Brace Cove Beach Glass - 2011 - Quilt Detail

Getting in on the Conversation

Greetings all – I’m Joan Major Ciolino and I’m pleased to introduce myself as the new Program Coordinator for Why Quilts Matter project. I live in the coastal community of Gloucester, Massachusetts, but have strong Midwest roots and still consider Nebraska home. I began sewing back in the seventh grade, mostly useful things for a 4-H project or the occasional blouse and skirt. My mother was an accomplished sewist. She made most of our clothes, more out of financial necessity than enjoyment. In the late 1980’s she began quilting and as a result never stitched another garment for the rest of her life. She was a fanatical quilt enthusiast so when I saw this frugal woman wildly spending money on fabric and purchase a Bernina sewing machine to replace her still-functioning Singer, I knew something big was up. Years later I caught the quilting bug from her and have never looked back.

When she started, the only resources quilters had were library books, other quilters, and a paltry few (mostly black and white) magazines dedicated solely to the art of quilting. That changed rapidly as the movement caught fire and the internet arrived to change everything. Suddenly there were hundreds of quilt shows, books, styles, magazines, websites, blogs, fabrics, notions and techniques easily accessible to everyone. We are so fortunate to enjoy such easy access to a vast array of teachers, research, fabrics and tools. All of that was the good work of the quilters who came before us.

Before joining the team at Why Quilts Matter I was an employee of the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts. At that time we had access to a pre-release copy of the Why Quilts Matter DVD. I confess to being skeptical, so I took it home to give it a closer look. I wasn’t 10 minutes into the documentary before I put down what I was embroidering and gave it my full attention. I remember being amazed, impressed and so happy that someone finally put together a look at quilting that was not only entertaining, scholarly and beautiful to look at, but also conveyed valuable information and threw down some serious respect for the art of quilting. I was so impressed I purchased one copy for myself and one for my local library.

While I was very sad to leave the museum, I am thrilled to be staying in the quilt world with this new and satisfying pursuit. It is important that, along with recognizing those who came before us, we remember our own responsibility in sharing and supporting the craft, educating the general public and insuring future generations continue to practice and discuss the art as well as benefit from the latest tools and techniques. The Why Quilts Matter documentary is one of the best resources out there – remember, I’m the one who purchased two copies of the documentary long before I ever became involved with the project! I encourage you to do your part to support quilt related research and education. We all reap the benefits, and while it began long before any of us were here the conversation can’t continue unless we all get involved. We cannot expect others to know, love and respect the art of quilting until we do so ourselves.

Get in on the conversation, and do your part to keep it going!

– Joan Major Ciolino


Photo credits:

Photo by Joan Major Ciolino. Top image: Brace Cove Beach Glass (quilt detail); made by Joan Major Ciolino in 2011 (wedding gift).

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