This morning, while out at the local coffee shop with Bee, I was asked this question: why do you make quilts?
It seems like a simple question, but I always find it hard to answer. Part of the reason for my difficulty is because the intonation of that question can carry so many different meanings: Why (as a man) do you make quilts? Why do you make quilts (when you can just buy one)? Why do you make quilts (oh, because you don’t have a real job)? And many, many more. That isn’t to say the questions isn’t after a real answer; it is just that the practice of being a quilter is not generally understood. Different associations arise in relation to male and female quilters, but there is frequently a strong undercurrent of gender role assumptions that get layered into being a quilter, at least for those who as us why we do this.
So, it is often a very complicated question for me. But even setting all of that aside, the answer itself is steeped in great complexity; I make quilts for myriad reasons, and the list of them just keeps growing. I may have just bumbled through a short and vaguely coherent answer at the café this morning, but here is a more extensive list of reasons, though certainly not an exhaustive one:
Because I once saw a sign in a Cracker Barrel with the words Handmade Quilts above a pile of mass-produced quilts. The sign was just décor, but we all know why it was hung where it was.
Because Bee says wonderful things.
Because Bee has nightmares.
Because I am a fabric designer and that is simply part of what I have to do now; I am expected to promote the fabric.
Because too many people have been beaten or battered or neglected or abandoned or lost or forgotten.
Because they are warm.
Because I kinda hate big box stores.
Because I lost my life as an academic to a rare and vaguely treatable neuromuscular disorder and this feels like my last chance to ever have a career again.
Because I have things to say that words cannot adequately express.
Because sometimes I just want to make a giant elephant appliqué.
Because community does in fact matter.
Because having been a history major never quite leaves you.
Because I recently nicknamed a friend Bitchin Camaro, and that fact needs to be turned into a quilt.
Because I think it is just in my blood; my entire family is from Lancaster, PA.
Because I have two children now, which obviously means I need a lot more quilts.
Because now that I do I cannot imagine not making them.
Because quilts matter.
To be honest I am not sure how interested I am in the fabric (does that make me a bad fabric designer?) or the quilt design (does that make me a bad quilt designer?). What always interests me is why. I can spend hours talking about why we make quilts with people and how that translates into what we make. Everything else just feels small compared to those fundamental questions and answers.
So, there’s the question for the weekend: Why?