Patricia A. Montgomery's Apprenticeship Blog

Bright Playful Colors & Kite Shapes

Bright Playful Colors & Kite Shapes

Third Quilt

By Patricia A. Montgomery & Helen Anderson


These bright and playful colors made Helen’s spirit soar.  She pointed out that the start of the design was childlike and how she was in touch with her inter child. Helen has really come a long way and the design of this quilt is a celebration of her creative growth during this apprenticeship. She learned the importance of machine quilting and how stitches serve as another design element. This design element adds texture and line quality to her quilt.



Creating the Second Quilt

Creating the Second Quilt


Patricia A. Montgomery & Helen Anderson

 quilt image one


            Helen shared the following West African Adinka symbols and meanings for this quilt that symbolized her spirituality. The first symbol she selects was Nyame Dua is a sacred spot where rituals are performed. She enlarged the symbol and used left over block from her first quilt. These blocks were made out of West African fabric. The other symbol that is a part of her altar design is the Gye Nyame which is a popular and use in decoration, a reflection of the deeply religious character of the Ghanaian people. The last symbol used is the Nyame Nti that represents the symbol of faith. This stalk is depicted as the staff of life in many cultures. Helen uses the Nyame Nti symbol to frame her altar. The hand represents the reaching spirit of the individual towards the altar. This composition is rich in color and texture through the use of embellishment and decorative stitches.



image two

 Detail view of the Altar


image three



image 4 

Embellishment View




Attending Various Lectures and Exhibition


Attending Various Lectures and Exhibition


Patricia A. Montgomery & Helen Anderson

                During our apprenticeship Helen and Patricia attended various lectures and the exhibition titled “Textual Rhythms: Constructing the Jazz Traditions, Contemporary African American Quilts” at the Museum of African Diaspora located in San Francisco, CA. The African American Quilting Guild of Oakland had creative and talented African American guest speakers such as Alice M. Beasley; Karen Boutte; Marion Coleman; and Patricia Turner, PHD. These speakers shared unique views of their creative process; personal and historical themes and how their work has impact on the world of quilting.

            “Textual Rhythms: Constructing the Jazz Traditions, Contemporary African American Quilts” was curated by Carolyn Mazloomi, Founder and coordinator of the Women of Color Network combine the African American culture, jazz and quilts. The top Bay Area quilters included in this exhibition are Marion Coleman, Alice M. Beasley and Keisha Roberts.  Most of the quilts in this exhibition are considered art quilts; there are various traditional quilting techniques such as strip piecing; crazy quilt patterns; the use of bright colors and the sharing of story.  Helen enjoyed seeing this exhibition and learned how various techniques and color were used and how the machine quilting stitch added to the composition to form line and texture.

Alice Beasley, Textile Artist 

Her portfolio consists of portraits and still life art quilts that are created from commercial fabrics.  Her composition incorporates light and shadow similar to how a painter’s work.  Helen learned from Alice color usage; how she created the light and shadow; composition design and how she developed her drawing skills and techniques from “Drawing on the Artist Within” by Betty Edwards.

Karen Boutte, Quilt Designer, Author, Instructor and Lecturer 

 helen model coat 


Family history; wearable art and stories about slavery are some of the creative concepts Karen uses in her work. Helen had an opportunity to model one of Butte’s coats during her presentation.




Marion Coleman, Textile & Mixed Media Artist 

white quilt 


Marion work with family stories and social change concepts. Her portfolio consists of abstractions, ethnic arts, narrative stitched stories and fiber collage portraits. Helen was inspired by Marion use of digital images in her compositions and desires to learn the technique of creating digital image fabric.

Patricia Turner, PhD Author of Crafted Lives, Stories and Studies of African American Quilters

pat quilt 


Using examples from Elizabeth Keckley, Gwen Magee and the members of the African American Quilter Guild of Oakland, her PowerPoint presentation documented the ways in which the design, execution and distribution of quilts has been used to advance the political philosophy of the quilter.








Ah Moment!

Ah Moment!


Patricia A. Montgomery & Helen Anderson

Helen was challenged by many new things such as color usage; composition; and new techniques. To encourage creative change, she was assigned to read “A Communion of the Spirits – African-American Quilters, Preserver and Their Stories” by Roland L. Freeman. This book introduced African American quilters who used fabrics that told stories about their family, history and culture. At first, it was overwhelming and Helen had a hard time letting go of old techniques in order to learn about new materials and tools; using a lot more color in her work and just being open to change. Over time, she begins to use the new techniques and tools for her story quilts.

The Ah Moment came when she was able to share a selection of Batik and West African fabrics for her new quilt. The West African Adinkra symbols were selected in order to enhance her story about meditation and worshipped.  When she described the Adinkra symbols known as Nyame Dua; Gye Nyame and Nyame Nti and how they symbolize the spirituality in her new quilt with a lot of passion.  Wow! It was so exciting and reminded me of my favorite t-shirt which says “If you get out of the way the art will make itself.”

We have come a long way and Helen’s creative voice is starting to soar!

First Quilt titled "Recalling the Journey" January - April, 2011 Design size 65" x 75"

written by Helen Anderson, apprentice & photographs taken by Patricia A. Montgomery, Master Artist Apprenticeship Program image one

Machine quilting - Recalling the Journey quilt

 My “Recalling the Journey” quilt represents my interpretation of the route captured Africans took from their homeland on the way to being sold into America’s slavery system.

laying out blocks

Helen laying out the blocks

The color blue symbolizes water. Captured African’s travelled in slave ships to America in a trans-Atlantic journey known as the Middle Passage. My use of pre-civil war fabrics represents their destination, America.

During this creative process, my wounded heart was transformed into a sacred heart as I sewed beige fabric strips into blocks. The color beige symbolizes the long walk across the Africa continent to the Atlantic Ocean and the Middle Passage journey. In spite of the fact that Africans were forced to make this journey, the creative process was empowering and it healed my heart. The anger I experienced was replaced with forgiveness.

As I was working on the blue water blocks, I sensed a shift, a healing that took place within my heart. I noticed the anger and rage I had been experiencing around the Middle Passage had faded. The African bodies that were thrown into the Ocean and those who choose to join them in the blue water grave were truly at peace, and so am I.

The Sankofa bird, known as an Adinkra symbol, means “go back and fetch it.” This symbolic meaning acknowledges and reminds me to not forget that our ancestors survived the hardships of the Middle Passage. Their strength, courage, and determination are the back bone that shapes African Americans.  


 designing the block

 Designing the water side blocks


sewing block

Helen sewing the blocks


 detail of quilt

Design Detail of completed blocks with design image of Sankofa bird

Thirty Two - twelve inch blocks were created to represents the African (land) and American (water) sides of this quilt. The color selection of fabrics signifies the movement, texture and construction of the contemporary log cabin block.

sankofa bird

 Working on the Sankofa bird with wonderunder and Batik fabrics


Helenworking on bird

Helen working on the Sankofa bird

The designing, preparing, and creating of the Sankofa bird was fun, exciting, and exhilarating. I learned a fusing technique, the placement of color and fabric, the manipulation of movement, with push and pull giving direction and flow to my piece. As I continued to stay open to new ideas, techniques and learning, it put me in touch with my feelings. Patricia would keep asking, “How does this make you feel” as she would add, subtract, or change color or fabric or the print. I could feel the difference of each addition or subtraction. My eyes and all my senses are open and expanding.