Monday, April 6, 2015

Along the Spice Road to China - Getting Started

This is Elizabeth's story about the creation of her Black Pepper from China quilt:

When first asked to create a piece for this exhibit I was both honored and overwhelmed.  I’ve never done anything like this before and the list of other participants was a bit intimidating.  I choked down the urge to say “mine could never measure up to what these people create” and then I said, “OK, I will participate”.  Over the summer months I thought about what I could do and started collecting fabrics that had the feel that I wanted in representing China. 

I picked China because in 2007 I was fortunate enough to travel there for 10 days with my then 14-year old son and husband.  We stayed for a week in Xian, where the Terra Cotta Army was the highlight, and a long weekend in Beijing where we signed up for a day trip to visit The Great Wall of China. 
The Great Wall of China is certainly remarkable in many ways. 
We visited on a beautiful fall day and it was almost surreal to think about the wall’s history and that I was actually walking in the footsteps of so many other humans.  I even called my mother back in the USA just to let her know that we were talking to each other while I stood on the wall. 
We walked to a spot as far as tourists were allowed to go and encountered a sign saying “Frontier-visitors stops walking”.  The choice of English words seemed humorous to us so I took a photo. When the call for quilts arrived, one of the parameters was that the viewer should be looking as though through a window.  As I studied my photos of China, that photo kept coming up in my group of favorites.  
I decided that it would be my window and the focus of my quilt. Even though I had a photo of a spice shop, it did not seem to have the historic feel I was seeking.   
I had several choices to make about the spice I picked which was pepper.  I could go with the hot spicy varieties or black pepper.  After some research about the use of pepper in China, I discovered that the spicy ones were not used in the cuisine in the area of The Great Wall.  Thus, I chose black pepper which was traded by spice merchants all across Asia.  I envisioned my family as spice traders walking, by foot or with a donkey and cart along the well-worn path, stopping at villages to barter our black pepper in exchange for all the supplies one would need on a long journey.

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