Saturday, March 10, 2012

Sprouts of Hope's Quilt Project

Making Sustainability Visual

By Maya

What better way to spread a message than by quilt? In early March, the Sprouts of Hope had the pleasure of visiting the wonderful studio of quilt maker, Clara Wainwright. It’s in Allston, which is just across the river from where we live in Cambridge, and it’s a place we are going to return to many times as Clara helps us make a quilt about sustainability.

After standing in awe of her endless yards of beautiful cloth, we sat down to discuss our ideas. Our plan is to lend this quilt to people and places that are engaged in projects, conversations or activities about environmental sustainability so they can convey a visual message as they act in sustainable ways to help the Earth.

Initially we had drawn a basic outline for the quilt and devised a list of local people to go to for inspiration and ideas —such as our Cambridge Mayor Henrietta Davis. She has chaired the city’s environment committee and has been a great friend to the Sprouts.

Here's a picture of Henrietta when she came to the launch of our book, Energy Lite, and its companion Kill A Meter at the Cambridge Public Library. Thanks, Henrietta!

We want to talk again with Kristen van Hoffmann, who is the Cambridge Public School’s Sustainability Manager. It's been great to see all she is doing to make our schools more energy efficient and help all of the students to learn keeping our planet sustainable. And we hope to get ideas from other Roots & Shoots members in New England.

When Clara got us talking about ways to think about and design our quilt, we realized the many possibilities we have for displaying sustainability. We can use portraits of people who are doing things to support sustainability, and symbols, words, color, and composition. We can go local. Or we can go global. Or we can do both. As we talked with Clara, we asked ourselves, “What is sustainability?” One reoccurring idea was that it is the notion of preserving resources through multiple generations as we pass on and share knowledge.

To ignite our imaginations, Clara had us make mandalas. These are concentric visual diagrams (like this one) that have spiritual and ritual significance in Buddhism and Hinduism. Mandalas start out with a simple circle inside a square. To make ours, Clara had us cut various shapes out of colorful pieces of cloth and set them down on the mandala in a symmetrical design. For us, the mandala would become our personal interpretation what it means to sustain the Earth.

We made two mandalas —separated by a conversations we had about our project. We made the first one before we talked about sustainability, then the other one after we did. It was interesting to see how our discussions influenced each of our designs.

Our first mandala seemed more general.

Our second one honed in on more specific ideas.

Making these mandalas showed us how challenging it will be to choose which images will best convey the messages we want our quilt to convey. At our next meeting the plan is to start our quilt by making self-portraits to sew into its border. We plan on talking with the people we had on our list — and likely adding more people to our list. This way, we’ll be able to create more portraits for the border. And we are working to come up with four environmental leaders whose portraits we are likely to put in the quilt’s four corners.

If you have ideas for who those people should be, please let us know.

It will definitely be interesting to see how this collaboration comes together as a quilt.

Cradles to Crayons: Volunteering to Help Other Kids

By Eliza

Just before Risa and I joined the other Sprouts at Clara Wainwright’s studio, we volunteered at Cradles to Crayons in nearby Brighton. It is an organization that provides homeless kids and those from low-income families in Boston with all kinds of things, including clothes, toys, books, and school supplies. These are things kids need, and receiving a package from Cradles to Crayons is one of those happy moments in a kid’s life.

While we were there, we helped sort donated items that would then be packaged and shipped to kids. We were in charge of sorting through clothing for little kids and making sure that all of the donations were of good quality.

We had a blast and it is definitely something that we would like to do again! Find out more at

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