Sunny Sue potters around in Honduras!

Greetings, everyone!  Sunbonnet Sue hails from Honduras this time around, embodying one of Honduras’ native peoples, a Lenca woman holding a hand sculpted Lenca pottery rooster.  She’s wearing what amounts to as the current Lenca style, a dress with a pleated skirt and minor decoration at the cuff and collar.  A headscarf protects her head from the heat and keeps her hair out of the way.  The Lencas are part of the Mesoamerican peoples that lived in Honduras at the time of the Spanish conquest.   Along with the Chortis and Chorotegas, the Lencas developed a sophisticated pottery, which included basic bowls and plates for daily use as well as intricate ceremonial objects.   The Lencas wove everything from their daily life, including from their astrological observations and their own artistic viewpoints, into these clay items.

The Lenca Indians live in the high mountains in western Honduras, with about 100,000 Lenca remaining today.   As an ethnic group, the Lencas are among the poorest and least educated peoples in Honduras, and while they maintain many of their traditions, the Lenca language has mostly been lost.  Of note, during the Spanish conquest, the Lencas maintained a 12-year defense against the Spaniards, their war ending only after the death of Lempira, their leader.   Lempira is now widely regarded as a national hero and the Honduran currency is named after him.

Modern Lenca communities are built around the milpa, which essentially means “the field”, but can also mean the greater agricultural system of planting.   Lenca men plant a wide variety of crops, including coffee, cacao, tobacco, plantains, maize, wheat, beans, squash, sugarcane, and chili peppers.   These crops are planted at mostly subsistence levels, although some of their produce does make its way to the markets eventually.

Lenca pottery is easily distinguished from other pottery in the region.  In the mid-1980s, the formation of women’s pottery cooperatives, mostly by non-governmental organizations, helped transform Lenca pottery into a more profitable version.   The cooperatives initially helped create pottery with a modern touch, and help expand the market for this pottery.   Much of what you will find on the market today no longer shows the traditional markings, but rather those that will appeal to a broader, even international, market.   Below a picture of the Lenca pottery rooster that inspired my Sunbonnet Sue’s rooster.   It’s quite lovely.  It should be noted that Lencas do not use a pottery wheel, but rather form their pottery shapes entirely by hand.

ACTA de Honduras (see Blogroll) is one of the better known of the NGO’s now assisting Lenca women in design, development, and marketing of their pottery.  Anthropologist Alessandra Foletti Castegnaro has made helping Lenca women her life’s work, and she has helped nearly 3000 Lencas in 14 Lenca communities to become more self-sufficient and augment their incomes from agriculture.

So I hope I’ve inspired you to quilt, to embroider, to applique, to extend a helping hand, whether it’s to a friend or neighbor, or to a whole group of people, or to share your knowledge in some way that helps someone else.   I leave you with this beautiful flower from my backyard — I hope you enjoy it too.


Sunbonnet Sue plays ball in America!

Hello, everyone!  First of all, I want to say thank you to everyone who stayed with me, checking back on the blog regularly.   Secondly, I’m thrilled to be back on the blog again.  I’ve missed it!  Third, I want to explain where I’ve been.   So, my computer went on the fritz. But before I could fix that problem, I lost a bag during a trip with my family.  A very important bag, it turned out.  It was the bag containing my International Sunbonnet Sue book, filled with my notes, a sketchbook containing several of my well-researched and carefully drawn Sunbonnet Sues, and several applique squares being embroidered, plus needles, embroidery floss, etc, etc.   I also lost all of my connector/chargers — for my Blackberry, for my Kindle, for my iPod, for my camera, you name it — it was in the bag.  Not to mention a bunch of other stuff.   And I’ll tell you honestly — I was devastated.  Nothing in the bag, on its own, had much value, but the time I spent on the appliques and sketches — well, it still makes me sad that I lost it.     So, in any case, it took a bit of time to pull myself back together and gather replacements.

That’s where today’s American Sunbonnet Sue comes in.   While I was waiting for my new International Sunbonnet Sue book, I decided I had to keep going.  One day, I was holding a little piece of worn denim, and that’s where the idea of this tomboyish Sunny Sue came to mind.   In the International Sunbonnet Sue, the American Sunny Sue was depicted wearing colonial-style clothing.   Nothing wrong with that, and I’m sure many of you will like that depiction better.  But I wanted to represent her differently, and so I came up with Sunny Sue wearing a baseball mitt and holding a baseball as the perfect depiction of American culture.   I thought about having her hold an apple pie, but I couldn’t figure out to represent the apple in the pie, so I gave up that idea.

Baseball has been around North America, probably since the first English settlers set foot on the Eastern shore.    In the mid-1800’s, baseball rules began to be codified, and men’s clubs began to form teams.   Eventually, baseball evolved into the billion dollar business that it is today — on all fronts, from national baseball teams to PeeWee teams in your communities.   I grew up in a large family, and we often played softball at get-togethers with neighbor kids.  Those were some killer games.   When I was older, I joined a women’s softball league.   I was a fair hitter, but a slow runner.  I could pitch pretty well, but couldn’t catch it if it fell on top of me.  I guess that’s why I spent a lot of time in right field.  Oh well, we’re not all meant to be athletes, right?

The other American icon that I included is a little more subtle — that is, the blue jeans.   Blue jeans have been around since Levi Strauss began manufacturing and selling them in the 1870’s.   They were originally meant to be durable clothing for cowboys, miners, and farm workers.  But in the 1950’s, blue jeans became sexy and symbolic of youthful rebellion.   And well, they still mean the same thing, to a degree.  For sure, blue jeans worn with the right kind of insouciance are terribly sexy.   And to a degree, they also still symbolize rebellion — whether they are worn with big bell bottoms dragging in the dust (from my day) or halfway down someone’s butt with their boxers showing.  I hardly ever wear jeans these days, but I do recall all the different kinds that I’ve had — from bell bottom to straight legged, pleated, plain, or yoked fronts, worn out to black to dark blue to white to all shades inbetween, with embellishment or plain, button fly or zipper fly, low rise, high rise, mid-rise, no wash, stone-wash, or sanded down, I could probably go on and on.  Do any of you remember “hash” jeans?   They were a big style in the Upper Midwest in the late 70’s/early 80’s.   I recall having friends of mine purchase cheap used and new jeans to take to the Soviet Union (in the day) and sell them there for $150-$200 a pair.   Jeans are worn everywhere today, but they still scream American icon to me.

I hope I’ve inspired you to embroider, to quilt, to applique, to pick yourself up and figure something out when you hit a roadblock or get knocked off your chosen path, to play a game of ball with your family and friends, and to put on those jeans and think about what they represent to you.   I’m leaving you with a lovely photo of a plant in my living room…by the way, next time, it’s another original Sunbonnet Sue from me….

Sunbonnet Sue follows her star to Israel

Sunbonnet Sue is looking a bit ecclesiastical for my taste today, but still the colors are bright and cheerful.   In Judaism, blue symbolizes divinity, because blue is the color of the endless sky and endless sea.    Many Jewish garments will have touches of blue, as is commanded in the Torah.    Blue is also considered the color of God’s glory, and when special items, such as the Menorah, the Ark of the Covenant, and others, are transported from place to place, they are covered in blue cloth.   So today’s Sunny Sue is clearly divine, by any set of standards!

While I could wax poetic about the wonderful sights and landmarks to see in Jerusalem, you can find all of that information elsewhere.   As you may have already picked up on if you’ve been watching this blog, I like to shop.  And if you’re in Jerusalem, I suggest you visit the large souk in the center of the city.  It is filled to the rafters with some truly great art and stores and cafes and restaurants and is definitely a must-visit part of the city. 

If you’re interested in learning about the state of quilting in Israel, I suggest you check out these blogs — Milk and Honey Quilts (see blogroll), Noga Quilts (see blogroll), and Scrap Happy (see blogroll).   One of the more famous Israeli quilters is Shulamit Ron (see blogroll for her website) and there is also a 350-member strong Israeli Quilting Association (see http://www.israel-quilts.com, but you’ll need to brush up your Hebrew!).   While the excellent quality fabrics we are so fond of are available in Israel, they are expensive, but with a little imagination, Israeli quilters are making high quality quilts from readily available regional textiles.    There are a few places to shop for fabric in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, but most of them don’t carry much in the way of cottons.  And if there are cottons, they are usually solid colors or some kind of awful baby print — at least that’s my experience.

I hope that I’ve inspired you to applique, to quilt, to embroider, to visit the wonderful city of Jerusalem and to find some divinity within yourself.  I’m leaving you with a beautiful blue hydrangea from my front yard — the head is about as big as a large dinner plate!