Taken from A Patchwork Life: The Hands-On Guide To Living by Louise Silk

Available as an ebook: A Patchwork Life: The Hands-On Guide To Living 

Netzach/Victory; 11”H X 14”W;
Hand Stitched Silk; Old Quilt Backing; 2020

Dear Friend,

Pieces of Memory, a series of fiber artworks grieving the monumental loss of my parents, will be on exhibition this fall at the American Jewish Museum of the Jewish Community Center of Pittsburgh.

The evening of October 2nd on the Fast of Gelaliah, I will be enacting a newly created ritual, Moving Through Loss: A Wise Woman Ritual. I plan to produce a quilt that can be separated into pieces as the physical symbolic representation of impermanence and change.

Can you participate by giving me some personal cultural materials representing your experience with impermanence? I will incorporate those materials into a section of the quilt which you will come and retrieve during the ritual.

Letter from Louise Silk to 43 participants 

Moving Through Loss: Wise Woman Ritual

In 1998, while my parents spent their last winter in Miami, I set about preparing and selling their condo. It was a sad, challenging time. Everything happened very quickly. They move to Assisted Living. With my mom’s deterioration, they were separated, and she transferred to an Alzheimer’s unit. My dad’s health deteriorated, and he died within the year.

In deep grief, I took all of their clothing and textiles to my studio. The gigantic pile included everything from golf pants to a tux from my dad; hankies to dress suits from my mom; plus, towels to linens from their home.

At that moment, I was presented with the opportunity to participate in a mentoring exhibit with my younger daughter. I Am My Mummy was the opening to explore the impact of being both a daughter and a mother.

We agreed upon an installation: a big and a small rocking chair, my quilt table with items on it representing my Mom, and a crate with dress up clothes. On the wall was a broken mirror and a four-panel piece constructed from my mother’s clothing representing my mother, both of my daughters, and myself. It was like cracking open an egg; the debilitating nature of Alzheimer’s, the sorrow of loss, and the interplay of mother/daughter roles, all openly exposed.

After that, a series of twenty quilts transformed every remaining fragment. A quilt, the child-like view of my family and home, was worked completely by hand. Other quilts included a poncho of their coats, a table runner backed with my dad’s prayer shawl, and a book of photo transfers of them as a couple. The final piece was a rendition of a youthful couple walking the Atlantic City boardwalk, using Chinese silks they brought me from their travels. Learn more in the book: Bubbe’s Memory Quilt.

A friend and the gallery director for the American Jewish Museum, formally the JCC gallery, suggested the work was worthy of an exhibition. To create a different ritual, I contacted a Buddhist friend. She reminded me of Tibetan monks and their sand mandalas: I should unmake a quilt. Forty-three women gave me their materials of memory and I created The Wise Woman Ritual, unmaking a quilt.

I Am My Mummy Installed
Wood Street Gallery; 1998
A Wise Woman Ritual Installed; October 2, 2000

Published by SilkQuilt

Pittsburgh-based fiber artist, Louise Silk, creates art that combines aesthetics and functionality with meaning and memories. From the influence of a 1972 MS Magazine article to the current SILKDENIM label, her quilt experiences culminate in a display of her particular capacity to use her patchwork skills to piece together just about anything into an aesthetic meaningful whole.

One thought on “O. PIECES OF MEMORY

  1. Louise, you are amazing! I am so glad to witness and to have participated in this journey. I remember how meaningful it was for me to receive my peacock feather made of clothing and handkerchiefs from my Aunt Tiby and Aunt Harriet z’l, along with pieces of a baby blanket. I remember you walking into the center of a circle wearing your quilted coat and trailing all those peacock feathers behind you. One at a time, we collected our treasures, unbuttoning our feathers from your coat and taking them home to treasure.


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