In 2005 I was asked to join a newly formed group of art quilters, the Adirondack Regional Textile Artists’ Alliance, (ARTAA), who had come together because they felt their work was often unappreciated and misunderstood in their local, very traditional, quilt guilds.
At my first meeting, with the discussion centered on gesso and gel medium, I felt as though I was in a foreign land. What were they talking about? Sewing I knew. Gel medium I didn’t, and what did that have to do with quilting? I came home feeling that maybe this wasn’t such a great fit for me. But, there was something about this group of women which drew me back. Simply put, I liked them. Their lively discussions never once mentioned 9 patches. They had adventure in their souls. They were willing to put themselves out there and create works that, quite often, only THEY understood.
Gradually, I felt more at ease as I realized each and every member of this diverse group did her own thing and was comfortable with the decision to be different. Very important to me was their always enthusiastic acceptance and encouragement of the most bizarre ideas I could present to them. They were not afraid to critique, to offer suggestions, to show an easier approach, but did so in a constructive way. I was among friends, soul sisters who understood why I do what I do.
The affirmation I have received as a member of ARTAA has been life changing for this former “closet” art quilter. Our not-to-be-missed twice monthly meetings are the highlight of my creative life. The chatter is deafening and is only drowned out by the laughter. Yes, we, the ladies of ARTAA, laugh a lot. I always come away from these gatherings renewed, feeling that life, like diversity, is good. I still don’t know what to do with gel medium.