The image below shows my sister Norma’s response to the prompt “kitchen sink.” With these miniature quilts (each is about 10″ x 11″), she records her memory of our family’s farmhouse kitchen before (blue) and after (pink) renovation. This photograph does not at all do justice to the beauty and detail of these sturdy little pieces.
When sending this image to me and our brother Paul, Norma commented: “What I found interesting about the process is what was eliminated through the making.”
Indeed, her fabric floor plans are very simple. She opted not to include prominent features such as doors and windows (there were many), instead spotlighting elements that all three of us discussed as central to our memories of this home and our family:
- Mom is represented by the bright circle on each quilt. In the “before,” you can see that Mom’s place at the sink was deep in the corner. When Dad renovated the space, he built an island for the sink, where Mom commanded a clear view in almost every direction — out windows to her left and right and into the dining room or up the stairway to the bedrooms in front of her.
- The kitchen table moved from the center of the room to the left edge. The blue table has five chairs: Mom, Dad, two daughters and a son. The pink has just four: Mom, Dad, son and the unexpected daughter who came along after the two eldest had moved on (that’s me).
- The original sink appears in both quilts, as it stayed as part of the kitchen even after the remodeling. Though the stainless steel double sink at counter height had many advantages, sometimes there was no substitute for that deep porcelain sink in the corner.
After our discussion of this work, Norma mailed the blue quilt to Paul and pink one to me. Today I hung mine in my office where I can see it every day. I believe Paul hung his in his carving workshop. We are so fortunate to have these visual reminders of our family, our upbringing and this creative discovery process!
I am the maker of these two wee quilts. The other amazing part of the process for me was the validation of what I have been doing as my day job for the last 16 years. I help folks decorate and arrange their living spaces. I have suspected that on some level it was a “frosting on the cake” pursuit, non essential and a bit fluffy. But as I cut and stitched the two designs, I began to understand the impact of this renovation on my mother’s life. What a joy to walk in the door and see her face (not that there was anything wrong with her hourglass backside….could that be why it took Dad so long to accomplish this move?). She was not only a happier person, she was a more effectual person as a result of the reconfiguration. In the making of the wee quilts, I became more confident in the value and purpose of my daily work. I mean no offense to all who practice in interior decoration. I was trained to be an English teacher. And in some areas, I am a slow, but thorough, learner.