My mom, Juls, was a wonderful quilt maker and won many awards and accolades over the years for her art — but never really told anyone outside of the family. Even at her wake, neighbors that she lived next door to for decades had no idea that mom was such an accomplished quilter. Cousins, aunts, even one of her brothers had no idea that this is what my mom did up in her little condo; in a work space roughly about 6 by 6 feet. To see all her quilts up on display was really rather moving for me, I had never seen them in this light and it blew everyone away.
Juls was able to blow the room away at her wake because as an ode to my mother, I filled the “wake room” with her quilts and it looked very much like her own personal art gallery. It was really beautiful if I may say so myself. Quilts on walls, on chairs, on couches, on podiums, she was everywhere. Relatives asked all day and night, “What are you going to do with your mother’s quilts?” My brothers were ready to bring in an auctioneer that night! I don’t know exactly what I am going to do with her quilts, but I certainly am exploring some options.
A quilt appraisialist said that they should go to either the Illinois State Museum in Springfield or to the International Quilt Study Center & Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska. This appraisalist never met my mother, not many did, but she certainly was familiar with my mom’s work. Juls was the recluse quilter that quietly won all the awards at the McHenry County Fair each year and came in to pick up her ribbons on the Monday after the fair — and into the fabric cabinet the ribbons would go.
The reasons why mom hid for so many years are starting to become clear to me as I sort through her things and empty out her life and it’s not always easy because I get upset with her. I wish she had let me in on some of her thoughts and not let them fester. So stubborn. Stone Head.
I always threatened my mom that I would expose her craft when she was gone and she would say, “What will I care then?” Well, ummm true but that time is here and now the first thing I had to do was photograph the quilts. This is not as easy as it sounds, as her quilts are huge, well most of them at least, and huge means heavy. Thankfully I was able to use one of the studios at the Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship (where I am now also teaching and studying, but more on that later).
I sold some of my mom’s quilts at her estate sale but have hung on to a good many. I learned that my mom had quite a following and when word got out that some of her quilts were up for sale, people came from all over the area and her estate was quickly emptied out. I am pleased about this. As well as a little freaked out by her empty house that I can now hear an echo when I talk. I wonder if I made it all happen too quickly and now have very little of her left.
I am not a pack rat. Now I am preparing to contact the museums as soon as I have them all properly inventoried. These are just a few.
My mom was never big on talking. It drove me crazy my entire life. When I saw her quilts up on the walls of the funeral home, I saw that mom said everything through her quilts. There are layers and layers of her emotions and thoughts in her quilts and I will do what I can to get people to hear my mom.
Aw Juls. You finally said something. xo