Member Spotlight: Carolina Oneto

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For Carolina Oneto, constructing a quilt using the composition of a song was one of her dream projects, and as an engineer, she created the formula to make it happen. She invented a mathematical model in which every musical note had a color quality. With this formula, she completed her quilt, 64, based on the Beatles' song, "When I'm Sixty-Four"— her wedding song. Each block of the quilt represented a song compass, and each color modeled a note; each line's width was the length of the note, and the black in the quilt represented silence within the song. "I studied the flute and musical theory at a conservatory for more than five years," said Oneto. "I believe our identity is reflected in everything we create— a mirror of our memories, experiences, being."


64 by Carolina Oneto, 2020. Images by Carolina Oneto.

 

Oneto is the oldest of four siblings raised in Valparaiso, a charming port city in Chile, with hills, sea, poets, plenty of color, and city streets. On one of those streets in Chile's coastal city, Oneto and her brother would paint with chalk outside their house throughout the afternoon. "I also remember a specific wall in our home where our mother allowed us to doodle after we had drawn on the wall several times without permission," said Oneto. With her siblings, she formed the foundation of her imagination: old clothes became costumes; they turned used boxes into castles; walking along the coastline was a quest. "We were all born during the dictatorship," said Oneto. "But a great change has happened in Chile, my country, after all of these decades."

 

In adulthood, Oneto moved to Buenos Aires after her husband had to relocate for work. They arrived in the new city with two children, a pregnant Carolina, and an eight-month-old puppy. Oneto worked as an engineer before her first daughter and then chose to become a professor after bearing children. Still, in Argentina, she had to begin again. In her childhood home, her grandmothers were crafters and her mom knew how to sew, so by the age of nine, Oneto was crafting. "When I first learned to knit, with the help of my grandmother Luisa, I had chicken pox, and I was home for two weeks," said Oneto. "I still remember the long yellow scarf I knitted."


Watercolor I by Carolina Oneto, 2020.

 

When Oneto once again had the time and the desire to find a new calling, it was natural for her to buy a sewing machine and begin to sew. "Through Pinterest, I discovered patchwork that led me to seek an instructor who could teach modern patchwork in Argentina," said Oneto. In her search, she found Terestia Leal and Cecilia Koppmann, textile artists and quilters from Argentina. "We don't have a guild in Chile, but I found a community in Argentina," said Oneto. With their help, she fell in love with fabrics, colors, and shapes; those early classes were the start of her quilting career.


Watercolor II by Carolina Oneto, 2021.

 

After returning to Chile, she went to study color interaction at the Catholic University of Chile art school. With the skills she had learned from Leal and Koppman, she began to develop a creative process, which she still uses today. "Everything starts with considering color," said Oneto, "The color palette is the origin of most of my quilts, and the following decisions are a creative response." Among the techniques she most uses, foundation paper piecing, walking foot quilting, and improvisation are the core of her work. "Something that remains in my work as a result of living in Argentina is the calm and relaxed way of doing things," said Oneto, "Nothing is so serious. Nothing is so perfect. Things can happen imperfectly and still be good."


Watercolor III by Carolina Oneto, 2021.

 

Oneto often works at night in her home studio, so motherhood and quilting weave together. Her children who make visits into her workspace always know what she is working on, how it is going, and have their own editorial opinions to share. "During the nationwide lockdown, my nine-year-old daughter told me that she wanted to make a quilt for our dog, Rocky, and it felt like the perfect time to begin teaching her those skills." As with most families during COVID-19 restrictions, they had more time at home, and for the Onetos, this included creation alongside homeschooling, working from home orders, and household chores. One of the quilts Oneto made during quarantine, Apacheta, was inspired by the apachetas she saw while in Cuzco, Peru, on the way to Machu Picchu. "An appacheta (from Quechua and Aymara) is a mound of stones placed as an offering to the Pachamama (Mother Earth)," said Oneto. She created her Apacheta quilt as a meditation for health, compassion, and love.


Apacheta by Carolina Oneto, 2020.

 

During quarantine, Oneto has also begun teaching online quilting classes, available in both English and Spanish. "I want to expand what is available to Spanish-speaking quilters in terms of instruction," said Oneto. She considers the practice of creating spiritual food: her connection to time, place, and the self. In these difficult times, she has turned to craft and wants to help others do the same. "I have practiced meditation for years, and in the process of creating, there are times when the brain enters into the same state of abstraction, decanting ideas and emotions of your life," said Oneto. "It is the best place to turn in moments of difficulty and uncertainty." As a multi-hyphenate creator, she thinks big and hopes one day she will share her offerings in the physical space, in museums and exhibitions around the world.