel

– Size:  Height: 37”; Width: 57”; Depth: 1/3:

– Polyester batting (1/3” thick) assures lightweight warmth and a cozy feel.

– Quilted the old-fashioned way, with tiny knots of embroidery floss, tied on the back.

– The final binding is stitched on by hand, with tiny stitches to keep it safe and sound.

– Each wall-hanging has a cloth “sleeve” at the top, for easy mounting (with a stick or dowel and a couple nails).

Made in Seattle by Honey Girl Books and Gifts LLC: a woman-owned business, estab. 2018, by Seattle native Julia Douthwaite Viglione (daughter of G.K. “Jeff” Douthwaite, former WA state legislator and civil rights advocate).

https://www.etsy.com/shop/HoneyGirlBooksGifts

Respect wall-hangings, backs, “For Him” (left) and “For Her” (right)

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love, authentic, from a book

It may seem odd to spend weeks making a quilt for a stranger and yet that is exactly what I’ve been doing. “Respect” quilt no. 10 is now done! As I worked, I reread the book which inspired it and realized on p. 230, that the quilt manifests an insight within.

“For the first time in my life, I was dedicated to loving myself so fully that the natural response was also to love unconditionally any authenticity I found in others.”

–Michele Harper, M.D., The Beauty in Breaking, p. 230.

I so admire that line and the mindset it suggests; would that everyone felt equally strong and capable of loving, despite the hardships and pain it may bring. Harper’s candid and sometimes heart-breaking writing provides a beacon of hope, and a means of connection, for us readers.

I hope she’ll like the quilt.

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Today’s the day! (signs popped up around the neighborhood… :)

These signs are visible now in WSEA! Come to West Seattle Grounds coffee shop tonight, 5-8pm, and find out what all the excitement is about!

Here is the destination, West Seattle Grounds coffee shop, situated at 2141 CALIFORNIA AVE SW SEATTLE, WA 98116.

P.S. How fun to become a guerilla artist, posting signs around the neighborhood. Without hurting any trees. In fact the trees were my helpers, holding the yarn in their bark while I stretched my arms around their trunks. Art is life!

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a gorgeous new book, with Respect (no. 7!)

After a sad spell, I return with good news, energy, and curiosity alight, thanks to the fabulous new book by art historian Samantha Noël which just arrived today. I made Respect quilt no. 7 for her, in fact, in memory of our time together during the years at Notre Dame and in admiration for her work. She works on Black artists and culture-creators of the Caribbean and the USA, and shows how their creations are interwoven with real aesthetic merit and political intention, despite being misunderstood or written off by the authorities. I’ve been waiting for my copy of the book so that I could pose the quilt with it, and the combination is even better than I imagined. I love the way the quilt’s vibe matches the message of the book! dancing people, tropical landscapes, a jaunty air of subversion–they are soulmates. Knowing it was destined to Samantha, I made this quilt particularly bright and cheerful. Do you see the visual reminder of the year it was made?*

A couple passages will show you why I’m such a fan of the book. It’s Samantha Noël’s ability to bring you right into the scene, to take the reader on a sensory journey to Trinidad or Cuba, to jangling cities and noisy jungles, where a luscious tropical heat shields a whole different world of smells, sights, and sounds and people with deep customs and histories linking them to Africa and the islands. Or to the glamorous world of Josephine Baker in the 1920s, when she took Paris by storm. (It is still sickening to remember that despite amazing talent, Baker was rebuffed at home in the USA, and that some part of her success was due to her concession to perform in the nude, with a male partner, a titillating danse des sauvages for white audiences). Noël’s focus on Black culture, island diasporas, and Southern histories is also a breath of new air into my Northwestern life, and one I’m eager to take in. Plus there’s a very intriguing photo of Maya Angelou on an album cover, as “Miss Calypso,” that I’m dying to explore!

Samantha Noël paints a complicated picture of the jamettes, or women who belonged to the poor of urban Trinidad, whose male counterparts were called badjohns. Instead of consigning them to the toxic influences that dominated their daily lives (abuse, sex work, poverty), she also notes the feisty, flamboyant style they embraced and the important role they played in the neighborhood. Famous jamettes–Yvonne “Bubulups” Smith and Gateway Elaine, for example–could be seen during street happenings of all kinds, from political protests to Carnival carousing. The consequences were sometimes dire, as the author notes:

“When Bubulups initiated a battle with her opponents, policemen arrested a naked and wounded Bubulups. … The difficulty of a jamette’s life is best summed up in Jean’s words: ‘Listen to me Dinah. … The road I walk had nothing. It didn’t have no money, no food. I didn’t have no mother. I didn’t have no father. All I ever wanted in my life was money and that is the only way I know how to do it. And that is how I am going down.’ … society branded them vulgar. As uncouth spectacles, their physiques gestured indiscretion against the repressive colonial order. Vulgar now became the pejorative agent in the sociocultural framing of these Black working-class women.

… she captures the attention of onlookers. Her monumental presence captured in the photograph also highlights her explicit control of the domain around her as she literally makes space, transforming the tropical, colonial territory as she traverses it.

Their movements were akin to the steel bands, whose rhythmic and melodic sound also emitted an unruly flair as the steel pan voiced the Black masses’ desire for acknowledgment of their political, social, and creative presence. The jamettes thus reveled in the music in their costumes, oscillating their hips with their arms akimbo, some waving the flags of their affiliated steel bands and others simply moving to the music while singing refrains from popular calypsos. If the jamettes were indeed primitive, it is because they were appropriating primitivity in their performance as a means of challenging the colonial order.” (pp. 133-135 in Tropical Aesthetics of Black Modernism, Duke University Press, 2021).

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BIRTHDAY SALE!

Select Honey Girl quilts will be on sale for one day only, March 10, 2021. Check it out!

*****

photo of Maya Angelou album cover courtesy of: By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36595496

*the ox on the green & yellow square is a symbol of 2021: Year of the Ox according to the Chinese zodiac.

Plate 1 of “Tropical Aesthetics of Black Modernism”, by Samantha A. Noël is juxtaposed here to a “Dancing Feet” star in Respect quilt no. 7, by yours truly, Honey Girl Books and Gifts, 2021.

On left above, an oil painting by Aaron Douglas, Aspects of Negro Life: From Slavery to Reconstruction, 1934, courtesy of the Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library.