Carla D.

Since I was born more than two months early and only weighed 2 lbs and 12 ozs, my mother was told that I may not survive and if I did, I may be disabled.  Well at age 71, I can say that not only am I still here, I am doing just fine physically.  My mother, who was a straight A student in high school, married my father who had been offered a scholarship to study architecture at Stanford.  It was during WWII so he turned it down and joined the Marines and my mother never went to college.  She just wanted to be a secretary.  They married right out of high school but only lived together a short time before they divorced.  My mother did not know she was pregnant when she left the marriage.  She and I went to live with her parents. When I was four, my mother remarried a "nice" man who was uneducated and really not too smart.  She needed to get away from home and needed a "father" for me.  For many years I blamed myself for her misery.

I loved to draw and play outside climbing trees, ride my bike and pretend to be a horse.  I loved horses.  They were beautiful, powerful and could run.  In elementary school, I began to be called an "artist" and in high school, I was an art major but things at home were not good.  My mother had a "nervous breakdown" and quit working and my step father started making advances toward me.  I learned to avoid both of them, keep my head down and escape by being a born again Baptist.  I finally left home after two years of college where I met my future husband.  When I left home, I left the religion behind and moved to LA where I did another year of college before quitting because I didn't know what I wanted to do.  Big mistake.  My future husband (HK) went to UCLA and I went to work at a daycare center where I worked with an all black staff.  I loved those folks and still remember them fondly. 

HK wanted to go to the American University of Beirut for a MA in Arab Studies.  So off we went to Beirut and were married there.  Luckily, the minister needed a secretary, and so now I had a job.  It was right after the 1967 war, so we had to be sensitive about what the Palestinians were facing, but I loved living abroad and Lebanon was beautiful at that time.  We traveled to Egypt, saw the Roman ruins at Baalbek, and learned to live in a foreign culture.  I was in two play productions, and took an art class.  After nearly three years, HK and I moved to London where he started a PhD. program at the London University at the School of Oriental and African Studies.  I found a job at a weekly magazine that specialized in Middle Eastern news working in the small library and basically cutting up newspaper articles for the editors.  HK went off to Egypt for a year to do research for his thesis and I stayed in London and our marriage broke down completely.  I kept my job but took pottery classes, enjoyed the parks and museums, and had a few adventures along the way.  

Recovering from a bout of pneumonia, I decided to go back to California for a visit.  I also decided that it was time to meet my "real" father.  I knew where he lived and that he had three other daughters.  When I called him, he made me feel at ease and we met without my mother knowing it.  It was one of the bravest and best things that I have ever done.  He had done some painting but was a model airplane designer and builder.  

When I went back to London, I learned of an Art school in Devonshire so I applied and got in.  I was given a full grant to do a three year course that led to a teaching certificate.  Lucky me!  The first year at Dartington College was OK but the second year I took off and worked really hard.  I can look back and see the threads that are still in my work today.  I woke every morning excited about getting to school and working.  The third year was at a teaching training school and I came out top of my class after doing two teaching practices.

Now what.  The head of the Art Dept. of Cornish Art School in Seattle was visiting Dartington and said, "Why don't you come to Seattle?"  Ok, off I went.  I found a job working with at risk youth in a furniture refinishing shop with a boss who was an ex-bank robber.  Interesting.  

Then I met my husband in 1978 in a jazz club in Seattle.  I almost didn't go into the bar and when he spoke to me, I was so rude to him.  Thank goodness he persisted and I realized that he was really nice.  We have now been together for nearly 38 years and have two grown sons who are both wonderful artists.

While SD was finishing a math degree, we managed a condo on Lake Union which gave us a free apartment and a salary.  In between vacuuming and sweeping the parking lot, among other things, I took a painting class, a sewing class and bought my first Bernina.

When SD graduated, I was pregnant and off we went to Texas where he worked with the Space Shuttle program.   I did not like Houston, Texas.  Living with snakes, fire ants, flying cockroaches, heat, humidity, hurricanes, with no mountains or beautiful trees was not my thing.  

 Friends of ours moved to Massachusetts and we decided to follow them.  I have always loved history and MA has plenty of that.  We bought a fixer upper house in MA because we lost everything in Texas and proceeded to completely remodel it ourselves with a two young kids.  We had no idea what we were getting into!  We basically threw away most of the original house and redid all the wiring, plumbing, framed in walls after removing lath and plaster, taped and plastered new wallboard and completely redid the kitchen.  SD put a sign in one of the walls that said, "Love Amongst the Ruins" with our names and date.  After seven years in MA, we moved back to Seattle to be closer to family. 

Things went well. I had started quilting in MA and was excited by art quilts.  I joined Contemporary Art Quilt Assoc. in Seattle and met some really talented people. Then to put kids through college, I went to school to become a medical assistant and worked in a dermatology office.  My age was a plus and I enjoyed the job.  I took a drawing workshop with Betty Edwards and taught drawing for awhile.  I kept coming back to Art quilting but when I went back to work, the ten hour days and all the other things going on meant I needed to take some time off from quilting.

SD lost his job in 2000 and our lives changed.  We sold our house, my mother died, I had thyroid surgery and cancer treatment, SD lost another job and I almost lost my mind.  Later we were able to buy another house and we are happy again.  Art has saved my sanity more than once and as I was writing all this, I realized how interesting life has been and I don't regret a thing.  I am now a member of CQA again and want to make better work, hence this workshop.

Process:  My process has a lot to do with layers and seeing through one layer to another.  I use small pieces and like the shadows they make onto the next layer.  The small pieces are held together with thread which to me illustrates what holds my life and everything else together on the planet.

Content:  The natural world is what I start with but I want to do more than make pretty quilts.  The Native American idea that we are all related to each other and to Mother Nature is important to me. Also, the idea that small things matter and when you put many small things together, beauty and peace can be accomplished is also important.  Sometimes I feel disappointed and discouraged with the work, but I just can’t seem to leave it alone for long.  It’s an itch that must be scratched.