"Savannah: Two of Cups ." detail view

by Susan Shie Contact me

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Savannah - Two of Cups. detail view. ©Susan Shie 2009.

"Savannah: Two of Cups in The Kitchen Tarot.” 2009
90"h x 89"w. #379. Peace Cozy #30.

Began sketches 3-22-09, began painting 8-26-09. Finished art quilt 12-21-09. full view.

Made with assistance in storytelling from Jack Walsh, who wrote many of the stories I put on this piece. "Savannah" is a commission from Jack Walsh, and is now included in his John M Walsh III Art Quilt Collection.

Whole cloth painting on fabric. Beginning drawing and colors airbrushed on, then airpen writing with fabric paint. Machine crazy grid quilted. One row of hand sewing inside edge of border, using perle cotton. One Green Temple Buddha Boy bead, one Pink Buddha Girl bead. One Peace Cozy appliqué.

Story: This piece is the next in my Kitchen Tarot series, in the Minor cards, chosen by me randomly drawing the Two of Cups card for what piece to work on next. I started sketching for it on my Uncle Lester’s 94th birthday, March 22, in memory of my uncle, who had died about a week earlier. Cups is the suit of Water, about compassion and love, and the two is partnership, two people helping each other. My Kitchen Tarot deck has green Pyrex measuring cups for the suit of cups, and the original sketches for this piece were of the two cups, sitting on the kitchen windowsill, with Michelle Obama’s White House garden seen out the window.

Then Jack Walsh called and asked me to make a commission for him, and if you know Jack, you know he’s going to want water in that piece somewhere. By then, I had already used the White House garden in some small pieces, so I was ready to move on. I was ready for my Two of Cups to get new sketches, and when Jack called, I hoped I could use my Kitchen Tarot theme, but somehow also make the piece more personal for Jack.

The first thing I’m supposed to tell you is that Jack only asked me to make him a commission with water in its theme somehow. It was entirely my idea to make this piece be the story of Jack Walsh’s life, both public and private. In fact, he had to be talked into that, but I knew I was the one art quilter who was using such an inclusive storytelling style, that his whole interesting life could be documented. So that’s what we did. Only you wouldn’t know it, from just looking at the piece, without reading it, because I knew Jack would appreciate that subtlety. Yeah, I know. My work isn’t very subtle. But still, you have to start reading this piece, to find out that it’s about Jack Walsh. Even the drawing I made of Jack is a cat, not a guy, so that right there is pretty sneaky, if you ask me.

My sketches made after Jack asked me to do the piece, were very different from the White House garden images of last March. Now I made a woman and her daughter, toasting with the pyrex cups, in front of a big old farmhouse sink, with pies in the sky, which stand for all kinds of blessings for Jack. I included the 18 storey building Jack first worked in at Bull & Roberts, the waterfall at Jack’s home in Watkins Glen, NY, and the ship Savannah, which was a big part of Jack’s life. His parents are looking down into the picture, and pix of his ancestors hang on the wall, beside an image of a small hand pump, which has great meaning for Jack.

When I asked Jack if the two women in the sketches could be someone in his family, he chose his daughter Kathy and her daughter Zoe, who is 9 years old. He said Kathy and Zoe do many things together, and come visit him at the cottage in Watkins Glen often. I enjoyed my email interactions with Kathy and Zoe, who gave me their own good stories to write on the piece.

The first thing Jack sent me was a long history of the water chemistry company he began working for in 1959, with the story opening in 1903, starting with a description of the World Series being played that year. Bull & Roberts, the company founded that year, was created to work on steamship boilers, to keep them from blowing up. Jack, who’s a very good writer, eventually added himself to the long history of the company, which had by then diversified a lot, but still was all about water. Now Jack is the president of the company, whose name is now Waltron. And when the company got the job of controlling the water chemistry on the Nuclear Ship Savannah, Jack oversaw that project for its ten years in the Atoms for Peace program. Savannah was named after the first steamship to cross the Atlantic, so you see this thing comes full circle. It just doesn’t end with a World Series.

It doesn’t end anyhow, because Jack is busy working fulltime, collecting art quilts, and enjoying life at Watkins Glen, NY, his family home, along with his kids and grandkids and many friends. Jack Walsh’s life is full of stories of ancestors and his boyhood adventures with his twin brother Frank. He savors the family genealogy his mother got him interested in and clearly picked up a noble spirit from his parents and forebearers.

I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of reading Jack’s answers to my questions about his life, as Jack Walsh is a born storyteller, himself. I don’t normally enjoy transcribing others’ words, but sometimes it’s so fulfilling, I don’t mind a bit. This was one of those cases. I’ve known Jack, as in hi and bye, for a long time, and started to interact more in 2005, after he purchased my “NEO Buddha” piece for his collection. He had wanted to buy my “Year of the Monkey” piece, when he began his collection with Penny McMorris in 1993, but that Quilt National piece was already sold at the time. It took 12 years for the first sale to happen, and then our good conversations, about water and saving the Earth began. Jack is one of my heroes, for the good work he does in the world, regarding bringing good water to people around the world, and for his general sense of kindness.

Thank you, Jack. I know how modest you are, but your story is so inspiring, I’m really glad I got to tell it in “Savannah: Two of Cups.”

Turtle Moon Studios: Outsider Art Quilts and Paintings
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