Mel Beach created her "Peace of Mind" quilt last November, directly in response to the election of Donald Trump as U.S. President. The San Jose-based artist says the piece was specifically inspired by "the growing tensions, hostility and violence directed towards immigrants, LGBTQA people, women, minorities, and individuals with disabilities."
Beach says she wanted to come up with something that would provide a sense of hope for people. "Most Americans are compassionate, peaceful and respectful of diversity," she says. And as Beach sifted through her fabric scraps, she fixed on one of the most iconic symbols of hope: the "peace" sign.
What began with a simple, taped outline evolved into a large, rainbow-colored emblem, surrounded by floating triangles that symbolize a fractured nation.
The confetti print background is intentionally bright and cheerful. Beach filled the outline with five-inch charms she crowd-sourced from 60-plus quilters living around the country.
"In my darker stages, I had considered incorporating fear, hate and harm," Beach writes in a blog post detailing her process. "But as I found peace, I chose to focus on the positive messages which I would free motion stitch into the background."
Those messages came from more than 25 of Beach's Facebook friends and family members, and included words like "advocate," "community," "integrity," and "listen," among others. Beach also stitched in 30 translations of the word "peace," such as "amani" (Swahili), "fred" (Danish, Norwegian, Swedish), "heping" (Chinese) and "paix" (French).
Beach is hardly alone marrying her love for quilting with her concern for the larger community. She's one of numerous quilters who are submitting pieces for consideration in an upcoming exhibition titled Threads of Resistance, scheduled to open in July at the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, Mass.
"I felt so incredibly happy and at peace as I worked on this quilt," Beach says. "I hope you, too, will celebrate its joy and peace. "
Funding for KQED Arts is provided by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
Support is also provided by Yogen and Peggy Dalal, Diane B. Wilsey, the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Helen Sarah Steyer, the William and Gretchen Kimball Fund, and the members of KQED