I’d had the idea for Thesaurus kicking around in my head for a long time now—heck, from just about the time I started designing fabric, I’d just been waiting for the right place or time to finally make it. So, when I was asked if I would like to do a project in conjunction with Quilts for Kids, everything began to fall into place.
Thesaurus itself actually started about five years ago, with a print suite I designed for my soon-to-be-born daughter: Some Really Long Words Every Child Should Know. These prints illustrated some of my favorite long words, words that are now some of my four-year-old’s favorite bits of vocabulary. I love how she uses those words as starting points for stories and to make sense of her world: “Why are you walking around me, Bee?” “I’m circumambulating you…”
But Thesaurus has another side, one that really made me want to do it in connection with Quilts for Kids. Shortly after Bee was born I became catastrophically ill; I spent most of my time in a semi-paralytic state. I could only move for short periods of time, my heart was slowing down, and I couldn’t even read because my eye muscles had grown so weak. As the months went by my world became smaller and smaller. Luckily I eventually found a diagnosis, and with treatment have returned to something like a normal life, but that experience of being stuck in bed day after day has left an imprint.
For a chronically ill child the world can become a very small place, as so many things that most take for granted become impossible. For such a child, stories can take on an enormous role; where actual experiences are limited, an imaginative world grows. There are so many ways to find stories now: books, TV, games, online communities, but I remain an enormous fan of just making stories up, and that is where Thesaurus comes back in. While ordinary words are important, they rarely set the imagination going; we take those basic words for granted. A man with a mustache is not so exciting, but I can tell you a thousand tales of a whiskerando. A bit of horripilation (when the hairs on the back of your neck stand up) makes every spooky story better. A zumbooruk (a camel-mounted canon) makes any battle more exotic.
I designed Thesaurus as a prompt for stories, for imagination, and for investigation. If one kid gets into butterflies because the word lepidoptery (the study of butterflies) is so cool then I’ll be exceedingly happy. But the real goal of Thesaurus is to bring children and adults together under a quilt to talk, to spend time together, to make up stories and share new words. While I designed this collection with Quilts for Kids in mind, I hope this collection might in some small way serve as a prompt for more families to spend a little extra time with some wonderful words, some new stories, and each other.