Carol Poole is a competitive, award-winning textile artist who recently submitted a design that is now headed to New York City to compete as a finalist in the 11th Annual Quilting Alliance Contest. At just 62 years old, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, so she chose her beloved quilt-making pastime to tell the world what it’s like to face down a disease that still has no prevention, treatment or cure. “I’m a visual person and I can see what I want to articulate. As I crafted this quilt in my mind and drew a sketch of it, I called upon my past professional career of advertising; it’s all visual,” she says. “What I love about quilting is that I can imagine the concept in my mind, but the actual process of creating the work is meditative. My hands know exactly what to do – it’s muscle memory. Now, with Alzheimer’s, it takes me a little longer to formulate my thoughts, so quilting helps me slow everything down. I don’t have to worry if I’m saying the right things, or if I forgot the words. My hands always know the movements.”
Carol’s “My Alzheimer’s Voice” art quilt is 16” by 16”. It is made with hand-dyed silk batiks using silk batting. She describes it as a bit “intense” for most people. “Folks who like more traditional imagery for quilts, will be challenged to understand why I burned holes in the fabric, sometimes pin pricks and other times larger, to depict the holes in my memories from Alzheimer’s,” she says.
The vibrant textile also has an array of dazzling colors that all pass through a “vortex” in the middle of the quilt and become slightly darker on the other side. “The swirling and concentrated motion of the colors as they pass through the vortex represents how my voice and memories changed with this disease, “ says Carol. “I singed pieces of the fabric with a flame and darkened brilliant fabric colors from one side of the quilt to the other. I wanted to depict the fact that I’m still shades of these dazzling colors, but Alzheimer’s has taken some of the vibrancy away. I wasn’t going for something pretty when I stitched this quilt. I wanted something powerful.”
“Because my brain can sometimes be overwhelmed and take longer to process through things, this quilt let me confine my focus to four-inch squares and then eventually pull them together.” The “movement” in the quilt was accomplished by seed stitching. The seed stitching rules are; no stitch can be longer than a grain of rice; no two stitches can touch each other; and no stitch can repeat itself in a line.
Carol enjoys being a textile artist – delighting in the fact that she is still competitive in this part of her life’s journey, “I can compete on equal footing in these quilting competitions with people who don’t know I have the disease, “ she says. “They aren’t making special considerations for me the way people do when they know I have Alzheimer’s”.
Carol is more than a competitive quilter. She is a world traveler, Ambassador to the Alzheimer’s Association, a past member of the Alzheimer’s Early-Stage National Advisory Board, and does public speaking to create concern and awareness for the disease. She has also participated in educational videos that help doctors detect and diagnose the disease earlier. “But, this quilt – “My Alzheimer’s Voice “- provided a different avenue and an extension to my own voice,” says Carol. “It’s a legacy piece that will continue to speak for me when I no longer can speak for myself”.
My grandmother taught me how to sew,” she says. “She passed from Alzheimer’s disease, so I love that she taught me this skill, and I can share a piece of both us in this quilt.”
“My Alzheimer’s Voice” took Carol nearly four months to make and will be exhibited online and in the collection that opens in New York, then travels to Virginia and Los Angeles this summer. The exhibit will end in Houston in November.
“The quilt displays a set of colors that become more opaque as they pass through the ‘Alzheimer’s vortex’, but they aren’t fading. I may be ‘singed’ around the edges as the fabric shows, but I’m still here. I’ve got an important story to tell – whenever and wherever I can create awareness, there is more opportunity for a cure,” she says.
You can learn more about the Quilt Alliance contest at: http://quiltalliance.org/contest/2017contest/
Learn more about the Alzheimer’s Association or for questions about Alzheimer’s disease and/or caregiving visit: alz.org or call the 24/7 Helpline at 1.800.272.3900.