Crazy Quilt by Dr. Colleen Fogarty

Crazy Quilt detail
Entitled “Fruits,” we’re pleased to be able to display Dr. Colleen Fogarty’s crazy quilt through April 18, 2011.

In her own words:

“Throughout childhood I spent many enjoyable hours creating clothing and decorative objects by machine sewing and hand embroidering. Though during college and medical school, I did much less handwork than I had prior, I still thrived on the occasional creative project. When I was a medical student, I sewed a gown for a formal dance, and nearly failed the gastrointestinal course as a result! That effectively ended my creative handiwork for the remaining years of medical school and residency.

“In 1995, while I was chief resident, I took a crazy quilt course at the Rochester Museum and Science Center and became hooked. I found that the form combined my love of fabrics and hand embroidery with an enormous freedom of expression. Engaging in this creative outlet felt like being re-born after the grueling years of medical training, and played a major part of re-claiming my self as I began my career in Family Medicine.

“During the course, we were assigned to complete one square and make a pillow. One would never do for me. I finally stopped piecing after nine blocks! During the intervening 14+ years, I have worked intermittently on the project, gotten married, had three babies, and moved several times.

“The fabrics in the quilt represent scraps from previous sewing projects (both mine and ‘begged’ from others) as well as pieces from the upholstery remnant bin at Fabrics and Findings. I found interesting buttons in jars kept by my paternal grandmother, my husband’s maternal grandmother, and estate sales; a few I purchased new at Britex Fabrics in San Francisco when I visited to be elected a Fellow in the American Academy of Family Physicians. Most of the design motifs came from my own ideas as I pieced the fabrics; the green dancer with the castanets I copied from a vintage lamp at the Writer’s and Books Gell House Retreat in Bristol.

“In 2010, a year after diagnosis with breast cancer, I decided to pull out my quilt and finally finish it. My journal reflects:

‘My crazy quilt blocks wait quietly for me to open their box and encounter their beauty again. How rewarding to embroider the water from the fire hose, to put out the house fire that has blazed for 13 years without consuming the house. The button-faced fire fighters will finally see the end of their duties. Bordering the pieces with old black velvet, joining the nine glorious panels into one large piece. Adding a button here, a bead there, just a bit more trim, a bit of rick-rack.’

“With crazy quilting, there’s really no definition of ‘done’; more embellishment is always possible. Someone had given me a pink ribbon charm when I was being treated for the breast cancer. I’ve never been much of a ‘ribbon wearer’; if I were to include all the ribbons for the illness I encounter as a family physician, there’d be no room for my nametag! I knew, however, that including the pink ribbon in the crazy quilt would be an important conclusion to the story of this piece of fabric art.

“Although sad to be finished with the process of constructing the quilt over fifteen years, I am pleased to share both the quilt and its story with others.”

Dr. Fogarty is Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine, University of Rochester Medical Center.

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