Pieces of Patchwork

When I was little I had a great fear of the dark. On a good night I might fall asleep and not wake until morning. More often I would wake during the long hours and even a bedside lamp could not comfort me, always knowing that the dark beyond the light was greater. At some point I learned to read and to realize that books could provide comfort. With a warm quilt and stack of books, I could endure a long dark night.

In two weeks my community will receive a visit from artist, writer, and illustrator, Julie Paschkis. Having a connection to the group of educators and librarians who assemble this annual “Visiting Author” event, it’s a delight to become acquainted with her fine work. But not only that, I have been taught (even charmed) by her explanation of the very personal experience that is writing and creating.

In one of Julie’s most recent books, Mooshka: A Quilt Story, a grandmother makes a traditional patchwork quilt. As grandmother uses various fabric pieces or schnitz, she tells her granddaughter family stories that correspond with the salvaged cloth. The stories are simple and whimsical: her mother jumping from a cherry tree using fabric to try to fly, grandfather’s marriage proposal, an aunt playing as fortune teller, and a pet who got a Halloween costume. The child discovers the quilt can “tell” the stories over and over when she touches the quilt patches. In this way the quilt gives comfort and is key to resolving the book’s crisis. A plot like this could easily become predictable and cheesy. Instead it is satisfying, fun with just a hint of tender. The art is vibrant and reminiscent of folk art. Ms. Paschkis is a gifted artist whose work is both exquisite and intense. And I can’t wait to meet her in person!

In creating a book (or any creative endeavor) Julie Paschkis likens the effort to a patchwork. “You take all the bits and pieces of your life that mean something to you and sew them into a creation that will possibly mean something to other people.” In fact Mooshka contains many true stories from the author’s childhood. She had begun to design textiles and fabric for quilters. Their beauty inspired her to write the book, which led her to quilt on her own. “All of the books that I have worked on have led me to learn new things…I bring everything I can to the job of illustrating or writing a book, and then the books in turn change my life by leading me on adventures.” I think writers will appreciate how she feels each time she begins working on something new. “A new idea is as light as a piece of cotton and can just blow away. Sometimes I can barely stay in my studio when I am beginning a project. But if I can manage to stick with it, the idea will become more substantial. Soon I am having a conversation with it. Every act of creation calls for discipline as well as imagination: for stitching things together as well as envisioning beautiful design.”

President Uchtdorf has spoken of the great need to create. He tells us that we feel a common wish to create. Even more than a wish, a “deep yearning of the human soul.” It is part of our divine nature and is instinctual—a “wish to create something that did not exist before…something of substance or beauty.” There are infinite ways to express creativity, though some are harder to identify. Just this morning my very good friend and I created bird costumes for our teenaged sons, Hayden and Bart—a cardinal and Big Bird, respectively. The piles of fuzzy yarn wings, headdresses and colorful beaks look pretty good. They will use the costumes to perform a tongue-in-cheek show choir number for “Close to You,” made famous by the Carpenters. I think the lyrics went something like this: “Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near?…” Imagine sixteen or so teenage bird-boys hamming it up with interpretive dance moves and trying to woo a pretty soloist. I think it will be priceless!

Perhaps we forget this need to create and feel an emptiness as a result. I like to think on and remember this endowment is a gift bestowed from the “Most Creative Being” in the universe. Creating is hard though. At least for me writing is hard. Many of us struggle with the effort, be it music, art, poetry, etc. President Uchtdorf offers this advice: don’t get discouraged by the “voice of critics. Trust and rely upon the Spirit for greater capacity to create.” And lastly he encourages us “creation is your opportunity in this life and in the life to come.”

If you have an interest in the award-winning author who inspired this blog, look below for links and lists.

2013 Who Put the Cookies in the Cookie Jar? by George Shannon, Henry Holt
2012 Apple Cake – A Recipe for Love, by Julie Paschkis, Harcourt
2012 Mooshka: A Quilt Story, by Julie Paschkis, Peachtree Publishers
2011 Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People by Monica Brown, Henry Holt
2010 Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian by Margarita Engle, Henry Holt
2010 Where Is Catkin by Janet Lord, Peachtree
2009 Building On Nature: The Life of Gaudi by Rachel Rodriguez, Henry Holt
2009 Albert the Fix-It Man by Janet Lord, Peachtree
2008 Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal: A Worldwide Cinderella by Paul Fleischman, Henry Holt
2008 Night of the Moon by Hena Khan, Chronicle Books
2007 Twist: Yoga Poems by Janet S. Wong, McElderry Books
2006 I Have A Little Dreidel by Maxie Baum, Scholastic
2006 The Talking Vegetables by Won-ldy Paye and Margaret H. Lippert, Henry Holt and Co
2006 Yellow Elephant: A Bright Bestiary by Julie Larios, Harcourt
2006 Through Georgia’s Eyes by Rachel Victoria Rodriguez, Henry Holt and Co
2005 Here Comes Grandma! by Janet Lord, Henry Holt and Co
2004 Bottle Houses by Melissa Eskridge Slaymaker, Henry Holt
2003 Knock On Wood by Janet Wong, McElderry Books, Simon & Schuster
2003 Mrs. Chicken and the Hungry Crocodile by Won-ldy Paye and Margaret Lippert, Henry Holt
2002 Head, Body, Legs by Won-ldy Paye and Margaret Lippert, Henry Holt
2001 The Nutcracker, by E.T.A. Hoffman, Chronicle Books
2001 Fat Cat, by Margaret MacDonald, August House
2000 Night Garden, by Janet Wong, McElderry Books, Simon & Schuster
1999 First Steps, by Lee Wardlaw, Harper Collins
1998 Play All Day, by Julie Paschkis, Little, Brown
1997 Italian Soup Cookbook, by Joe Famularo, Workman
1996 Happy Adoption Day!, by John McCutcheon, Little, Brown
1996 Fortune Telling: Palmistry and Tarot, by Dennis Fairchild, Running Press
1995 So Happy/So Sad, by Julie Paschkis, Henry Holt
1993 So Sleepy/Wide Awake, by Julie Paschkis, Henry Holt

Books Around The Table
Mooshka: A Patchwork Blog

Gallery Links
Feast show
Yard Dog Gallery in Austin, Texas
Fabric Links

SHOWS : Solo Painting Exhibitions
October 2012, Grover Thurston Gallery
October 2010 Grover Thurston Gallery
October 2008 Grover Thurston Gallery
June 2006 Grover/Thurston Gallery, Seattle WA
2003 Grover/Thurston Gallery, Seattle, WA
2002, 2001, 1999 Alysia Duckler Gallery, Portland, OR
2001, 2000, 1998 Davidson Gallery, Seattle, WA
1996 Mia Gallery, Seattle,WA
1994 Portland Community College Gallery, Portland, Oregon
1993, 1991 Mia Gallery, Seattle,WA

About Becca Hyde

Becca Hyde began a career as children's librarian right after graduating college. She was also a grade school teacher for a couple of years simultaneously. After many years of choosing to stay home with her children, she is back working at Marshall Public Library as the Early childhood Librarian. Which is a delight! Becca also continues to be choir accompanist at Pocatello High School. She lives on a hillside with her husband, Joe, children and several wandering herds of deer and a moose or two.
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3 Responses to Pieces of Patchwork

  1. Jonathan Langford says:

    I’m personally fond of the metaphor of creating a mosaic for my own writing process. Not that different from quilting, I don’t think!

    I like the notion of creativity as an innate human need. Which suggests that creativity can be expressed in many different ways. The medium differs, but the basic impulse is the same.

  2. Very nice discussion of that basic impulse of creativity, Becca. Our gallery on Springville’s Main Street (The Brown House of Fine Arts, 274 South Main, 801-489-5298) is moving in the direction of helping people to CREATE! We’re going to be holding painting classes soon, inviting great artist-teachers who want to share their methods of work. It will be so much fun to get together with other hopeful artists and create something worth hanging up in our foyers! (Good therapy, too!)

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