Nov 27, 2010

Within the Depths: For the AAQI

Like a lot of you, I have known both depression and loss, and the absolute paralysis of being frozen in time and space. But I have learned to be 'okay' about even the darkest of emotions, and to not be afraid to experience, or even go deeply into them.

So, when I look and reach inward to feel my own mother's state of being as she is trapped in the deep recesses of Alzheimer's Disease, I can relate to that sense of the inner void, without any seeming progressive movement, or purpose, or sometimes even the simplest ability to express joy.

But I have learned to find my own way through the clouded emotions that I have experienced, as well as ways that can often help others. So, as I created this AAQI art quilt for the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative as part of my ongoing Liberated Quilting Challenge, I challenged myself to try new art quilting techniques in both design, and use of materials that also challenged me to go into the emotions of that creation. I wanted to feel all of the deep, dark feelings, but still find some hope, some joy, and some sense of movement within that place, so as to recreate that movement again, when my own life experiences might require that same manifestation.

I sat with my little table filled with bits and pieces...scraps of fabric, threads and yarns, beads and metallic paints, and without a drawing, or a plan, I just began cutting and pasting, ironing and fusing, twisting and turns the pieces instinctively. I wanted to manifest in expressed design that innate inner feeling.

As a result, this piece first ended up rather murky and dark, and it was only by increasing the light on the finished piece, that the elements even showed up clearly, at all. I added the jeweled and metallic beads, and the dots of metallic gold paint. I added the brightening elements of many layers of couched yarns, and then the tracing and retracing of the swirling eddys of water.

I wanted, and needed, there to still be change, still be more than what first appears to our outward, and not our inner eye. This, I thought is the secret. When we go too deep within our selves, we should gently find our own inner movement, our own way through the waters, until finally....we find our way up and out, once more.

If you suffer from Alzheimer's you cannot do this alone in the beginning, and then you often cannot do it all. But you and I...we can. We can find our way, and we can help others to find theirs.

When you view my art quilt on AAQI's website, it most likely will appear much darker in its photograph, then it does here, or in real life... since they photographed it without realizing the need for more light, as I did, because of the darker light absorbing fabrics.

How like real life, I thought. You truly do have to shine a light onto, into, and within the darkness to still feel the bright spots, any hope, or any joy. You need that same sense of light to find your way to experiencing a sense of movement, instead of feeling 'stuck' or paralyzed. There is still change, there is still just might not be upwards, it might be change in a different emotion, a difference direction, a swaying, instead of a dramatic uplifting to the surface once again. And to me, that is just how it feels in my own life, when I experience any of the darker emotions.

It ended up taking about six hours to make this little art quilt ...not counting my drifting in creation time, but only my 'in this world' literal time. But in that time, I was able to literally, and figuratively, transport my inner psyche into so many different understandings of that deep process with every movement of the fabric, every addition of a bead, and even the flow of my stitching.

I truly realized for the first time what differentiates an 'art' quilt from a regular one. It is the emotion we put into them, and the emotions that are drawn back out again in the viewer. My own emotions help me to better understand others human emotions and how they are expressed, projected, and mirrored in all that emanates outwardly....and appears to surround us. And they help me to gain new tools in my understandings of my mother's own inner world within the confines of Alzheimer's.

I hope you can feel the lesson in my journey as you gaze into, and travel these depths with me...because while millions of A.D. sufferers are forever paralyzed and stuck by their disease, I am able to come back up again and so will you. My joy, and my purpose are still there. For they never truly left me at all, but simply got buried within the depths...and just for just a while.

Now, I can see not only the beauty, but the movement within the stillest places of perceived darkness. For even if we were to stand at the bottom of the deepest ocean, there would still be flow and current, and changes in being, and our own changes in the perception of them.

So, in that sense, my mother's journey 'within the depths' of this dark process of Alzheimer's Disease is not truly 'only' dark and is simply a different perception of herself, her life, and her relationship with all of us who surround her. Deep within, she is still there, there is still movement, even of progression and change. It may not be the change we seek, but it is is she.

6077 - Within the Depths has been placed on the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative website and has been priced by AAQI at $80.

Please consider buying this quilt as what it truly is...a 100% donation to fund Alzheimer's research. And when you view it on the website, remember it as not as dark as it may first appear on their site. That which is truly real, always contains that which is filled with light.

Update 11-18-10:Anonymous Ami Simms said...
Michele, Your wonderful quilt just sold! Thank you so much for making it. You are such a wonderful supporter of what we are trying to do and you speak so eloquently to the world about this disease. Thank you for all you do to encourage others to pick up a needle and thread and work towards a cure. Ami Simms AAQI Founder & Executive Director
1:46 PM
Blessings to Rita! Thank you for buying this quilt and making a generous donation to AAQI in that process. (((A great big hug from Michele)))
Liberated Quilting Challenge
Finn's New Year's Eve Challenge:Quilt #5

My Other Contributions to Finn's New Year's Eve Quilt Challenge:
Finn's New Year's Eve Small Projects Challenge:
Small Project #14: Mulled Wine Mug Mat

Finn's New Year's Eve Quilt Challenge:
Quilt #11: Twilight Dreams
Quilt #10:Far, Far, Away
Quilt #9:Green and Scrappy Love
Quilt #7 and #8: Follow Your Heart 1 and 2
Quilt #6: Stringing Along
Quilt #5: Within the Depths
Quilt #4: Irish Eyes
Quilt #3: Under the Pines
Quilt #2: Hope and Remembrance
Quilt #1 Hop to It!

Finn's New Year's Eve Small Projects Challenge:
Small Project #14: Mulled Wine Mug Mat
Small Project #11-13: Two pillowcases and a senior bib
Small Project #10:Follow Your Heart Potholder
Small Projects #2-9: sr bib, potholders and a bag
Small Project #1: Get Well Postcard

Liberated Quilting Challenge

Get the latest news about the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative on the AAQI BLOG!
For more frequent news follow the AAQI on FaceBook and Twitter.

Michele Bilyeu quilts for AAQI..the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative. Won't you please join us? :)


Finn said...

Awesome! Finn was here and left hugs *VBS*

Scrappy quilter said...

Awesome is right. And the way you write about it really makes you feel like you are there with you, sitting in your sewing room, experiencing exactly what you have. Hugs

Hand Quilting Nana said...

My mother also has Alzheimer's and I understand how hard that is to deal with. She doesn't know me and when I visit she often tells me thanks for coming and dismisses me as if to say it is too difficult for her to look at me and not know who I am.

I also sent an art quilt in but haven't had it posted yet. What a wonderful idea this project is.

Thank you for participating!


Cheri said...

I believe you touched God's heart and His understanding with this. Mysteries are revealed in tiny bits and pieces.

Jan said...

I can so relate to what you are sayingand doing , my dear Mum had Alzhiemers ,Bless you Jan xx

Magpie Sue said...

Michele, you do such wonderfully thoughtful posts. I love your definition of an art quilt. It's precisely why I consider nearly all of my quilts art quilts, whether or not they meet the criteria of jurors or judges or other artists.

Shelly said...

It's an amazing work of art. The metellic beads do brighten up the whole quilt.

jenclair said...

A beautiful piece, Michelle. The quilt and the post exemplify the light and dark. Blessings to you and your mother and your journey.

Ami Simms said...

Your wonderful quilt just sold! Thank you so much for making it. You are such a wonderful supporter of what we are trying to do and you speak so eloquently to the world about this disease. Thank you for all you do to encourage others to pick up a needle and thread and work towards a cure.
Ami Simms
AAQI Founder & Executive Director

quiltmom anna said...

I was so thrilled to read that your beautiful quilt had sold - How wonderful- I hope who ever bought it got to read this moving post that shares your quilting journey.
You always write so beautifully and eloquently.
It touched my heart.

Shelina (formerly known as Shasta) said...

Congratulations Michele. It is beautiful.

Magpie Sue said...

I'm happy your little quilt sold so quickly. I would have happily added that one to my personal collection if I felt we were in a position to do so.

Sunny Slope Farm said...

"Within the Depths" arrived safely on Wednesday and is gracing a wall in my Nebraska barn-home. I have read your blog regularly for a few months and jumped on the chance to have one of your art quilts as they have way more Pizzazz!! than my more traditional ones. Thank you for sharing your struggles and joys.
Even as a teenager, I had elderly friends and was aware of aging issues. Though I haven't been physically close enough to participate in my dad's two sisters Alzheimers journeys, I'm now experiencing some of the ups and downs of a current church friend and will be sure to show the quilt to her.