“April showers bring May flowers”, or at least that’s what they say. It’s looking a little overcast here in my my town today, so I set off in search of a rainy-day quilt to share with you for this week’s Q.S.O.S. Spotlight. I didn’t make it far into my search when I found this quilt, by Ellie Taesali. Even though it’s seems like a pretty sunny day in the scene the quilt depicts, I was fascinated by the story behind her quilt and how it tied into her family’s heritage:
“The quilt I made is called the “Rain Maker.” That is a mountain in Samoa where my dad was born. The quilt came to be because I joined the quilters group here in Boonville. I showed up to a class and I had never quilted before. I was asking Molly, the teacher, what I should do and she said, ‘There are no rules,’ just go and pick out the fabric, let the fabric speak to you, but the most important thing is to tell your story. So, I thought that wasn’t very much for me to go on, but I went and looked at the fabric and I saw some really gorgeous fabric, there was some shiny fabric and there was some soft, and I really always have loved fabric anyway, so I selected some colors and textures that spoke to me, but I had no clue what I was going to do. As I sat down at the table with all of these little pieces of fabric, all these beautiful colors and lush feelings, I started seeing a tropical sunset.
So I started laying the fabric out and it came to me that my Dad’s story about how he got to America would be interesting. People might like hearing about that. Well an interesting thing happened as I put the sunset colors together, I thought about the mountain, the Rainmaker, which is what he saw every morning as a boy when he woke up in his village. The Rainmaker is the biggest thing on that small island. I started thinking about all the things that he had told me about his life in Samoa and how different it was when he “came over” to America.
He was seventeen at the time he stowed away and the war was already well underway. The South Pacific was crawling with sailors and their families. My Dad saw things at home that he had never seen before. They brought so many new and different things and they wore very different clothes. My whole family was really intrigued with the Americans. They got an American magazine; it was a Good Housekeeping or the New Yorker or something like that. My Dad and his brothers and sisters would go through the book over and over again.
My Dad just couldn’t figure out what a skyscraper was. That really intrigued him and it got the best of him. He just had to know what a skyscraper was, because in his imagination, he couldn’t even think of what could scrape the sky. So he and eight other boys stowed away on a cargo ship that was docked in Pango Pango Bay. He was the youngest boy of the family and once he got here, other members of the family started coming over. I am a first generation immigrant.
Later on my sisters and my cousins and I would sit around and talk about how we kind of lost our Samoan culture, because our family that came over was searching for the American dream, and when they got here they didn’t want to be Samoan, they wanted to be American and they wanted to drive big cars and have a house and all those things that they thought America should be, so we didn’t even learn how to speak the language.
But luckily, our culture is so ingrained in a people that a lot of it did live through, like the way he lived, how he ate, and those kinds of things to this day. So these were all thoughts that were going through my mind as I worked on the quilt, and how different it is now. Now we are trying to go back and rekindle our heritage, and ah, it was really nice to make a quilt directed toward that.”
You can read more quilt stories on the Quilters’ S.O.S.- Save Our Stories page on the Quilt Alliance website.
Posted by Emma Parker
Project Manager, Quilters’ S.O.S.- Save Our Stories