March 16, 2004 - Quilters Newsletter: RPCV Hollis Chatelain became fiber artist in Togo

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Togo: Peace Corps Togo : The Peace Corps in Togo: March 16, 2004 - Quilters Newsletter: RPCV Hollis Chatelain became fiber artist in Togo

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RPCV Hollis Chatelain became fiber artist in Togo

RPCV Hollis Chatelain became fiber artist in Togo

Hollis Chatelain

After graduating from Drexel University in Philadelphia with a degree in design, Hollis Chatelain went to Togo, West Africa, with the Peace Corps. She met her Swiss husband in the village where she was assigned as an agricultural volunteer. They were married in the traditional African way and lived a simple village life with no electricity or running water. Their first child was delivered by midwives in the glow of a kerosene lamp. The richness of these experiences has found its way into the art of her quilts.

A New Day

Since 1980, Hollis has lived most of her life overseas. In Africa, she worked on her quilts in a 9-foot by 9-foot studio with only an overhead fan to combat the 100-plus degree temperatures which existed for much of the year. During that time she taught drawing and color to villagers. She purchased the fabric for her quilts from two local factories. In Benin, she began purchasing locally produced white cotton cloth that she dyed and painted with fiber-reactive dyes and pigments, expanding the range of her creativity. She continues to paint and dye fabrics to achieve her unique style.

"My first quilts looked a mess. I didn't know anything about sewing, and I tried to do things like cut fabric in an 'L' shape and fit a square into it. Now my quilts are very organic and reflect nature. I attempt to create a mood or atmosphere. Much of my work is an interpretation of the world that was around me; a boabab tree, the colors of a market, the natural elegance and grace of the people."

Rolling Toys

In 1996, Hollis returned to the United States. Six months after moving back, her longing for Africa was so great that she started to paint African images to bring back memories of the life she loved so much. "My dreams provide me with an infinite supply of inspiration. When I am at peace, I dream images and color flows. When my life is chaotic, I dream people and events," explains Hollis. This has helped her deal with no longer being on the African continent, and it is her way of saying goodbye to a people she truly admires.

As an example, Tabaski Ram was designed from a photograph Hollis took in Bamako, Mali, on the eve of the Tabaski festival, a Muslim celebration of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son. Rams are hand-raised and then sold and sacrificed the morning of the festival after prayers. The people who raise the rams are extremely proud of them and attached to them as pets. Giving them up is also a big sacrifice for the seller, and makes the festival even more meaningful.

Tabaski Ram

The last two years Hollis lived in Africa she was in Benin, a country on the Gold Coast. She could see the ocean from her studio window. As a result, more of her work included ocean and underwater themes. Cabbage Coral is the last quilt she made before leaving Africa and it is made with her hand-dyed fabrics.

Hollis has had quilts exhibited in many national and international shows. Her work can be found in private collections around the world. She plans to continue making quilts with African imagery to share the joy, harmony, and pride of these people "...instead of the suffering and turmoil we so commonly hear about in the news."

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Story Source: Quilters Newsletter

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Togo; Quilts; Art



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