Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Pieces of a Smashed Up Life

Sorry, these images are crap. I'm house sitting, and all I have access to are a PC laptop with a sticky track pad and a mystifying printer-- (no camera since I sat on mine and pixilated its viewing screen). And sorry, again, the layout is all messed up...
But I'm so excited, I'm showing you anyway:
these are Crazy Quilt squares made by the Sewing Group I work with.

Every member is living a dementia-damaged "smashed-up life", as one woman called it, and these are fleeting artifacts of the people themselves.

I could weep with happiness that after four months at this job, finally the conditions arose for spontaneous, organic creation:
I had set a bag of scraps from our sewing projects (baby bibs, hot pads, bear pillows) on the work table, where some people were cutting out baby bibs. I had also set a bin of fabric out, for other people to sort and fold.
And--wow--in a "your peanut butter got on my chocolate bar" moment, one of the women started arranging scraps on a piece of  denim.

(Crow sent us a whole lot of fabric, including cut-up old jeans that provide the base layer, here.)

This woman had done this sort of thing before-- when I first started work and didn't realize how the fabric of our minds--our ability to take action-- becomes like lace when we have dementia. So I had noted it but thought it was a common occurrence.  
Well, not with this group it's not (nor, I think with most folks with Alzheimer's etc.).
At any rate, I have not not able to recreate the circumstances under which this sort of free play was possible, until--unwittingly--today

It has bothered me that people who are hired to come in to lead "fine art" projects with the residents mostly offer paint-by-number kind of stuff. And yet, I end up doing that myself---it's easier to give people step-by-step direction---and most of them like it too.
It bothers me, in fact, to be so directive. I don't like giving directions. 
And yet, people with dementia need direction because their damaged brains can't provide it anymore. So I accept that direction is a gift, but I try always to give people some choice, even if it's just "red or blue?", and even if they clearly do not welcome choice. 

So, today, knowing what I now know, I snatched up this woman's pattern and I said, "Let's make a crazy quilt!"

"Yeah!" she said.

So I set a piece of denim in front of the other sewers and gave them each a pile of scraps (not too many, not overwhelming). "Let's make quilt squares," I said. "Please arrange these scraps on this piece of cloth."

And everyone did.We have seven squares now--I quickly stitched them together on the sewing machine, doing a pretty poor job, but in my hectic work, it's a matter of act now or forever hold your peace.

 I hope this wasn't one-time magic, and we can make more. But even if it was just a fleeting moment, these remain like shadow prints of lace on light-sensitive paper.


Zhoen said...

You have found what is still alive in there, the creativity, the spark. Good for you, leaving the space for it, accepting it when you see it.

The Crow said...

What Z wrote, Fresca! She said it better than I would have.

This was so cool, so enlightening. I hope your boss paid attention to that.

bink said...

These look WONDERFUL! Score!

Laura B said...


ArtSparker said...

If you ever want to hop on a plane to Oakland, my couch is available. I say this because you get lots of ideas- lot and lots- from the people at Creative Growth (they are not too long a walk from me. Many of the people who work there make many items from fabric and yarn which is donated. They have a gallery space. Anyway, let me know. Could be fun!

Julia said...

Seriously beautiful! It makes me so happy to know that there are fire-keepers like you out there, though incredibly bummed at how unsupported and unrecognized (and therefore unsustainable, difficult to replicate, and not common enough) what you do is. But those squares just make me smile every time!

Fresca said...

Thanks for your comments, Zhoen, Crow, bink, Laura, and Julia.

Wow, ART SPARKER, thank you!---that's a cool idea to come visit Creative Growth... and you! I've never been to SF/Oakland.
I will put the idea in my brain and see what comes of it.

ArtSparker said...