Finding new focus, memory, and ease through a traditional practice.
Staying home to stay safe has given writer and audio producer Ruxandra Guidi time to look at old photos and objects passed down from family members and allowed her to dig up half-finished projects to consider them anew. Some years ago, Guidi discovered improvisational quiltmaking, a practice that’s been around in America since the 17th century but was popularized — or at least, given its name and fame — by Black women from the South. Inspired by their unplanned stitching, Ruxandra is connecting back to what her own family has left her and coming to terms with the fact that, like sewing, life is trial and error, something you get better at with time. In this audio essay, Guidi stitches together interview excerpts and segments of her own audio diaries to explore tradition, memory, and what it means to find focus amidst shifting realities
Cover image by Bear Guerra
Sound effects from BBC Sound Effects
Music by Luis Guerra
Interview with Arbie Williams from “Old Pants Find New Life” from the Recycled: Re-Seen exhibit at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe:
African-American Quilters in North Louisiana: A Photographic Essay by Susan Roach. Louisiana Folklife Program
The Beautiful Chaos of Improvisational Quilts by Lisa Hix. Collectors Weekly. July 13, 2011.
The Radical Quilting of Rosie Lee Thompkins by Roberta Smith. New York Times. June 29, 2020.