I awoke to rain today. The sound of it–the music of it–made me think of my grandmother, who died many years ago. She lived in the country in Sumter County, Ala., and had a tin roof on her house. Oh, I can smell the red clay of that area right now.
It is so funny how a sound can trigger memories that instantly jet you back over decades.
I spent summers with my grandmother. We called her Big Mama. (Just about every southern family has a “Big Mama.”) I couldn’t have realize it at the time, but I think that’s where my artistic interests began.
I’ve always wondered where my artsy side comes from. No one is an artist in my family, I always say. But thinking back to my grandmother, I know that is not true. She was an artist in the truest sense of the word. She was a natural artist who created something out of not much of anything all the time.
Because she didn’t have much money and no one in the country went into town to fancy stores for wallpaper, she made her own. She took the pages of magazines and made glue (flour and water) to plaster the walls—floor to ceiling. Every room was covered in faces, words and random parts of overlapping images. There was always something new to find each time you walked into a room because you likely missed this spot or that spot the last time you had been there.
She made her own clothes. God, right now I would kill for one of those “simple” dresses that she made by hand (no sewing machine). A few years ago, I saw the exact style in Macy’s and was so tempted to buy it, until I saw the price (yikes). Big Mama would have rocked “Project Runway.”
From the scraps of material left over from sewing her dresses and “britches” for others, she would sit on her front porch and make quilts. Luckily, I have one of her quilts in my closet. It is one of my most precious possessions.
She made her own peanut brittle. She took berries from the fields and made blackberries and dumplings. She raised her own chickens. She was constantly in motion–doing something, making something. It was all so effortless and natural for her. She inhaled life, took what it gave her and made what she could of it.
I think that’s why I’m drawn to collage. Those little pieces of paper–ripped apart and reassembled into patchwork creations aimed at offering some new perspective–give me such pleasure. Perhaps it is my own form of quilting, sewing and picking sweet berries from my field of imagination.
I just hope I can be half as creative as Big Mama.