“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

sonie joi ruffin


Sonié Joi Ruffin is an award winning fabric artist, born, raised and educated in the Midwest. She has led workshops and lectures on African American quilting at the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery, the Nerman Museum, Kansas City Museum, Flint Public Library, Kansas City Public Library, and a host of quilt guilds across the United States. Her art quilts have been exhibited at the Kansas Master’s, International Quilt Market, New England Quilt Museum, Leedy Voulkos Art Center and the American Jazz Museum.

Sonié’s art quilts can be found in the collections of galleries, museums, private and corporate collections such as Portfolio Gallery, the Spencer Museum, Sprint, the Hazley Insurance Corporation and Truman Medical Center. Her fabric collections “My African Village and Drums of Africa” have appeared in McCall’s, Better Homes and Gardens Quilting and Quilter’s Quarters magazines. She was the recipient of the Charlotte Street Visual Arts Award in 2010.




Sonie has designed two fabric collections for Andover fabrics, she is the author of “Soulful Art of African American Quilts and Opening Day” published by Kansas City Star quilt book division and is working on her next quilt book project “My Mother’s Club” with Rodney Thompson. Sonié is presently the Visiting Curator for the American Jazz Museum, located in the historical 18th and Vine jazz district.

Sonie wrote the following about her doll. All I have to say is "wow".

“Miss Ruth

I grew up during a time when aprons where an integral part of a woman’s wardrobe. All the women I knew wore these wonderful decorative items; some were trimmed in lace, rick rack, ruffles and piping. The fabric used to create these magical masterpieces ranged from the basic unbleached muslin, floral print, dupioni silk, to a sheer organdy. Then there were the aprons that were saved for Saturdays and Sundays, which were just as fabulous as the ones worn during the weekdays.

Aprons were used for everything from holding fresh picked green beans, pulling hot baked peach cobblers from the oven, to having the jingle of some change in the pocket that was given to children to purchase penny candy!

For those of you that remember the first sewing project in Home-Ec it was an apron, remember? I will never forget my apron project. I was 12 years young. It was red and white gingham with gathered lace around the pocket, a black and white polka dot waist band with yellow rick rack attached on the front of the waistband and a large floral pocket with bright green rick rack trim on the front, yes I guess you can say, it was a little loud! I gave it to my mom as a Mother’s Day gift; she wore it with pride that day, and tucked it away to wear every Mother’s day there after. I still have it and pull it out from time to time when I miss her; it reminds me of how blessed I was to have her in my life.

Oh, it is worn now, tattered and soiled with the odors of life from my mother’s kitchen, mixed with the fragrance of her perfume; the memories are far too many to talk about. As I looked it over, I noticed that mom had sewn pieces of fabric covering a few holes of wear and usage through the years, trying to save this tattered masterpiece. She turned it into a form all its own; it became the inspiration for my doll 'Miss Ruth' and her apron.

Now when I look back, on the days of aprons and pinafores, the women that wore them and the memories they have ensued, the women who wore those aprons become a form of love, comfort, strength and protection for me. They set their sights high and reached their goals; they expected the same if not more out of the children they help raise; they are the reason why dreams have come true for many children from my village.

It is my prayer that the apron of love that 'Miss Ruth' is wearing protects the children of St. Mary Kevin in Kajjansi, Uganda, for you see they are no different than any other children in the world.

When I chose the doll that Gloria brought back from the orphanage, it dawned on me that I was touching the hands of the child that created my doll; our souls touched for a minute, and it humbled me. I am grateful for these children and what they have taught me.

These children used what they had to create these dolls for us to adorn, as did the women that wore those fabulous aprons that raised us, they used what they had and together they were a mighty force in the lives of the children they touched.

To work in concert with one so young is an honor, thank you very much; it is my hope that they are pleased with the design and that the apron of love protects, comforts and guides them with the strength to make their dreams come true."

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