Compassionate Quilting helping people through life transitions
SHERRI LYNN WOOD IS AN ARTIST LIVING IN CALIFORNIA WHO IMPROVISES QUILTS AS A LIFE PRACTICE. SHE HAS BEEN WORKING WITH PEOPLE THROUGH VARIOUS COLLABORATIONS TO MAKE IMPROVISED QUILTS FROM THE CLOTHING AND MATERIALS OF EVERYDAY LIFE. THIS PRACTICE DEVELOPED INTO AN ACTIVE, HANDS-ON, THERAPEUTIC PROCESS FOR WORKING THROUGH LIFE TRANSITIONS THAT SHE CALLS PASSAGE QUILTING.
interview: Mindy Cook
Firstly, can you tell us about the
“While discovering my creative interests through relevant courses, I developed projects that allowed me to explore life’s inner struggles by engaging with various communities That led to starting a project with people who knew all about real life ‘confinement’. I volunteered for a year at the North Carolina Correctional Institution for women and along with a handful of inmates we crocheted a one-of-a-kind hat for every woman incarcerated in the institution – which represented their decision to say YES within a confined system where the answer was always NO! Following a public exhibition of the hats we donated them to a new prison reform initiative that allowed non-violent women offenders to serve their sentence with their children under 12 at a special institution. To this day, women at NCCIW continue to crochet hats for auction in support of it.”
How did quilting become such a big part of your life?
Early in my quilt making endeavours I was exposed to an exhibition – Who’d A Thought It – which introduced the long overlooked contributions of African-Americans to the tradition of patchwork. After witnessing the beauty and presence in those imperfect quilts I was hooked on improvisation. I attended a workshop with Nancy Crow and a lightbulb went off as I realized anything was possible.
Have you explored how other, more traditional methods of quilting could be combined with improvisation?
I believe in the value of learning sewing and patchwork skills from many traditions and enjoy synthesizing them into my practice in a way that makes them my own. I also equally believe in the value of exploring improvisational methods from other disciplines, such as theatre, music, dance, cooking, drawing and play in support of my improvisational patchwork process. My book, The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters, is about this very thing.
How did Passage Quilting come about?
I was beginning to question the value of an object based creative practice. Then one day, while I was selling my quilts at the local Farmers’ Market a woman came up to me and asked if I could make a quilt for her from her grandmother’s clothing. There was my answer. It was as simple as that.
However it took another year to fully realize the potential of linking improvisational patchwork to the bereavement process. Passage Quilting enlists the bereaved – often non-quilters – into the quilt making process and builds the tradition of memorial quilting – in which clothing is used in pre-planned geometric quilt blocks. It is an active, kinetic vehicle for healing that mirrors the process of letting go through improvisational patchwork, using the architecture of the clothing.
Do you have some tips for quilters (and other craft/creative pursuits) looking to get something more out of our quilting or crafting?
Finish this sentence: I can’t live without…. my friends.
Sherri is also an awarded sculptor and her work is shown in museums and galleries across the USA. She has been making quilts professionally and with passion since 1989, is currently writing and creating quilts for her first book, The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters, and used her crafty creativity for good in many other ways. See more of Sherri’s work at http://daintytime.net/