Keeping the Faith: Inspired by the Storied Quilts of Faith Ringgold

Keeping the Faith: Inspired by the Storied Quilts of Faith Ringgold

WEB2I recently led elementary school-aged students through a project inspired by the storied artist Faith Ringgold, progenitor of the art of the “Story Quilt

WEB9Students used pieces of “eco-fi” (made of recycled plastic bottles) felt, upon which they built their “story”, using pieces of cloth/fabric/textiles, ribbon, more felt, “pom poms“, feathers, fabric tape and so forth. All materials soft fabric or adornment materials.

WEB7Some young artists glued two to three pieces of felt together, some used a single sheet.

WEB1Students learned about gluing different sorts of materials together. How does one glue down feathers to a surface, while retaining their “feather-like” quality?

WEB3Students worked in close proximity at the cafeteria tables where our class is held, interacting and sharing about their pieces as they went along.

WEB4The color and texture of the materials seemed to affect the makers. The young girl above in the flowered dress put her piece to her cheek a number of times, enjoying its softness.

WEB6This young artist displayed incredible patience, cutting and gluing multitudes of repeating shapes onto the felt, bordering them with fabric tape, and even backing the piece with black felt.

WEB8All of the makers displayed relish and joy in the materials, and unbounded creativity. Whether working abstractly or figuratively, the students shared their stories with shapes, color, texture and imagery!

What a JOY!

Inspired by Faith and her Storied Quilts

Inspired by Faith and her Storied Quilts

Teaching a class for the C.R.E.S.T. Enrichment program of Santa Monica entitled, “Making Art Inspired By Great Artists” allows for many exciting possibilities.

The artist Faith Ringgold is a natural for children, as she has written and illustrated for them herself. She created a unique “hybrid” art form she calls the “Story Quilt”, which combines quilting and painting, with a focus on cloth.

WEBjStudents aged 5-9 worked with pre-cut pieces of Eco-fi “felt (made from recycled plastic bottles), and developed their scenes or stories by adding cloth,pom poms, ribbon, leather, textiles, feathers and fabric tape.

WEBiMany of the students chose to glue pieces of the felt together, to create larger works.

WEBdAlthough some look abstract, each holds a story that expresses aspects of the maker’s experience. The piece above holds an ice cream cone, and later pizza was added!

WEBbWhen I asked the talented young artist why she put a dollar sign on the piece above, she shrugged and said simply, “I don’t know.” Somewhere in there, is a story!

WEBaThis young artist kept putting her piece up to her cheek, enjoying its tactile softness.  She said it depicted a “state”.  Did she mean flag?

WEBfWEBgWEBe1It was fascinating to see how several students used pieces of the same textile or cloth.

WEBhThe piece above is actually backed in black felt, and the six-year-old artist framed it with a border , hallmarks of Ringgold’s “Story Quilts”. This first grader’s old’s patience in piecing together all of the felt rectangles, (which she also cut out), is stunning, as is the finished piece!

As all of the “Story Quilts” are.  Inspired, and inspiring!

Piecing Our Story

Piecing Our Story

FAITH_art2Faith Ringgold

Inspired by the “Story Quilts” of Faith Ringgold…I incorporated fabric collages into some classes and programs I  had the privilege of  teaching and leading.

WEB1The idea was to piece together elements of fabric…cloth…to express or depict aspects  of the maker’s life story. To “fabricate’ one’s story…to “cloth” one’s story in visual details…the definition can be rather loose.  Above, my sample expresses something of house and home…a broad theme that could encompass almost anything.

WEB1This fun and evocative piece created by a 17 year old makes beautiful use of aqua-blue wool…at least I think it is wool. As I get many of supplies at a place called “Trash for Teaching” , where companies’ left-overs or overstock is donated to be resold to teachers and others at very low cost,  I am not always sure of their origin. This artist did use paper for the face…extrapolating from a previous lesson on how to draw the face in proper proportion. She is also interested in becoming a make-up professional, so this piece may have played into that ambition and interest as well.

WEB2_2Totally different, but just as evocative is this piece that functions almost like a banner, celebrating the maker’s daughter. Balanced through the elements of color, shape and composition,  the use of the symbols of heart and arrow are  arranged to create the strong center of a radial design which continues and expands the motif of the arrow.  Arrow pointing to directly the heart? Seems like a rather clear story there.

WEB5These brilliantly colored feathers almost appear to emit light against the dark background.  Arranged in a repeating color pattern, the artist is careful to begin and end with pink,  containing the composition within that color horizontally, while flanking it vertically with luminous green, and thus employing the tension of opposites. Pink is a permutation of red, “light” red, (red plus white) which is the compliment, or opposite of green. The color story expresses the human story as a whole.

WEB3Two uses of the heart motif, one created through stitching, and another through the cutting and gluing of material define these two pieces.  Both hearts are tilted to the left, which gives them a dynamic feel of being on movement, and which in turn adds movement to the composition. Above  the deceptively simple composition of white and red on black belies the powerful associations of those colors. Below, warm hues of the  cool color of blue are offset by the soft pinkish-purple (which contains blue) in the center of the color scheme.  The piece is further enlivened by sharp dashes of back in the corners which radiate outwards, and black letters in the center set off by white, another system of opposites.

WEB4The use of the heart shape / symbol, as a central motif, the combination of different kinds of cloth/textile/fabric media, and employment of framing as a compositional device characterize the works above. Bows, pom poms, a scattering of smaller hearts and butterflies, and imaginative color choices are all at play, adding a layer of magic and whimsey to the feelings of hope and longing expressed in these pieces.

Web1AA Mom of two created this piece, which depicts her two children who also attended. Although she came in towards the end of the project, she was able to put together vibrant colors, and strong shapes which speak volumes about her commitment to her family, and tell at least a piece of her story. One strip of patterned ribbon is added which reflects the flowers, and ties the composition together by adding complexity and interest right in the center of the piece. This artist was very specific about which  ribbon she was going to use to achieve this, and with good reason, as the results are stunning.


Keeping the Faith: Storied Faith Ringgold

Keeping the Faith: Storied Faith Ringgold

 Faith Ringgold: American Artist Breaking Boundaries FAITH_4 Born Faith Willi Ann Jones on October 8, 1930, Harlem, New York City

Faith Ringgold is an African-American artist who has spent her career breaking out of boundaries and opening up the art world for African-American artists, especially women.  Ringgold has come to create art that reflects her heritage as an African-American woman. She is a strong and forceful voice of the African-American community and African-American women and one of the most important artists of her generation and all generations.

“I wanted my painting to express this moment I knew was history. I wanted to give my woman’s point of view to this period.”Faith Ringgold, We Flew Over the Bridge, 146


Raised in Harlem, New York, Ringgold earned a BA in art and education in 1955 and an MFA in 1959 at City College, New York. She then studied African art, read about the Black Arts Movement and got involved with the Civil Rights Movement in America. She has used her art to speak out against racism and sexism. To protest the exclusion of African-Americans and women from major museum shows, Ringgold and other black women artists formed a collective and organized an exhibit of their own with the title, “Where We At” (WWA).

FAITH_3She makes paintings and sculptures, but is most widely known for her powerful story quilts, which combine painting, quilted fabric, and storytelling. She made her first Story Quilt in 1979 collaboration with her mother, Willi Posey, a fashion designer, and since has used fabric in many of her artworks.

“Art was the one thing that I always loved to do. Yet, because I had never heard of a black artist, male or female, when I was a child, I did not think of art as a possible profession. In retrospect, I think I must have taken art for granted at this time — as something to do rather than be.”Faith Ringgold, We Flew Over the Bridge, 20

Can anyone find the artist Vincent Van Gogh on the Story Quilt below?

FAITH_art1The Sunflower Quilting Bee at Arles, 1991,Acrylic on canvas, tie-dyed, pieced fabric border, 74 x 80”

FAITH_art4Faith Ringgold shared about her own childhood in her work, about which she wrote several books for children, such as the Tar Beach series of the late 1980s.  Tar Beach refers to the tar rooftops of buildings in Harlem, New York, where Ringgold was raised. People who lived in the buildings went up on the roofs which substituted for a back yard.  On these hot and sticky surfaces, children imagined themselves at the beach, the kind with sand and waves.

FAITH_art2Tar Beach, 1988, Acrylic on canvas, tie-dyed, pieced fabric border, 74 x 69”

FAITH_art3Tar Beach 2, 1990, Silkscreen on silk, 66 x 66″

Ringgold’s work is in the permanent collection of many museums.She has exhibited in major museums in the USA, Europe, South America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. She is in the permanent collection of many museums including the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Museum of Modern Art, New York City. She has written and illustrated seventeen children’s books. She has received more than 75 awards, fellowships, citations and honors.


“Art allows individuals to have a voice. It’s a way of speaking and communicating. Everyone has a need to make a mark and make something visible. It’s an absolute necessity. Children start off making art. They come into the world as artists and continue to be artistic until about age 10. Then the art making stops because they realize they are revealing themselves – exposing themselves in a personal way. Art-making makes them unique. They may not want to be unique; they may want to be like everyone else. This is part of growing up and fitting into the world. Some of us continue to be artists, to hold onto art-making. Art is very, very important.” –Faith Ringgold

“If One Can Anyone Can
All you Gotta Do Is Try”

–Faith Ringgold song, “”Anyone Can Fly