"The Mad Port Caper." detail view

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Mad Port Caper detail. ©Susan Shie 2009.

"The Mad Port Caper.”  2003 - 2009.  38 "h x 28 "w     #369  
Begun 3-29-03, fiinished 3-27-09. Full view

Materials:    Whole cloth painting on white Kona cotton, fabric paint.  Perle cotton embroidery thread. Glass beads. Cotton batting. One green temple Buddha Boy bead.
Techniques:  Freehand drawing and small journal writing made with airpen and fabric paint.  Colored with hand brush painting and fabric paint. All hand stitched and quilted at the same time. Hand beaded.

"The Mad Port Caper” is the story of four generations of amazing and strong women in my friend Ricki Moffat's family, mostly told through her stories given to me.  The actual Mad Port Caper happened in May, 2003, when I had finished teaching a class in Montreal, where Ricki grew up, and where her mother Hilda still lived in the home Ricki grew up in.  But Hilda was getting Alzheimer's, and I was coming to meet Ricki there, to help her decide how her mom's illness was affecting her independent living.  She already had caregivers coming in daily, but it was clear that Hilda needed more help fast.

The night that became the Mad Port Caper, Hilda and Ricki broke out a 1977 bottle of port wine, that had to be decanted with cheesecloth and a flashlight, in order to strain out the sludge. Hilda then got out wine glasses, and the three of us had a little party.  Ricki wore a fancy, real silver hat that must have come from a belly dancer’s costume!  That night was magical, with all the fun we three had, and I took lots of pictures of the happy mother and daughter.

Ricki asked me to make a commission for her, and I suggested this event as the anchor, and she decided to add her grandmother and her own two daughters to the piece. In this picture, Ricki’s wearing a fancy silver dancing hat, pouring the port through the cheesecloth, while Hilda, her mother, holds the flashlight. The hats floating above them are from their favorite hat shop in Montreal, Haya Kovah, which they took me to, during my Montreal visit. What a wild place! They LOVE those fancy hats!  And the two astrology charts are theirs, that I made for them.  And Ricki told me to put her girls into those fancy ball gowns, coz they'd like that.  Ricki’s maternal grandmother floats over the whole scene, sending down blessings to her daughter, granddaughter, and great granddaughters.

In 2003 we agreed on the plan that would have her pay slowly over five years, and I would make the piece during that same length of time.  Ricki emailed me stories of each of the women, and I diligently copied them into the painting I was working on.  Around the time when I finished the hand sewing on Mad Port, which I'd been doing so obsessively on all my work, I developed numbness in my fingertips and had to stop doing so much hand sewing and beading. In order to bead this piece, I had to do just a little at a time, and finally finished it in March, 2009, actually making the project six years in length.

--Susan Shie 4-5-09, in Wooster

Turtle Moon Studios: Outsider Art Quilts and Paintings
Susan Shie
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