Thursday, April 16, 2015

Birth of a Banner

The Unitarian Society of Hartford is about to welcome and install two new ministers, Reverends Cathy and Heather Rion Starr, to inspire and lead our congregation.

 http://ushartford.com/

Are we excited?

I feel like I'm living out that old song, "For Me and My Gal"


Everybody's been knowin'
To a wedding they're goin'
And for weeks they've been sewing,
Every Susy and Sal.

I for one have been sewing for weeks if not months.  I'm part of a team that's been brainstorming and constructing a new banner to hang in our chancel to honor this occasion.


Last fall, Reverends Cathy and Heather started us off with some ideas:  Bright colors…rays of light into the sanctuary…something incorporating the energetic thrust of the building…many paths to a common purpose.

With those thoughts in mind, we brainstormed designs that met those criteria, and after much discussion and debate, we decided to take our inspiration from this image, a liturgical banner which one of us found online:

 Using a piece of graph paper, one of us re-imagined this image as a pattern.



That design was enlarged, courtesy of Staples, to a full-size pattern approximately 60 inches high by 40 wide. 

We designed the individual rays in collaboration with one another, and with an eye toward the Reverends' chosen colors.  Then each of us took responsibility for constructing one or more of the rays.  Reflecting the philosophical diversity of our congregation,  no two are alike.  

By January 2015, we were pinning and pondering, pondering and pinning:





Meanwhile, one of our team quietly began construction of a pair of liturgical stoles which we'll bestow on the Reverends during the installation.  In contemplation of this bestowal of stoles, I composed the following deathless rhyme:

Stole bestowal.
Bestowal of stoles.
What, oh what, oh what are our roles?



Anyway.

In March, we reserved space at Sew Inspired, a Simsbury, Connecticut quilt shop, and started getting those rays ready to be sewn onto the quilt top, aka the background:








Once they were sewn down, we were ready to layer front of the banner with batting and backing,  then quilt it.  We decided that, as a banner and not a bed quilt, this piece did not need batting for warmth.  We used batting nevertheless in the expectation that it would give the banner extra body and integrity.



 






The central image takes its inspiration from the dramatic ceiling of our chancel:

...and its rays are constructed of a fabric with a wood grain look.

 After the banner was quilted, we were ready to apply the binding.  This required a lot of hand sewing, and some of us enjoyed each others company with an informal sewing bee in the USH library on April 15:

Ann Laporte-Bryan and Maggie Greene


Kathie Ferguson and Maggie Greene


 

At the other end of the same library table, Tina Davies set up her sewing machine and got to work on the stoles:


 

As with the banner, the stoles have also enjoyed a little hand-sewing collaboration.  Do we artistes know how to have fun or WHAT?

 The banner is so new that as of this writing it hasn’t even sat for its official portrait yet.  But here are 3 preliminary, partial shots:


 

It reflects not only the energetic upward thrust of our building but also the philosophical diversity of our congregation and of the Unitarian-Universalist denomination as a whole: Coming from our individual stories, we unite in our intentions to honor the individual worth and dignity of every person, support one another in our spiritual quests, and respect the interdependent web of existence, of which we are all a part.

And the process of its design and construction demonstrated the power of community and collaboration.

That's all well and good, but meanwhile, what are we going to do with all these scraps?