Laura R. Gadson is a quilt and craft artist who lives, works and exhibits her work in her Harlem brownstone. She is a member of the Harlem Girls Quilt Circle, National Quilt Association, Harlem Arts Alliance and works in close association with Harlem Needle Arts. For more on this artist visit TheGadsonGallery.com
Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit Charleston SC for the opening of the "Mermaids and Merwomen in Black Folklore" exhibition featuring the work of quilt and doll artists from all over the country. The stay in the Marriott was fabulous and the company while on this excursion was lovely. We celebrated mermaids, each other and being in this port town with its rich culture of the Diaspora. At the festival of Yemaya we visited Sullivan's Island and were blessed by the water by a Nigerian Prince. As one attendee put it "we each left a piece of us there" since the Mosquitos were relentless in their celebration. The ritual at dusk was moving an picturesque as well as informative. Though it was short and modest I'm sure the ancestors and deities were pleased.
While in Charleston I had the grand pleasure to workshop with batik artist and cultural historian Arianne King Cromer. She is one of our nationally know artistic Divas who has studied the art of batik with the masters of Nigeria and is sought after for her knowledge of indigo history as it pertains to the Gullah and Geehie cultures of our coastal sea islands. Her 6 hour class was full of hands on insight into the world of batik fabric dying. I completed several projects and flew home to start yet another creative adventure.
Back in the 90's I was know as Tie Dye Laura who humbly started out with Rit Dye from the 99cents store and some cotton remnants. I would go to Nafissa Sheriff's West African Dance Class and sell my hand dyed and sewn lapas, head ties, T-shirts... then I could get some groceries to eat and maybe even pay a bill. I eventually graduated to hosting events featuring tie dyed fashions that many folks still have and wear. The labor to income ratio and some worn out plumbing lead me to give up dying and vowing never to return. I love hand dyed fabrics from every part of the world and am happy to buy them when budget allows. Well as you know never say never. This fall I will feature a few table linens, home furnishings and wall art with my batik. The love affair may be short (only time will tell) but it will definitely be sweet.