LuAnn Kessi’s INTRO:
I was reading the Gazette Times, an Oregon newspaper that also has a version of it online, when I came across an article about LuAnn Kessi. LuAnn leads quilting classes called “Permission to Play.” I love what she’s doing and wanted to talk with her and inspire us to share our gifts and give us the mojo to be our best creative selves through giving our talent to others. Welcome to Creative Mojo, LuAnn Kessi!
Thank you for your interest in P2P and for inviting me on your show.
LuAnn, you teach quilting, but that’s only one part of the story. You’ve decided to share your talents with a specific group of people. Can you tell me about them?
Our students are cancer diagnosed patients who are in the midst of chemo and radiation treatments, and some students are 20 year cancer survivors. The only requirement to attend class is to be a cancer diagnosed patient. There is no requirement to have any kind of quilting experience. All we ask our students to bring to class is an open mind and willingness to try something new.
Two years ago you started a group called, Living Well with Cancer and Healing Through Quilting. What prompted you to start a group like that? Are you a cancer survivor yourself?
No, I am not a cancer survivor, but like most people I have been touched by cancer.
Three of my sweet aunts are cancer survivors. Our family watched them go through chemo and radiation treatment to battle this devastating disease. Today they are all alive and well. I am so grateful to still have these women in my life. I just needed to find a way to give back to my community.
As quilters we know what quilting means in our own lives....we are surrounded by beautiful fabrics, creating quilted textiles, how soothing it is to sit and piece at our sewing machines....kind of a Quilters Therapy. I was hoping this Quilters therapy could be shared with the cancer patients in some way.
How do you begin to share your talents with those who need it? First, you have the idea, then what?
My first 20 years of quilting I was a Tradition Quilters. In the last 5 years I have become interested in Art Quilts. I spent time creating small journal size quilts that I could test out new art quilt techniques on. They are 9 x 12 inches, a very do-able size and they fit underneath the throat space of the sewing machine easily for quilting. They are quick to create, and they make you feel wonderful to have that instant gratification, to have that feeling of completion. (Many of my traditional quilts take months and even years to complete).
These small journal quilts could be created by the cancer patients in a 3 hour class. Several of my fellow instructors were also creating journal quilts, so we had a wide variety of techniques already developed into sample quilts that we could bring to class to share with the students to inspire them to create one themselves.
A large obstacle would be finding a regular space – how did that happen?
Our local quilt shop, JanniLou Creations in Philomath, Oregon, has always been a strong advocate for supporting women's cancer programs in our community. I spoke to them about this journal quilt class idea and they immediately said, “Please have your classes here, use our classroom space for FREE!”
So we now had the perfect location for our classes.
Are there other teachers beside you who run classes?
I spoke with a few fellow quilting instructors and they also immediately replied that they would offer their time and talents FREE to lead the classes.
There are 4 P2P Instructors from all walks of life:
Nancy Bryant is retired from a 30 career at OSU textile dept.
Virginia Gregory is a retired mathematics instructor and was also involved in the Journal Quilt Project in Paducah, KY.
Kathi Borrego is a welder and shares her love of combining fabrics and metal to create quilts.
I live on the family farm, we raise commercial beef cattle and I create quilts inspired by the beauty all around me.
How do cancer survivors find out about your classes?
Cancer Support Group Meetings
Word of Mouth
Are these “paid” classes? i.e. the classes are free but the fabric; machines, etc. are not donated . . . ?
MRQG donated Fabrics
HVQ donated the use of sewing machines
Instructors donate their time, talents and art supplies.
2010 Grant Funding from OSU Folk Art Thrift Shop
Superior Threads donated Texture Magic
Patsy Thompson Designs donated Threads
Your students started calling your classes “Permission to Play” and the name stuck. How did that come about?
We all mark the 4th thursday of each month on our calendars. We save that day for our journal quilt classes. Instructor, Nancy Bryant, remarked, “I feel like I give myself P2P every time I come to this class!” All of the students agreed and began calling the class P2P.
Formerly Know As: Living well w/Cancer & Healing through Quilting.
Is it a support group? Is everyone talking about cancer?
Once in awhile the students share information about their cancer experience, but most of the time they are having so much fun painting fabric, printing on jello, shaving creaming, melting crayons and laughing.....they leave behind their concerns of cancer and concentrate on the joy of playing and creating.
You don’t just quilt in your classes . . .
Shaving Cream Printing
Melted Metallic Crayon Printing
Create our own fabrics from white cloth.
Mixed Media w/Found Objects
Anything goes as long as we can quilt through it!
How many quilts have your group produced over the two years and what happens to them?
We are in our third year of P2P and the students have created more than 200 Journal Quilts.
The quilts are on exhibit at our local hospital, Good Samaritan in Corvallis, OR. Displayed in chemo and radiation rooms, as well as hallways, and examination rooms.
The patients view the quilts during their treatments and are inspired to join our FREE classes.
A new student will come to class and remark that she had seen the journal quilts during her chemo treatment, and she can’t believe she is in class with us creating her own art quilts!
The Doctors, Nurses and staff members comment that the quilts turn a rather sterile environment into a warm and welcoming work environment.
The quilts have a big impact on anyone who views them.
How important have these classes been to the recovery of cancer survivors?
Our very first student, Kathy Haywood, who is in her third year with P2P tells us regularly that she looks forward to attending class, it is the best part of her month. She wishes we could have P2P classes every week!
All of our students express the joy that they feel and that P2P gives them a sense of feeling like an “ARTIST”. They are experiencing some of that Quilters Therapy I was telling you about earlier. When the students leave the quilt shop, they don’t walk out the door....they float on a cloud of joy.
How important have these classes been to your own creative process?
P2P has become an outlet for my own creativity.
This group keeps me balanced and focused.
It helps me to concentrate on developing art quilt techniques that can be accomplished in the 3 hour long P2P classes.
It keeps my creativity cultivated and at its peak.
And also, I feel that we are on this earth to make life a bit easier for one another, that we should share what we know.
What have you learned about yourself?
Being balanced and focused helps me to organize my time and share my art quilting skills with those who can benefit from them most.
What have you learned about others?
I have learned just how strong and fearless our students really are. For instance, they are not afraid to try FREE MOTION Quilting, (which scares many of my students in public classes) the P2P students just sit at the machine and give it a try, and are quilting beautifully now. They truly bring to class an Open Mind and Willingness to Try something new, and from a teacher’s stand point, that is so wonderful, I couldn’t ask for more.
I love that you feature your student’s work on your blog, “May Your Bobbin Always be Full” (www.luannkessi.blogspot.com)
The P2P Blog Posts are a way for the students to share what they do in class with their family and friends. The blog is a way of spreading the word about P2P.
In the article you said that you would be available to help people and guide them if they’d like to start programs like your “Permission to Play” in their towns. Should interested listeners just email you?
Email me or leave a comment on the blog and I will reply to you with information on how you can start a P2P group where you live.
Thank You Mark.
February 9, 2011