Tuesday, March 27, 2018

I Begin With Silence

When I first started to make quilts, all my efforts were accompanied by questions: to speak or not to spaek? to be silent or to talk back? to explain or let it pass? to interrupt or let it be?
In earlier times, in Bulgaria, women kept a little stone inside their mouths to keep them from talking back or screaming.  It was a woman's Stone of Wisdom.
Silence is my best friend and my shadow, I work from silence and I speak out of silence.
To interface with silence is stilll the most sustaining, assuring, and calming reality of quilt work.
I begin with silence to articulate the acts which quilt making covers and the actions it contains.
My experience has taught me that silence, the production of cloth, and the work of touch are basic forces.
Using silence as the over arching metaphor of my discussion of quilts, I intend to dynamize our view of the emotional surround, the emotional energy and the practical efforts that go into quiltmaking.

If taken seirously as women's art, quilts cannot be perceived and enjoyed as isolated aesthetic objects divorced from the relationships of women to each other and to the rest of human kind.
I work out of silence, because silence makes up for my lack of working space.
Working on a quilt I am wrapped in silence, wrappped in thought.
Anyone contemplating quilts and quiltmaking also has to enter this space of being wrapped so as to emerge transformed.
All text by Radka Donnell 1990, an art quilt pioneer
All images of a new work in progress, the middle and back are rescued blankets, the top pieced from plant dyed flannel, quilted with red thread grid. 


  1. oh (((Judy))) that stone of wisdom... I am so outspoken and have such a raucous laugh, there are times when I need one of those stones!

  2. oh Mo - I can imagine that you do indeed. need a stone. xoxo

  3. Pew Hong10:19 pm

    Judy, you have touched my deepest thoughts. When I stitch I am absolutely wrapped in my thoughts and my feelings.

  4. Stunning as always BUT the 'charming' Bulgarian example of womens silence is not coming from the same place as your relationship to silence. Not talking back points to oppression I fear. That said....stunning. I become immersed in that way whenever I am involved in writing, drawing, constructing pieces in mixed media including photo and film. I understand the silence of stitch though I've done so little of it, thanks to Jude, you, mo and so many others. I understand it too from meditations.

  5. Michelle, I disagree. That Bulgarian stone of wisdom resonated strongly with me.
    Making quilts helps me cover up on many levels. xo

  6. Judy,
    These could be your words too.

  7. So beautifully said, I thought they were your words. I also work in silence. It allows me to have conversations with a deeper part of myself. Your current piece is stunning in its silence and strength. Thank you.

  8. The mouth may be silent; but the hands make the work itself sing in many languages.

  9. The silence of some may speak volumes to many. As for me, I'd probably choke on my stone! Thank you for the quiet story here today and the new beautiful work coming of your hands. xo

  10. Radka Donnell's book, Quilt Poetics, has hugely influenced my thinking and my quilt making.
    It is a compliment when you tell me that our words sound similar . I am humbled.
    Thank you for all comments here. Xo

  11. I also thought that these words were yours. They have resonated on me very much. I am looking for a copy of the book. Thanks for sharing, Judy.

  12. i love this one, it reminds me of all the little squares I have quilted like this. The early one;s.
    Lovely story.

  13. It’s good, again, to recall Adrienne Rich:

    “Silence can be a plan
    rigorously executed

    the blueprint to a life

    It is a presence
    it has a history a form

    Do not confuse it
    with any kind of absence”

    So while I value "silence" (the absence of noise) I try to keep my "silences" strategic, not fearful. This is often difficult. We each find our own way. Judy speaks volumes in her work, in an impeccable way.

    But for me, it is often necessary to reread Audre Lorde, "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action"—“My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you. But for every real word spoken, for every attempt I had ever made to speak those truths for which I am still seeking, I had made contact with other women while we examined the words to fit a world in which we all believed, bridging our differences.”

  14. I am loving this conversation - over silent cyber space.

    My work begins in silence.
    I sometimes listen to the radio, to audio books, to conversations with family while I work....but I prefer, at least for two hours.....silence.

    but also
    in regard to the beautiful stone in mouth story
    I have taken to mean the kind of self-censoring that many women artists need to do in their writing and in their speaking....because they can not hurt the ones they love. They can not.

    One of the reasons I love to make quilts is because there are many layers...not only of material but of meanings. quilts are poems. Quilts are safe. quilts are codes.

    Time is another thing that quilts have plenty of.
    I wrap myself and my sanity in these labours of love and silence.
    thanks for the conversation
    love you all xoxo

  15. I'm back because this conversation is precious. Judy, your work is better than a book. Your silence is one of interior depth made manifest stitch by stitch. So many kinds of silence and so many reasons for it, but I think we've collectively covered it well and Adrienne Rich + Audre Lord touched on the political parts enough to articulate brilliantly what I was eluding to with my original comment. "Quilts are Codes" strikes me as an essential truth with roots far back into the past. Thank you for this illuminating and wonderful discussion.


Thank you for taking the time to connect. Much appreciated.xx