Friday, November 11, 2011

Pippa Moore - Quilter with a Mission!

I don’t remember when I first met Pippa Moore but I’m sure it was at a quilting or art event. We’ve been friends for a number of years and have each had a booth at Quilt Market to promote our patterns as well as attending art quilt retreats together.

I’ve followed Pippa’s blog  when she travels and have always enjoyed reading her stories and adventures.

I’ll let Pippa tell you about herself:

I first started quilting as the stay-at-home mother of twins. I desperately needed an occasional break from the babies, and my university student husband had Thursday afternoons off. A quilt teacher and author - Frances Fournier - offered to teach me in her home, in exchange for which I proof-read her manuscript for a book on making quilted clothing. A year later we moved to rural Manitoba, where I was asked to teach the local women what I knew - the sum total of which was the making of a Sampler quilt - and I have been making quilts and teaching ever since.

So how did Pippa get involved with Africa and cloth? Through love, of course!

I married a man who had already lived in Africa for 5 years - in Burundi, to be more specific - before I met him. We had the opportunity to return to the continent - Lesotho this time - in the early nineties. While there, I had two fantastic jobs. Both involved working with grass roots development, particularly with respect to women and income generation projects. My husband has been working in East Africa - mainly Uganda - since that time. When I resigned from my full-time job, my dream was to begin a project with grandmothers and widows, and that's what I've been doing for the last 4 years.

Pippa began a business to help women learn to sew and produce items for sale, thus helping them earn a living.

“Kitambaa” is the Swahili word for cloth, and the baobab tree that I use for my logo is a tree prevalent in many equatorial African countries. There is a legend, variously told in several countries, that it once was the most beautiful tree in the forest. But it became proud, and the gods were not pleased. They plucked it out of the earth and planted it upside down with its roots in the air, so it could never boast again. And that explains the root-like shapes of the ugly-beautiful branches. Both the logo and the name were chosen in recognition of the years I spent living and working in Southern Africa, and the importance for me of this experience.

In February 2009, the first Kitambaa Designs workshop was held in Mbarara, Uganda. Twelve women, mostly widows and grandmothers, and chosen from existing grandmothers’ and widows’ groups, began learning how to sew using a treadle sewing machine, and how to quilt. These twelve came to the workshop knowing little about cutting fabric and using an iron and sewing, but at the end of three weeks, had developed the skills required to make saleable products. Previously most of them had been subsistence farmers, working in the fields from six in the morning until six at night. They brought such enthusiasm and determination to the project, and have been sewing on an ongoing basis ever since then. Many of them has at least one child in school who was not in school previously, and other proceeds from their work has been used to purchase things like a bed, a cow, a table, as well as for food and for medicine.
 This photo is taken at the closing ceremonies of our third workshop with the ladies I work with. Alice is the amazing Coordinator of this group - patient, skillful, with a sense of professionalism and a sense of humour. Here she is being presented with a solar operated desk lamp, so that she can keep sewing in the evenings. Working with Alice, and getting to know her, has been one of the highlights of recent years.

In between her travels to Africa, Pippa has designed an exciting range of patterns and kits. She has shown her quilts in international shows and has received rave reviews. I particularly love her exuberant use of colour and her stylized Art Deco designs.

"There's an Elephant in my Garden is inspired by the Art Deco period, and combines many of the motifs that have been drawn from the early part of that period, with a love for saturated colours. I like the improbability of it, the marvel of it.

Pippa is also strongly influenced by the cloth of Africa as you see in this piece.

The Kente-inspired piece is one of a series of quilts I plan to make, honouring the textiles of Africa, in this case Ghanaian hand woven Kente cloth. I use diverse techniques in my quilts - whatever suits my purposes - but must admit that my favourite is machine piecing.

I’m sure that you will enjoy a visit to Pippa’s website and blog, be sure to sign up for her newsletter and keep up to date with all her wonderful adventures!

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