"Walk in the Forest" by Ora Clay

Ora Clay. Photo courtesy of Ora Clay.

Ora Clay

African American Quilting

I observed my mother making quilts for our beds on a quilting frame made with two-by-fours. I watched her stretch the balls of cotton that we grew on the farm into a batting layer, and wash and soften flour sacks for backing fabric. The pieced top of the quilt was recycled from clothes we had outgrown.”

— Ora Clay

Ora Clay. Photo courtesy of Ora Clay.

In Alabama, as a young child, Ora Clay watched her mother make quilts. While Clay admired and appreciated the process, she did not learn the art until many years later. After she retired from being a librarian in Oakland Public Schools, her daughter took her to a series of quilting classes taught by master quilter Marion Coleman at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco (MOAD). In 2015, Clay was Coleman’s apprentice through ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program. During her apprenticeship, Clay made her first bed quilt, was in her first exhibition, and was hooked forever in the world of African American quilting.


Apprenticeship Program

Niambi at her first quilt exhibit. Photo courtesy of Niambi Clay.

African American Quilting
with apprentice Niambi Clay 

Ora Clay will work with her daughter, Niambi Clay, on developing skills around traditional quilting and narrative quilting, from creating simple blocks and choosing fabrics, to designing quilts based on Niambi’s own interests or other prompts. The aim is for one of Niambi’s quilts to be selected for an exhibit showcasing the African American experience.




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