More About the Author
I am a happy woman, a lucky woman. Born in 1942, I remain blessed by Wellesley's liberating education, two life-long friends and happy memories. I'm grateful my father dissuaded me from a French major ("A skill, learn it later,") suggesting instead History's tree "whereon to hang what you love -- art, literature, religion broadly studied." I was blessed by loving parents -- the Artist and the Physicist -- as they protected our childhood innocence by waiting 'til asked (1963) to answer, "What your father has (multiple sclerosis from before my birth) is not arthritis. He will write you a letter." Seven years as a high school social studies teacher, feeling middle-child middling, I asked how he, a famous physicist, had come to father two history majors and a sociologist? "Man's greatest question is the nature of his relation to the Universe," he had replied, "While physics probes the nature of man's relation to the Universe, history probes man's relationship to his fellow man." I decided on my career freshman year, when, after supper, wearing my pajamas -- real red 'Doctor Dentons' with the feet, the flapper, & red shawl-wrapped, a dorm-mate, looking up, offered, "Elly, you'll make a perfect grandmother."
Now with seven grandchildren, my career-dream has come true. Self-employed since after our first child, I have run a number of businesses from home, including landlady, Happy Mother Childcare, quilting classes, Cabin Fever Calicoes (1977-1985) a mail-order quilt-shop. Since 1983 I have written 30 books on appliqué and Album Quilts. I had never written a book, but in 1983 Spoken Without a Word was easily written, quickly, and with fervency. I was enthralled by these old quilts seen first on exhibition, and I thought I understood that these quilts were speaking to us without words. My next thirty years sang with Baltimore's Album Song as I learned the style and joined so many inspiring colleagues around the world, replicating or innovating, a 'revivalist' style.
A 30th Anniversary (of the book, of the international Baltimore Album Quilt Revival movement) Edition of Spoken Without a Word, 24 Faithfully Reproduced Patterns from Classic Baltimore Album Quilts and a Lexicon of Their Symbols will debut Spring, 2014. That book begins, "In Retrospect -- One cannot be interested in an ancient tongue spoken, wordless, on cloth-- without reconsidering the world around one, the images stitched, the human stories conveyed. Nor can she consider the history thus recorded -- without being curious about what it conveys about whence she came, who she has become. Spoken Without a Word is about needlework, old patterns, fine art that having touched us, is being stitched anew today. In the broader sense, these designs, their history -- all these are fundamentally about you and me, our roots, and America's story. A story both for those here born, and those who have come, for all privileged to strive 'neath a Liberty Tree's branches, seeking what fruit she has borne. The most distinguished body of Baltimore's antebellum Album quilts might well have been meant for us to see. They were made, I believe, as monuments to the Founders' vision of a country without a king, a Republic ruled by freemen, constitution-bound. With trepidation, Benjamin Franklin, having just signed that first hard-won document of self-government, had answered a lady asking what they had created: "A republic, if you can keep it." The Baltimore Album Quilts' greatest gift to us may well be their message of courage. Through three wars (1776 and 1812 in their neighborhoods) their mid-Atlantic, mid-19th century mid-Atlantic lives, were certainly (no penicillin then . . . ) harder than our own. And yet --there is no whining in their quilts. The 'high-style Baltimores stand dramatically apart, a body of work defined by an identifiable beauty. Those sturdy women, their supportive men, sang a strong song, sweetly stitched. You may decide it was intended for us to hear. For whatever reason their style has called, 30 years now, to us around the world. Privileged to do so we are comforted as we stitch our own beauty, witness to faith and hope, quilted and with loving courage bound."
In 1995, I founded The Elly Sienkiewicz Appliqué Academy®, an annual appliqué and quilt study conference each February in Williamsburg, Va. The Academy will be celebrating its 19th year in 2014 at the Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Virginia, an annual week-long teaching conference with a large faculty. Top-rate teaching leavened by all-Appliqué daily exhibitions, good food, and girlish fun have earned 'Academy' the affection nickname 'Ms. Tesaa' even with 'never-able-to-be-there' friends who follow Tesaa's activities on my 'List Visit' at www.EllySienkiewicz.com.