Looking Back at 2020: An End-of-year Summary

2020 is about to end, which means it’s time for that end-of-year summary, by now a tradition. It turns out that this is my fifth end-of-year post. ANY Texture is now five years old! 

How do you summarize a year like 2020? A year in which the sense of time itself has been compromised? The world as we knew it shifted. Time got warped. Our lives were turned upside down and we all went on a wild emotional roller-coaster ride. Many of us emerge from this year somewhat altered…

Life Changes

For me, this year led to both physical and lifestyle changes. The physical changes were relatively quick: We had to adjust our house to accommodate distant learning and everyone being home all the time. We moved large pieces of furniture, rearranged rooms, assigned new functions to old spaces. My kids confiscated the glider chair that sat in my sewing room for years, and which housed my huge pile of unfinished projects. That forced me to try my hand at reupholstering… 

There were changes in the garden, too. After several years of neglect (ANY Texture’s fault!) I finally managed to spend a lot of time outside, digging, pulling, pruning and planting to save my sanity. The garden almost resumed its pre-ANY Texture glory.

The lifestyle changes have been more gradual and are still ongoing. My life slowed down. I’m in less of a hurry. More and more, I’m enjoying the small things, the little moments, the here and now (perhaps because the future is so unpredictable, and any plans are susceptible to change). I’m finding more time to read books, to watch movies, to practice yoga, to learn new things. I have a better balance between life and art making. With everyone home, there’s been more cooking, baking, eating, spending time together. The upsides of a dire situation.

Art Changes

ANY Texture was born after I got the Bag Bug five years ago. Following a few months of intense bag making, however, I started creating other things, including art quilts. For a couple of years I’ve been meaning to make more fine art, but haven’t quite gotten to it. When my father passed away last year, I realized that life was short, and that I should concentrate on the things I want to do and spend less time on the things I don’t enjoy. So I made less bags, participated in less craft shows, and completed my first quilt series, the Calendar Quilts. Then 2020 arrived.

Jacket

I kicked the year off with a boro jacket to honor my dad.

Right when I was finished, the pandemic happened. Shows got cancelled, online shopping halted, everything closed. I no longer needed to create inventory. Instead, I turned to art as a refuge, a means of expression, an escape from the world.

Animal art

Insects

We entered the first lockdown in the spring. I spent much of it in my garden, where insects, birds, squirrels and the occasional cat kept me company. I found it to be the perfect time to further explore the shape of insects and beetles, something I’ve been meaning to do more of since I completed my Dare! quilt in 2017. I made more butterfly brooches:

Art in Times of Corona: Textile Butterfly

Then the Amazing Beetles series.

Art in Times of Corona: Beetle quilts

And I was finally able to play with three-dimensional beetles as well:

Four fabric beetles

Birds

For several years I’ve been wanting to try Ann Wood Handmade’s owl and bird soft-sculpture patterns. The pandemic gave me the time to get to it. I first made owls.

And also wrote a tutorial for a small owl my daughter made based on something she saw in Japan:

Then I worked on a flock of birds.

And finally created a series of small bird quilts:

Cat

My sister and mother were supposed to visit in the spring. Their much-anticipated visit got canceled like everything else. So I made my sister a quilt of her cat Trini:

Trini the Cat art quilt

Abstract Art

My true passion lies in abstracts, and this year I got to play more with that. Interestingly, I am realizing more an more that even my abstracts are strongly influenced by nature…

Early in the year, I completed the Colors of the Day series, a series influenced by landscapes I enjoyed on past travels.

Later, I created a series of mood-depicting Textile Poems. These drew much of their inspiration from my garden.

I also explored the textural variety of Tree Bark, something that was on my to-do list since my trip to Japan a couple of years ago.

Art Influenced by Current Events

2020 was an unusual year, and I couldn’t but respond to it in my art. This year, I created three of what I think are my most powerful art quilts to date: Interdependence, Ashes and 2020.

I also made Black Lives Matter, Wildfires and Let the Mending Begin.

Other

Early in the pandemic, I made wall hangings of the Jewish Blessing of the Child for my children, just in case…

Before Thanksgiving, I made a textile card for my mom:

Thankful for you, mom

And in the fall, the maple tree outside my window inspired me to make an Autumn Leaf wall hanging. You can find the tutorial here.

Autumn leaf wall hanging

After completing all these art quilts and more in one year, I decided it was time to finally join the Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA), something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I’ve been really enjoying all that they have to offer. Check out their website for some gorgeous textile eye candy!

In December, I was honored to be included in an article on recycling in textile art, written by Heidi Ingram for the TextileArtist.org blog. Check it out here.

So here we are, at the end of 2020. Back in a second lockdown, with Covid numbers skyrocketing, but with the promise of a vaccine in sight. My sewing room is still messy. The Unfinished Project pile is taller than ever (I didn’t even touch it this year!), and is now homeless. My scrap boxes multiplied from three to seven, and are all overflowing (even though I used mostly scraps this year… This will remain a mystery).

Next year? Tackle those UFOs, perhaps? I have ideas for more art quilts than I can possibly make, piles of jacket-worthy fabrics, and a long list of things to learn. In other words, I’m excited to keep experimenting, learning, and growing as an artist… The adventure continues 🙂

Thanks so much for accompanying me on this journey!

Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year. Keep safe and cozy.

Autumn Leaves Wall Hanging

Autumn is my favorite season. It’s the time of year when the trees change color, painting the world with warm, vibrant reds and golds. The air gets cooler, sending us indoors, to warmth and fireplaces and hot chocolate.

I have a beautiful maple tree right outside my sewing room’s window. In fall it brings a reddish glow into my studio. Sewing in a warm room, a hot cup of tea at hand, admiring nature, gives me a wonderfully cozy feeling.

It always amazes me how beautiful fallen leaves are, and how unique. Because although there are millions of trees in the world, and thousands of leaves on each tree, each leaf is special and one of a kind. Just like people.

In fall, autumnal colors always creep into my work. They inspire me to make various red and yellow products, and, of course, quilts. This year, I decided to make an Autumn Leaves Wall Hanging. Below I explain how I made it. You can follow these steps to make a wall hanging of your own, or, if you prefer, a table runner.

Fall Leaf Hanging Tutorial

I started by collecting different kinds of fallen leaves during one of my neighborhood walks. I brought them to my sewing room, to use as templates.

Looking through my scrap piles, I found suitably-colored pieces, and made little quilt sandwiches out of them: a backing, batting and top. Then, I placed the actual leaf on the top fabric, and drew an outline around it.

I zigzagged along the outline, and, once done, carefully cut the leaf out along the outside of the stitch. This has to be done carefully, so as not to cut the stitching itself.

I made a little pile of leaves.

Out in the garden, I picked a dry stick. I placed it on my carpet, and started arranging the leaves beneath it. This took a while, as I wanted to reach just the right balance between colors, fabrics, shapes and sizes. (If you want to make a table runner, leave the stick part out, but still arrange your leaves in any shape you want).

Once I knew where each leave goes, I free-motion quilted details onto the leaves. I used a heavy, variegated thread for added interest.

I placed each leaf back carefully. To make sure I have a mostly-rectangular shape, I placed them onto a cutting mat and straightened them a bit. Then I carefully pinned them together.

I delicately took the pinned piece back to my sewing machine, and stitched the leaves together where they touched each other, starting from the top and going down.

When they were all connected, I hand stitched the top row around the stick.

Finally, I found a red string that one of my kids brought home as part of a school project years ago (yes, I collect things that might be useful one days, and some of them do find a new purpose, even if years later!). Viola: an Autumn Leaves Wall Hanging!

I hung this in our dining room, to enhance the autumnal feel. I love how it glows in the light!

And now, it’s time to collect the real fallen leaves out in my yard, so I can add them to my compost bin all year long!

Thankful for You, Mom

There are so many things we take for granted. The sun in the sky, the air we breathe, the seasons. Our breath, our health, the people we love. But if there is one thing this year has taught me, it is this: We can’t–and shouldn’t–take anything for granted. Not clean air, not the reliability of seasons, not good health, and certainly not those we care about. We must stop for a moment, notice–and appreciate–every little thing we have. Because we are so lucky to have it, and because it’s not guaranteed to last. Noticing and appreciating. The little things. The present, the moment. The people. This is what life is about.

Today, with Thanksgiving approaching, I want to pause and truly GIVE THANKS. Because although this has been a challenging year, there is still so much to be grateful for. 

We take a lot for granted, things and people. But there’s no one we take for granted more than our mothers. Like the sun and the moon, and the way the world just is, our mothers are always there.

I am grateful for many things today, but want to give some extra special thanks to the one person who gave me life, and from then on always had my back: my Mom.

**********

Ima,

Thank you for caring for me all those years. Thanks for the sacrifices you made, for the tea parties, synonym games, and all the dreams you composed. Thanks for the countless meals you cooked, when you felt like it and when you didn’t. I took them for granted then, but now, when I have to feed my own children, I see them for what they truly were: repeated expressions of love. Thanks for coming to school bringing the sandwiches I forgot, for your help with homework, for your solid support. Thank you for always dressing my physical wounds and hurt feelings. You spent hundreds of hours typing my high school thesis, all 130 pages of it (not including the bibliography), on a typewriter, in those dark, bygone days before computers. No one else would have done that for me. 

You helped as much as you could in every way you could when time came for me to fly out of the nest, even though my flight eventually took me further than either of us had ever expected, and even though it must have been so, so painful. I am grateful you went out of your comfort zone to come backpacking with me in China. And thankful also that you travelled thousands of miles, over and over, to be present at all the important events of my life. Thanks, too, for loving my children, deeply and passionately, and for being such a wonderful grandma.

You are the smartest, wisest, most empathetic person I know. Beautiful inside and out. Thank you for teaching me what it means to stand up for what is right, and for what you believe in. Thanks for being my best friend. Thanks for showing me, though a personal example, what a strong woman looks like. What it means to be a good human being and a good mother. Because of you, when my kids arrived, no instructions or manuals attached, I knew what to do, sort of. I’ve been trying to be as good a mother to them as you are to me. Thanks for being there for all the important milestones, for all the big and small moments. I am grateful for all the adventures we had together, and for all those we will still have.

Throughout the storms of my life, you were a rock and a lighthouse. You always show me the way to what is right.

Love you to the end of the universe and back,

Zwia.

**********

Who are you thankful for today? If you haven’t done so yet, perhaps you should reach out to tell them. The last few months have been challenging for everyone, so I’m sure they will appreciate your gesture.

If this makes it a bit easier for you, I made a downloadable version of the card I made for my mom that you can personalize. Clicking on the link below will download the image directly into your “Downloads” file:

Download here

Once you download it, you can personalize it:

1) By inserting a picture of your own on the blank rectangle electronically, using your favorite picture-editing program, and then printing it out.

Or:

2) Simply print it out and physically glue your own picture on top.  

Then give or mail it to whoever you want, and pass the love on 🙂

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Tree Bark Quilt Series

I’ve always enjoyed textures up-close. Textures of man-made things like old structures or rusting tools, or the textures of nature: lichen, rocks, cracked earth or tree bark. But it wasn’t until I visited the island of Hokkaido three summers ago, that it occured to me that it would be really interesting to make a tree bark quilt series.

The Birth of an Idea

In Hokkaido, we visited a local museum. One of the displays included felled trunks representing the different native trees of the island. Put together, the contrasting textures were striking. When I saw them, I immediately realized they must be turned into quilts.

Alas, I when I came home I got busy and distracted, as I often do. I archived the idea of tree-bark quilts in my head, alongside many other creative ideas.

Timing is Everything

Then came the 2020 Lockdown. I spent most of the pandemic-sticken summer in my garden, surrounded by wildlife, flowers and trees. My only outings were walks in the neighborhood, on which I noticed the plants and trees in my neighbors’ yards. Some were truly beautiful, like this tree right down the road from my house:

The California wildfires, which started in mid-August, smoked me out of the garden and into my sewing room. The unhealthy air made it impossible to leave the house. That, in addition to the pandemic, was a lot to deal with. I desperately needed to treat myself, to somehow uplift my spirit. So I decided to buy myself something I didn’t really NEED but that I’ve been wanting for a while: a big box of thirty variegated 12-weight thread spools!

I didn’t use them immediately after they arrived. I wanted to first finish my pandemic quilt, and the fire-influenced quilt I started. But I saw them, and drooled over them, every time I came into my sewing room.

Then, one day, it suddenly hit me: these spools were made for the tree bark quilt series!

The Process

I decided to make six quilts in this series. Like all my work, I meant them to be a study of shapes, colors and textures. An excuse to play with forms and color combinations I don’t normally use. I wanted to utilize my new thread, and also to practice my free-motion quilting, something I haven’t done much of.

I began by searching the web for pictures of tree bark, and settled on six general types. My idea wasn’t to copy them, just to use them as inspiration. For color combinations, I was inspired mostly by pictures of Rainbow Eucalyptus and Gum trees that I found online.

I used many layers of fabric and stitched over them, raw-edge-applique style. It took a lot of playing and tweaking to get the stitching right.

I was absolutely smitten by the thread, but my machine didn’t like it at all. It squeaked. Potested. Broke the thread again and again. It did strange things with the bobin. I had to change the tension over and over. My jean needle wasn’t good enough, so I tried a top-stitch needle instead. I also had to clean the machine often, as it turns out that 12-weight thread sheds. A LOT.

The Quilts

Each quilt taught me something. In each, I played with slightly different techniques. They each have little flaws and blemished, but in general I’m pretty happy with how they turned out.

This is Tree Bark 1:

Tree Bark 2:

Here’s Tree Bark 3:

Tree Bark 4:

 

Tree Bark 5:

And last but not least, Tree Bark 6:

I hope this series captures some of the diversity that nature offers. We live in such an amazing world with so many interesting lifeforms. Maybe my work will propel people to notice, and more importantly–to CARE. Care enough to help preserve the beauty that is already here…

So what do you think? Which of the tree bark quilts do you like best?

A New Art Quilt: 2020

2020 is such a round, even, symmetric number. A pretty number, even. After a difficult 2019, in which I lost my father, I was very much looking forward to that beautifully-numbered year. 2020 promised a new, better decade, a fresh beginning, a rosy promise…

Well, as you all know, it didn’t quite deliver…

2020 turned out to be unlike any other year. It brought one calamity after another, in unrelenting waves, from all directions. A worldwide pandemic. Numerous natural disasters everywhere. Daily news depicting one outrage after another in devastating speed. Blow after blow after blow. And then there were personal catastrophes, too. Really bad things happened to really good people that I deeply care about. It just didn’t end.

Some mornings I wake up afraid to open my eyes, afraid of what the day might bring. There are entire days in which I walk around with a lump in my stomach, hardly able to breath. Sometimes I find it hard to function at all. I’m not depressed. It’s just that this year has been really trying. The world seems to have gone awry, and the light at the end of the tunnel feels far away and dim. It’s been overwhelming. 

Somehow, out of all of this, a new quilt idea was born.

The Idea

I had this vision in my head: A narrow grotto with overhanging boulders, threateningly squeezing a small human figure. I could see the scene in my mind, but it took a while to decide how to translate it into fabric.

One day I asked my daughter to take a picture of me in a fetal position, depicting how I felt. I wanted to use the picture as a study, a model for the human shape I wanted to embroider. She took several pictures, and I chose one and printed it on paper. I cut it out and started planning the composition.

Although I was in the midst of working on another series, a series that is marked by bright, cheery colors, I chose to select dark grays for this quilt. 

A Self Portrait to Represent Us All

The human shape, at this point, was still paper, and I wracked my brain trying to decide what to do with it.

Although I originally meant to use my picture only as a study, the more I progressed with the quilt the more I wanted to leave it the way it was. This wasn’t any human form, it was me. A self portrait of sorts in which I am seen on the outside, but am entirely unrecognizable. The quilt itself, or course, is more “me” than my picture, because it depicts how I feel on the inside… This self portrait wasn’t just a self portrait, however, because this year many of us feel the same. This meant that I could represent all humans. 

My daughter took the picture on a regular, Covid-Lockdown day, just like any of the other two-hundred-and-something lockdown days we’ve had so far. I was wearing my Day Pajamas: comfortable, broken-in, unsightly sweats. The outfit, I decided, represented the times we live in and was therefore just right.

The Process

Not quite abstract but not realistic, either, this quilt pushed me to try some new techniques.

I printed the picture of me on fabric, something I’ve never tried before. It turned out washed out and ghostly. I thought that that, too, was appropriate…

For the first time ever, I added details in acrylic paint.

I glued and then sewed the human form into its position. It looked out of place, not really belonging to the world around it. Exactly the way I feel about my world right now, which morphed under my nose into something unrecognizable.

I stressed some of the rock details with crude thread painting.

I didn’t like the white highlights on the boulders, however, and later spent quite some time pulling them out.

Final Touches

The composition was just as I intended, and yet the quilt still didn’t depict the internal and external turmoil I wanted to convey. So I took a picture of the quilt as it was, printed it, and drew different quilting options over it. Once I knew what I wanted, I free-motion quilted big squiggles on the cliffs of both sides, in big, crude stitches (because I didn’t have heavy-weight thread in the color I needed, and the fabric would have “swallowed” small stitched in the thin thread that I did have). That was more like it. In the process, I broke TWO machine needles. I often go months on end without breaking a needle, and have never before broken two needles in one sitting. Somehow, though, with a quilt called “2020,” I wasn’t really surprised…

Finally, I added a touch of red shadow, and my ANY Texture logo in a Chinese, chop-signature way.

I left the edges fraying because, really, which of us isn’t fraying a little at the edges at the moment?

This is 2020 in all its repressive glory.

A suitable quilt to show four days before a crucial election, don’t you think? Can you tell I’m also suffering from a server election anxiety???

How to pass the next four days? Apply every self-care strategy in your arsenal, breath deeply, and hope that the election won’t drop another boulder over our heads…

3D Textile Beetles

You might recall the Amazing Beetle quilts I made back in the spring, at the beginning of the Lockdown. I knew then that I wasn’t quite done with beetles yet. I find them absolutely fascinating, with their varied, interesting shapes and huge array of colors. They are beautiful and alien and truly wondrous.

After spending the entire summer in my garden, I was eager to explore beetles a little more once back in my sewing room. I was wondering how it would feel to make 3D textile beetles. But I had a few quilts to finish first…

Materials that Inspire

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that my sewing room is in a constant state of disarray. The room is small, but my fabric stash isn’t. I also have a growing collection of treasures, things I rescue from the trash knowing they will be useful someday. The only advantage to having a messy studio is that every now and then you come across things you collected a while back and completely forgot about. Every time you see those things you get excited all over again…

Well, I recently came across metal spirals.

At the end of last school year, as we do every year, my kids and I went over their school stuff. We kept what we thought important, and recycled or threw the rest. We took apart notebooks with spirals to make it possible to recycle the paper. Once separated, I couldn’t help thinking that the spirals themselves might be of use. So I took them to my sewing room. And now I found them again. I pulled on one, and as I did so I realized it would make excellent beetle legs!

Experimenting with 3D Textile Beetles

I printed a picture of a beetle, and dove into my scrap boxes. I picked a blue floral fabric, and began to experiment. I drew, sewed, cut and stuffed, then twisted the wire. Viola! A small, 3D textile beetle!

Using an already-bent wire wasn’t ideal, I realized. It was very hard to work with, and had a lot of twists that couldn’t be removed. I didn’t mind it much–it has its charm, I think, but I wanted to try using other wires.

I had different wires left over from my troll, birds and owls. I now used them to make more beetles.

Each type of wire felt very different, and resulted in a different look. I learned that:

  1. I have a lot more to learn about wires
  2. There are endless ways to make 3D textile beetles!

I’m still not done. I want to try more techniques, more patterns, more colors and more wires. Alas, my brain is already wandering on to the next project, so I might have to do that, first. I will get back to beetles later, I promise!

In the meantime, can you help me decide what to do with the beetles I already made? 

 

Ainu Textiles

 Discovering Ainu textiles in Hokkaido was the greatest surprise of my 2018 trip to Japan. I knew a little about Japanese textile traditions, but never heard of Ainu fabrics. Once in Hokkaido, these textiles captivated me with their bold geometric beauty.

Who Are the Ainu?

The Ainu are the indigenous people of the island of Hokkaido. Originally from Russia, they populated the island for over 20,000 years. For centuries, they were hunter-gatherers who lived off the land, relying mostly on fishing and hunting.

Ainu Beliefs

The Ainu see themselves as a part of the natural world. They believe that spirits dwell in every thing or being in this world. They regard animals, plants, and things like fire, water, clothes or tools, which are essential for everyday life, as well as things like diseases or weather that are beyond human control, as kamuy (gods).

Bears have a special importance in Ainu culture. There are over eighty words in their language to describe bears. The Ainu saw bears as gods in animal form and as gifts of the gods.

The Ainu collected bear cubs born during hibernation. They hosted them in their homes, treating them as honored guests or as one of their own children.

After a cub turned two, the Ainu performed a ritual called iyomante. The ritual lasted three days and three nights, during which they separated the cub’s spirit from its body, helping it return to its real mother in the realm of the gods. The bear’s fur and meat were considered a great gift from the divine.

Japanese started interacting with the Ainu as early as the 7th century. With time, Japanese immigrated to the island and started settling it, restricting the Ainu more and more. In the Meiji period (beginning in 1868), the Japanese fully annexed Hokkaido (for more on the Ainu and the fraught relations between the two people see Wikipedia).

Ainu Clothes

Materials

Historically, the Ainu made their clothing out of the natural materials that were available to them. These included fish skins, animal hides and fibers woven from tree bark (especially of the Japanese elm and linden trees) or various grasses. The Ainu had clothes for everyday use, and outfits for special occasions such as religious ceremonies or festivals. When the Japanese arrived, making cotton available by trade, the Ainu began adding decorative cotton motifs to their ceremonial garments. They carefully decorated them with applique, reverse applique and embroidery.

Later, when cotton was more readily available and cheaper, they started making clothes entirely out of cotton.

Symbolism

Clothes-making and embroidery were women’s work. Girls learned textile work from their mothers at a young age. The ornamental patterns they used varied by lineage and region, though some motifs were recurring. Some of these included “moreu” (spirals), and “aiushi” (thornes). Women added patterns to areas of clothing considered vulnerable, such as collars, cuffs, hems and backs. They believed that the patterns warded off evil spirits, and protected the wearer.

“Ainu women insert their feelings toward their intended recipients into the cloth itself, ‘Stitch by stitch as the embroidery is sewn, the heart of the seamstress is inserted into the cloth of the garment. When the wearer puts the garment on his or her body, the sentiments of the artisan are said to be transmuted, and the wearer is protected by this passion, woven into the cloth itself, through the protective motif embroidered on the coat.'” (see this article).

The clothes thus carried political, spiritual and symbolic meanings. The Ainu saw the cloth itself as both sustaining and helping constitute personhood. They considered clothes to be divine, and also used them for medicinal purposes. Making clothes, appliqueing and embroidering them were deeply spiritual acts. 

Although I didn’t necessarily understand the symbolism behind the Ainu garments I saw during my trip to Hokkaido, I could certainly feel their raw power.

If you’d like to learn more, there are several books about Ainu textiles, as well as many articles. The quotes above are from this article. You can see another example here.

“Interdependent,” My Lockdown Quilt

Everything about this quilt took forever. It is the second instalment in my Hands Series, made almost four years after the first piece, Give a Hand. It took six months to make, start to finish, mostly because I left it untouched for long periods of time in between.

Give a Hand kept me distracted during the November 2016 election. The idea for Interdependent came to me during the first week of Lockdown, in mid March 2020. It slowly evolved from there, both in my head and in the real world. I guess the Hands Series growns in times of crisis…

Stage One: A Strange Kind of Euphoria

When the Covid 19 pandemic started spreading around the world at the beginning of the year, there was a lot of anxiety, but also some hope. People all over the globe went into quarantine together. It was the first time in history that the whole of humanity shared a common experience in this way.

Pictures of death and despair were intermingled with reports about shows of solidarity. Italy had some of the highest death tolls at the time, but the news also highlighted Italians singing on balconies. Videos from Hong Kong circulated on social media, showing sports and dance teachers giving lessons from rooftops. People shared pandemic-related jokes and memes on all communication channels, in all languages. There was a feeling of oneness, a perception that we were all in this together. Scientists from different countries collaborated to find cure and a vaccine. There was hope that human intelligence will overcome the virus quickly.

That was the original idea behind this quilt. This connectivity of all humans, regardless of skin tone, religion, or nationality. That is why I chose different shades of the same color.

And why I thought to depict a circle of hands holding each other.

Stage Two: A Sobering Reality

As the Lockdown dragged on, however, more sinister tones began creeping in. It slowly became clear that a vaccine will not materialize that fast, that this will take longer than anyone had expected. Rivalries between nations resurfaced. Racial tensions and inequality in the US came to the surface with a powerful, emotional Black Lives Matter movement. Economic inequalities between people and nations became more pronounced as economies strained. Political tensions grew all around.

Meanwhile, the Earth protested, too. Massive fires. Record-breaking heat waves. Melting glaciers. Floods. Locust. Powerful storms. The planet showed us who was in command. For centuries, humans took and took and destroyed, exhausting the natural resources of our habitat. Now, without leaving our homes, we acutely feel the result of our accumulative actions.

The quilt wasn’t about hope and solidarity anymore. It became more complicated, more malevolent. Dark, like the grays of its background. Yes, we are interconnected, but in intricate ways, both good and bad. Because in a super-connected world like the one we live in, with people moving about widely and quickly, viruses that emerge in one part of the earth spread worldwide within days. Polluted air or water originating on one side of the globe travel quickly, too. As do pests, species which then become invasive, ideas, protests, corruption. And now–wildfire smoke…

The things that threaten humanity became a part of the quilt. As did the self-inflicted threats. I started embroidering some of the major ones all around, on the outer borders of the quilt. First, in black and gray, the natural threats, including the ones influenced by human activity. Then, in red, some of the threats that are entirely self-inflicted, caused by human shortcomings, stupidity and limitations.

At that point, working on the quilt became emotionally difficult. Instead of being distracting and meditative, the embroidering process started taking me to bad places, to pull me down.

I couldn’t work on it for long periods of time. I had to take a lot of breaks. Then, when summer came, I took one very long break.

The massive wildfires that engulfed California in August brought me back indoors, into my sewing room and back to this quilt. I forced myself to finish it. I put in the last stitches under the strange, orange light of a smoke-filled air.

Stage Three: The Good and the Bad

Interdependent highlights the connections between all humans, connections made stronger by the things that threaten our existence:

Climate change. Mega eruptions. Pandemics. Environmental degradation. Global warming. Asteroids. Mass extinction. Deforestation. These are some natural threats, that include the damage that humans brought on the environment. And yes, I know that climate change and global warming are almost the same thing, but I wanted to stress this further, as I believe this to be the most prominent danger of our time.

There are many self-inflicted threats as well, caused by human shortcomings and shortsightedness. I only had room for four: Racism. Xenophobia. Antisemitism. Sexism. Imagine a world without those!

There is hope, too, however. In the form of the things that make us uniquely human to begin with. The things that have been holding us together and pushing us onward. I embroidered these on the inside, at the heart of the quilt, since those are the things that lie at the heart of humanity.

Kindness. Compassion. Empathy. Benevolence. Dignity. Resilience. Love. Creativity.

These, and other unique qualities I didn’t have room for, are the hope of our spices and the planet we olive on. These are the things that might help us overcome the existential and self-inflicted threats we’re all facing. The things that make us human and unite us. These are also the things we desperately need more of.