Sunday Salon: Growing Up on the Hem of My Mother's Skirt: The making of an Art Quilter/Fiber Artist Winifred Sanders, by Catherine M. Lamkin
I recently posted Sunday Salon: Sitting Down with Dawn Goldsmith, about a talented woman who "quilts" with words and marvels at the serendipitous way important connections flow into her life. So it's no surprise another serendipitous connection came as a result.
Catherine M. Lamkin immediately emailed to tell me about her mother, a traditional quilter who "kicked traditional quilting to the curb and became an art quilter. At the age of 68 she had a two women show in an art gallery and sold over $1,000.00 worth of her work. She is 77 years old now and I am very proud of her. Her work is featured in Quilting African American Women's History. I am in that book as well. If you go to africanamericanartquilters.com and click on Collaboration Quilts and click on Winifred Sanders you will see my mother's piece titled "Hair Hair Hair or Maybe Knot."
You will also see Catherine M. Lamkin's collaboration quilt, titled "Cotton Eyed Joe for Nina Simone." Another serendipitous connection, since Nina Simone has long been an inspiration of mine.
I love celebrating the accomplishments of "Ancient Artists" and both Winifred Sanders and her daughter Catherine M. Lamkin are true inspiration. So I contacted Ms. Lamkin to see if I could host her mother for a Sunday Salon. She graciously replied by sending me this fascinating essay:
Growing Up on the Hem of My Mother’s Skirt: The making of an Art Quilter/Fiber Artist Winifred Sanders
When my mother came to
people are born with a silver spoon in their mouths and grow up in a life of
privilege, others are not. My mother was one of those others. If she could have
been born with anything in her mouth, I would have to say it would be a silver needle. The granddaughter of a
quilter she was born in 1932 in
grandmother was born in 1886 and died in l980. Upon arriving in
I cannot remember a moment in my life when my mother was not making something. The hum of her Singer sewing machine was my lullaby, gently rocking me to sleep stitch by stitch as she sewed deep into the night. Stitching and mending, hemming, and sewing, but most importantly always creating. I believed sewing was her first true love, long before she met my father. At times I was embarrassed by all this creativity. As embarrassed as a teenager can get after spending one’s entire life shopping in Macy’s Department store for fabric. Macy’s elevator, back then made an announcement as it stopped on each floor. “Fourth floor women and girls department”. I always wanted to get off on the fourth floor, but we never did. Always departing on five, greeted by bolts of velveteen piled sky high. My dreams of shopping for real clothes, were buried deep inside pattern books. As if the clothes my mother made were not real and beautiful. As if she did not pour more love than any factory worker could ever pour into the skirts she hemmed for me. Of course my clothes were real but I believe everyone experiences a moment of stupidity in their life. And that was mine. Thinking my mother’s creations were anything less than real, and having the guts to tell her so. I hope she has found it in her heart to forgive the teenager in me. Every now and then you will find my twelve year old daughter and I in Hancock searching through fabric and pattern books.
My mother attended Central Needle and
On June 20, 2003 my father died, two days before their 51st wedding anniversary. Throughout my mother’s artistic transformation, my father was her greatest supporter. In the last year of my father’s life, my mother put her art on hold. Every now and then she would say, “I can’t really do much with my quilting now that your father is ill”. The desire to create burned dimly during my father’s illness, bursting into flames months after his passing. Her first art quilt after his death was exquisite.
Often my mother would call me to share an idea, or tell me about a project that she was working on. Rarely did she ask me what I thought; clearly she knew where she was going and how she was going to get there. In 2000, at the age of 68, she had arrived; she was offered the opportunity to participate in a two-woman show. This was a major turning point in my mother’s life, the fiber artist. A point of validation, selling several pieces of work. It was a proud moment for this fourth generation quilter. I too have cut lose, broken from tradition and consider myself a budding art quilter. But as my mother would say, we all started off as traditional quilters, keeping a little bit of tradition close to our hearts, but moving to new heights, moving on.
November 19, 2006 my mother and I attended the closing reception for “Ain’t
Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around”:
Quilters of Color of New York exhibit at the
Catherine M. Lamkin, lives with her husband and daughter in