When I was at my parent's house, during the holidays, I got to revisit a piece I gave to my Mother as a Christmas present a few years ago. At My Grandmother's Table was inspired by the life of her mother, my Grandmother, Frances Sajowic Jasbec. She immigrated to this country in 1921, at 16 years of age, only speaking Slovenian and a bit of German. The pieces I just created for the Small Pleasures show grew out of elements of this older piece.
Frances also loved doing needle work, mainly crochet work, but was not a quilter. I sometimes wonder if my work was somehow influenced by watching her endlessly clicking away with needles in her hands, even if I did take a slightly different path. She's the only person I've ever know who could crochet, perfectly, at top speed, all the while watching TV and carrying on a non-stop conversation with a room full of people. If nothing else, I'm almost certain I got the multi-tasking gene from her side of the family.
Some of her other favorite things are on the table. She loved red carnations, and fresh fruit, except for bananas. She daily played a game of dice, for which I have no name. It involved a set of dice, one of which had a skull and crossed bones on it. Finding a set of dice like that was no easy task when I decided to create this quilt. I have been able to reconstruct the scoring from memory. Some day I might find out the name of the game.
I also placed a copy of the ship manifest, showing her entry information, on the table. In addition, I included one of her traditional cookie recipes and another of her frequent anise seed cookie creations on the dessert plate. Lastly I hung a picture of my Grandfather, John, on the wall, the true love of her life. John, originally it was Johann, also immigrated from Slovenia as a young man, crawling across the border under the barbed wire fencing, escaping the start of WWI. As a poor peasant, he did not see the use in fighting for the Emperor of the the Austria-Hungarian empire. He never saw his parents again.
The tablecloth is the traditional Broken Dishes quilt pattern. I used that pattern as a subtle reminder of the sorrows and unfulfilled dreams that are part of every life. I also used quite a bit of photo transfer in this piece. The recipe, the dice, the ship's manifest, my Grandfather's picture and my Grandmother's reflection in the vase were all done using that method.
So, now for the funny story about bananas. When she was on the ship coming to this country, they served bananas in the dining room. She had never seen a banana before and didn't know what to do with it. She watched everyone around her to see what to do and saw that everyone was politely peeling and eating it with a knife and a fork. She worked her way through the process, which couldn't have been easy, cut her first slice and put it in her mouth. Oh dear! She didn't like it and had no choice but to chew it and swallow it as quickly as possible. She never did learn to like bananas but I think she would see the humor of me having snuck one into her fruit bowl.