Frida’s Garden – Jacki Kellum Embroidery
My grandmother was my role model. During the spring and summer, she grew flowers in her garden. In fact, she had the biggest flower garden in my town, and I have no difficulty saying that my grandmother’s garden was one of her art forms. But as winter set in, my grandmother would clean up her garden tools, and she would begin gardening inside–via her quilt making.
My childhood home was on the street behind my grandparents’ street, and all throughout my childhood, I would trek from my house to my grandparents’ house, at least once each day. To make that journey, I did not walk around the sidewalks that would have skirted my grandmother’s garden. Rather, I walked through the yards that stood between our houses and then, I passed beneath the stand of hollyhocks that lined the back of my grandmother’s yard. After that, I sauntered through the poppies and/or the irises that filled one of my grandmother’s flower beds. After moving through the morning glory-covered arch that stood midway in my grandmother’s yard, I’d finally hit the flower-lined walkway that would carry me to my grandmother’s back door.
In another post, I relate that my own gardening is a way that I continue to try to connect with my grandmother, who has been gone for about 50 years.
In the above post, I share the following poem that I wrote about my feelings, as a child, after I had woven my way through her garden and ultimately to her back door.
by Jacki Kellum
I’ve reached the shore
Of my grandmother’s door–
The one from the garden, inside.
Oh, sunny, sweet back room
Of my grandmother’s loom–
The place in the dirt
Of my grandmother’s skirt.
In your soft, summer lap,
Hold me tight, I will nap,
On my grandmother’s porch,
Let me hide.
©Jacki Kellum October 9, 2015
My grandmother’s old Singer sewing machine lived on her back porch, and that is where she did her machine sewing. Because my grandmother’s back porch was her sewing room, I called her porch my grandmother’s “loom,” in the above poem. I also used the word “loom” because I know that my grandmother played a major part in weaving me into who I have become.
Memory plays a funny game with us. We often remember the good things of our pasts as much larger and grander than they actually were, and in my child’s mind, I remember my grandmother’s house as a spacious place. But her house was actually very small. Yet, she had a fairly large dining room that stood in the exact center of her house, and that dining room was lined with windows. Each winter, my grandmother would set up her quilting frame in the light from those windows, and she would quilt. Her dining room table became her cutting board, and I loved to sit beside my grandmother as she cut up old dresses and shirts and flour sacks and then set them into quilting patterns. Through that process, I learned to love the pictures that had been printed on the fabrics, and my grandmother’s fabrics became the first art gallery that I would have the opportunity to visit. I grew up in the rural South. I would not visit a real gallery until I was over 20.
Often, I would collect my grandmother’s scrap fabrics, and I would create fabric paintings or collages with them. My grandmother often had a dime store bottle of glue lying around.
And I would attach my favorite scraps of fabric, which always had flowers on them, to pieces of butcher paper, and I’d thereby create my first paintings. I am still making those flower paintings today.
Sunflower – Jacki Kellum Watercolor Painting
But I make flower art in more than one way. Like my grandmother did before me, I also sew it.
Night Garden – Jacki Kellum Embroidery
Garden at Blue Bayou – Jacki Kellum Embroidery
I embroider my garden.
Autumn Rose – Created from Satin Cords – Jacki Kellum Textile Art
I also “draw” with satin cords on fabric. I believe that I may have invented this type of work, but I use satin cords that I order from China, and with tiny, hidden stitch, I hand sew them on fabric.
Night Roses – Jacki Kellum Textile Art
Garden Blues – Jacki Kellum Textile Art
Pot of Posies – Jacki Kellum Textile Art
While I was living in New Jersey, I taught a class in Memoir writing, and I am in the process of creating a book from that series of lessons. Over the years, I have discovered that Memoir writing is a way that I can keep my creative veins flowing, and I heartily recommend it for blocked creatives.
As Faulkner said, “The past is never dead. It’s not ever past.”
I have learned that since the past is always with me anyway, it is to my advantage to harness my memories and turn them into inspiration.
As I have said before, I recommend any kind of daily writing practice to combat writer’s and/or painter’s block.