NEA National Heritage Tribute Video: Marion Coleman
NEA National Heritage Tribute Video: Marion Coleman


I am Marion Coleman. I was born in Wichita Falls, Texas and I live
in Castro Valley, California. I am an NEA National Heritage Fellow. Quilting has allowed me to go places, meet
people, and do things that I could not have imagined as a 10 year old, or a 20 year old
for the matter. I come from a family of quilters but I never
really picked it up until I was an adult. My great aunt, who lived to be 106, took me
under her wing. She still, until her dying day, would talk
to me about quilting. The African-American tradition is certainly
an old one that has its genesis in practicality, recycling materials, making bed wear. And I certainly started that way. It’s always a thrill to think about the
ancestors and what they endured and it gives us the courage to think that we can endure,
too. I do a lot of stitching. I’m a machine quilter, although I do some
hand work. I often write words in quilts or symbols or
things that kind of help tell the story, cause there is a multiple layer. I’d like for them to see it. And I also like for people to be drawn into
it to see what else they can find. I just like for it to be a surprise, the obvious
and the mysterious at the same time. Because a lot my quilts have people in them,
there are a number of stages. Sometimes I will make a transparency. I will print an image on and then I use it
to project onto my wall so I can make it any size that I want to. And I make a pattern, very much like when
you’re making block pattern. And then I fill it in and I make it as I go. She is absolutely the most outstanding quilter. As one who has sewn all my life, quilting
has become my passion. Marion has enabled me to recognize that whatever
I quilt, I own it. It’s my imagination that goes into it. I’m always interested in presenting the
human side in these quilts. And it’s important to me to get out into
the community and spread it around. Marion Coleman’s significance to California’s
traditional arts has been singular. She’s been instrumental in taking quilts
and textile arts directly to neighborhoods to bring youth together, community groups
together. There is great power in being able to tell
your story as she so exemplifies through her narrative work. We’ve had the great pleasure of working
with Marion Coleman and being able to support her as a master artist. Her imagination coupled with her social consciousness
is what makes Marion extremely important to California and beyond. Thinking about it is the longest process. People often say, “how long does it take
you to make a quilt.” I say, once I get started on it, it may not
take that long. But it’s thinking about it, composing it,
and getting it together. That’s what takes the time so it’s actually
saying what I want it to say. Marion is a true gift to us. With our latest quilt show, “Neighborhod
Coming Together: Quilts Around Oakland,” she allowed us to share the gifts of African-American
quilters, in the past, and the present, and to inspire our young people to move the art
further into the future. Receiving the National Endowment for the Arts
Fellowship means an acknowledgment of the body of work that I’ve created through time,
my connection with other quilters, locally and across the nation, my connection with
community members young and old. And it’s the highest honor I could have
ever received. I am thrilled to be a Fellow.

1 thought on “NEA National Heritage Tribute Video: Marion Coleman”

  1. Naomi Dagen Bloom says:

    Beautiful, beautiful work. Marion Coleman's considerable fiber skills artful combining of personal history and a larger vision of African American lives. In this short video there's so much about making, learning, teaching her craft.

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