Thursday, August 4, 2016

AIDS Names Quilt Panel Commission

I have been woefully remiss about my blog posts, so this is my effort to pick up the pace a bit. I intend to try to catch up and publish some stories and photos of a few things I've been working on lately or that I've made in the recent past. I hope to be entertaining for you, and perhaps even a little inspiring.

 A couple of years ago, an acquaintance asked if I would help her family. She told me that they had lost her older brother to AIDS, and then she told me all about him. She told me about what it was like for him to grow up gay in a small town in Texas, and how her family cared for him when he became ill. And she said she and her family had always wanted to add a panel to the Names Quilt Project for AIDS, but none of them had the emotional strength, technical or artistic skills, or the tools to do justice to her brother's memory, so she asked me to help.
I said yes, and then I went to the internet to learn about how to make an AIDs Names quilt panel. And in case you're wondering, each panel, including this one for Carl, measures 2 feet x 6 feet. The panels are not quilted, but they do ask that the makers finish the edges. I finished Carl's quilt with a pillowcase-style back so that it would be durable and more likely to last throughout many exhibits. Here's where you can find that information if you intend to make a panel:

The only instruction I got from his family was that it needed to sparkle, and they wanted it to be "Cabaret" themed. By the time I started the project, I felt like I knew Carl. And although I'm not what you'd call a spiritual person(and certainly not a religious person), I really felt like Carl was with me while I worked on his panel; it felt like he was guiding me in the layout and advising me on the design and aesthetic. 

I decided on a "design as I go" plan. First, I got a photo of Carl from his family and printed it on fabric. I found some free, cabaret-themed silhouettes that I used to create the silhouettes; and I crafted my own large, appliquéd letters.

Carl's photo

I found a sparkly gold trim, and a very delicate gold lamé fabric that, thanks to an anti-fray product, I was able to raw-edge appliqué on the top as stars—one star for each member of Carl's immediate family, with the largest star being his of course. I created stencil circles and used iridescent paint sticks to "light up" the marquee.

This was the first AIDs panel I had ever made. And it was the first "quilt" that I cried over. I grew to adore Carl in my "conversations" with him; and I so wished I had known him. He was funny and clever, with a quick wit. He was a loving son and cared deeply about his sisters. And he shared my love of musicals. So while I cut, and stitched, and painted, and worked… I could almost hear him whispering to me that, during his life, he had a family who loved him and who remember him still. And now that we were "friends," he had another person who would think about him. He seemed to be telling me to not cry, but I did anyway. And I still do… I am again as I type this.
Here's the panel, completed
Carl's quilt panel eventually ended up debuting in Durango, Colorado, in an AIDs Names Quilt exhibit sponsored by the Four Corners Alliance for Diversity.  You can read about the exhibit in the Durango Herald's article here:

I'm told by Carl's family that Robert Redford and his assistant saw Carl's panel on exhibit; and I was glad to hear that. But for me, Carl was the real star of this show.
And what of that acquaintance? She's now my friend.

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