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Fiber Artist, Teacher and Author


Searching for My Voice
by Martine Caillon-House


No, there is no spelling mistake*. I am really talking about my voice, the voice used to tell a story, to communicate a thought, to try to get out of the isolation that surrounds us all.

My voice is not made of sounds, but of visual elements. It took me many, not always harmonious, cries and noises to find the sound right for me. My voice uses fabrics, colors, textures. Like many others, I started with very traditional work.

'Spring is Almost Here' by Martine House
My first quilt was a sampler that I made following the directions of a book. I did not even buy fabrics to make it but used leftovers, cottons or not, that I had. After that first piece, the fiber and quilting "virus" had really gotten permanent hold on me. I started to take classes to learn as many different techniques as I could. Without the tools, nothing can be done.
'Forever' by Martine House
It has always been very difficult for me to follow the directions of a pattern. I have a hard time understanding them. So I started creating my own patterns and designs using the techniques I had learnt. I kept on using my favorite traditional techniques but in a format that became more and more personal. Slowly, my work did not fit anymore in any category. For some people, my pieces were traditional because of the techniques used. However, in a quilt show, they were quite "lost" and did not "fit" any more. It was a very difficult feeling to deal with, to have all these things to express but not be able to find the right environment to do so.

And then all of the sudden I turned forty! Many of the values that were part of my life were being questioned. I had thought, when I was younger, that by the time I was forty, I would be "somebody", that I would have found "my voice" (and also my path). But things were questioned every day. Is what I am doing worthwhile? Do my pieces have any artistic value? In what category do they fit in? For a while, I had to stop working with fabrics to find a "real" job in an office because the bills were piling up and "art does not pay". And then I understood… I was suffocating because I did not have time anymore to use fiber art to express myself. I lost my joy of living and I found myself reaching the bottom of depression…

'There is more to her than meets the eye and she is forty...' by Martine House
'Altar' by Martine House

Until the day, I don't even remember why, something clicked in my mind: I had received the gift of working with fabrics, of creating pieces that were uniquely mine and to share my enthusiasm with my students. I felt that I did not have the right to waste that gift. I also understood at that time that it is often useless to try to put everything under a label or a category. My work is me, my voice, the expression of my thoughts, my dreams, my worries. It does not matter where it fits. I create what I need to, what comes from my heart, I let my voice ring… It is not easy; at times, it is very discouraging and frustrating, but it is my voice and I do not have any other choice but to let it be heard.

While I found my voice, I may also have found my path: I went recently to the opening a one-woman exhibit of my work in a gallery in Atlanta.

*Translation note: there is a play on words that cannot be translated: "voix" means "voice" but "voie", which is pronouced the same, means "path".

This article was published for the first time in the French magazine "Les Nouvelles du Patchwork", No. 62, September 99 . For more information about the French Quilting Guild, click on "Links" and you'll find the French Quilting Guild's banner to their page.

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