Houston Strong: Bound Together by Shared Experiences

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Our guild began the 2020 QuiltCon Community Outreach Challenge by putting together a committee and voting on designs. One thing that rang true throughout the process: we wanted to create a quilt to represent Houston. Houston has survived Hurricane Harvey, the Astros have won the World Series and several American League titles—we wanted to highlight the ups and downs that represent and make Houston iconic. One of the focal points of the quilt and an iconic piece of Houston is the graffiti “Be Someone” painted by an anonymous artist on a tattered train bridge above I-45 South just north of downtown. We also, with permission, used Shannon Brinkley’s Houston Skyline pattern for this project. 


Full Image of the "Be Someone" Quilt made by the 2019 Houston Modern Quilt Guild members. 
 

The phrase “Be Someone” holds true for our guild, we want to be a positive influence in the community of Houston. We also felt the message encourages people of all cultures and ages to celebrate their uniqueness. As a guild we embrace and encourage everyone to practice the art of quilting from their unique perspective—so this became our centerpiece.

Member Collaboration

In an effort to create a collaborative quilt we involved as many members of our guild as we could. First, we had one of our talented members, Jane Powell, draft a life-size version of the proposed “Be Someone” focal point in perspective. Then we had a meeting of the minds and needles where four members of the team pieced together the skyline and the words “Be Someone.” 


The Houston Strong message was made of many french knots in a variety of the black, white, and grey color palette by Marisa Wilhelmi. Symbolic because the image is made up of many knots just like Houston pulls its strength from our communities joining together. 
 

To celebrate uniqueness, we incorporated 40 individual quilt blocks that featured a multitude of techniques including hand embellishment, applique, hand embroidery, and personal design choices. It was a wonder to see each block represent things about Houston that we all know, love, or associate with our resilient city. 


A block by Lynn Frostman of a historic theater sign that hangs in the Heights neighborhood of Houston. 
 

We were honored to have two members step up to finish this quilt. Jenn Saxena designed our personalized backing fabric to incorporate each of the words on the front and the skyline of Houston. Our amazing member Pam Biswas donated her time and talents to quilting this piece. The final product is a testament to her expertise and artistry.


The back of the quilt showcases a custom printed fabric designed by Jenn Saxena. The custom quilting, done by Pam Biswas, compliments the backing fabric and allows each block to shine on the front. 
 

Pandemic Blessings

When we received our quilt back from QuiltCon during the height of the pandemic, we were not holding any in-person meetings and many organizations were closed to donations. Initially, we worried about the extra time our guild would have this art piece in its hands, but we ended up capitalizing on what was once considered a threat. We exploited the opportunity of time. Usually, when the deadline for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Quilt Competition comes we have already passed our charity quilts along to their forever homes. In 2020 we still had this beautiful quilt and decided to enter it into the competition. We were elated when it got in! The show was entirely virtual, but it still gave this beautiful Houston quilt digital exposure to many Houstonians who might have otherwise not seen it. This exposure led to an unexpected email from a donor wanting to purchase our quilt. Not to mention it won Best In Show at the competition!


The guild members at 2020 QuiltCon in Austin Texas in front of the displayed quilt. 
 

Donations for Three Charities

The digital platform helped to find the donor and buyer of our quilt. We sold it to a local doctor in the Houston area who made a very generous donation of $10,000 to three separate Houston Charities: MD Anderson, A Children’s House for the Soul, and The Women’s House. We were so happy to have our quilt join their private collection and that three wonderful charities each gained a sizable donation.

After the purchase of our quilt, the new owner agreed to allow the quilt to be shown one last time at the 2021 International Quilt Festival in Houston. This was the first time many of our members got to see the quilt in person and was also the last time it would be in a show. In person for the first time since February 2020, we shared a special moment reunited around a quilt that brought us so much joy to make. 


After the purchase of our quilt, the new owner agreed to allow the quilt to be shown one last time at the 2021 International Quilt Festival in Houston. We took this opportunity to gather for the first time in-person since QuiltCon 2020 and get another picture of the group before it goes back to its forever home. 

Quilters involved in making the "Be Someone" quilt include Barbara Averill, Pam Biswas, Laura Bryant, Suzanne Caflisch, Janet Cassini, Sabrina Cook, Ginny Crosthwait, Tina Curtis, Rebecca Denham, Machelle DeRon, Lynn Frostman, Vasudha Govindan, Katie Grosskopf, Tina Johnson, Sally Keller, Michaela Lim, Anne Lowry, Jennifer Lyons, Elizabeth Miceli, Jane Powell, Alice Sadeghpour, Jenn Saxena, Christine Schmelebeck, Jamie Siel, Kristi Telljohann, Tita Vickrey, Rosemarie Waiand, Cheryl Watson, Marisa Wilhelmi, Cathy Winters, and Tricia Young.