Algoma woman’s quilt of masked faces is a call for unity during pandemic
ALGOMA – Margaret Naysmith just wanted to stay busy once winter arrived and she couldn't tend to her outdoor garden any more.
That turned into what she hopes is an artistic message of inspiration and pulling together that's now on display at the Algoma Public Library.
The Algoma resident made a quilt with 34 of its 35 blocks depicting the faces of people wearing masks across their noses and mouths, surrounding a central block that says "2020" with an "I Voted" button attached. The quilt will remain on view at the library for an undetermined period of time.
Displayed with the quilt is a sign Naysmith made, sort of an artist's statement like one would see next to artwork in a gallery, that says: "The year we'll remember the world wore masks and We Voted!"
"The quilt is showing all of mankind," Naysmith said in an interview with the Star-News. "I believe if we had this idea of the oneness of mankind, we wouldn't have the problems we do … It draws out the fact that we need to cope with things better, deal with things better."
The 34 button-eyed faces on the quilt are people Naysmith knows, people she met in passing and people who inspired her. Among them are representations of a Black man she came across in the parking lot of a local restaurant, an Indian woman who is a friend of hers and an Inuit man she met while visiting her son in Alaska.
Naysmith started making the quilt last fall. She dropped it off at the library about a month ago, telling their staff its message is to foster unity during a time made difficult by the COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting isolation and the political atmosphere.
But for her, making the quilt also helped her get through the "winter blahs."
"The message for me is, it kept me busy and out of a depression by keeping my hands busy," Naysmith said with a chuckle. "I'd be thinking of that instead of watching the news and freaking out."
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Naysmith said she's a creative sort who makes many of her own clothes, including knit sweaters, and uses the leftover fiber materials to make quilts and catnip bags. She's a self-taught artist, and the she believes the idea of learning on one's own is a trait she got from her father, who was thrown into a Scottish factory at age 14 because of a manpower shortage during World War I and had to learn how to do the necessary work.
She's not a member of any quilting guild or club, nor does she quilt regularly — just when she has the materials and inspiration. Another of her quilts was displayed by the library about 10 years ago, featuring cat faces inspired by a book.
Naysmith said she doesn't know when she'll make another quilt, especially now that she's contemplating the coming warmer weather and a new gardening season. But she thinks this quilt can serve as a reminder of what the world has been through for the past year and what the world can be when people work toward a common goal.
"I think that's how we're going to remember the year — the year the whole world wore masks and we voted," Naysmith said.
Margaret Naysmith's quilt is on display for an undetermined period at the Algoma Public Library, 406 Fremont St. The library is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays. For more information, call 920-487-2295 or visit algomapublicibrary.org.
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or [email protected]
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Algoma woman's quilt of masked faces is a call for unity during pandemic