A few months ago, I featured the work of American fabric artist, Barbara Williamson, whose use of joy and colour in her art quilts delighted me and whose inspiring story is one of incredible determination.
At the time, Barbara wrote:
“I’m a paraplegic and paralyzed from mid-chest down because I was shot in the chest in 1969 with a 45. I was pregnant at the time of the shooting and it left me in a coma for a month. My mother came to pray for me everyday and I believe that is why I survived. Thankfully the spirits were looking out for me and my child lived.
When I came home to my mother’s house after being released from the hospital, I had my child on my mother’s front porch with the help of a friend and my mom. My baby was a preemy, 3lb 18oz.
I had amnesia when I finally woke up. Court was held in the hospital two days after I had woken and the man who shot me got 6 weeks in jail for stealing the gun he shot me with because I had lost my memory and could not remember him. He was later killed in prison for another crime.
I had to decide whether to live or die and I chose to live. I had my little one to think of. I had to spend years in rehab learning to take care of my self and go to school to help regain my memory and my mom took care of my son while I recovered.
I fought my way back and have now become a professional artist, a member of SAQA, a member of my local art center and I sell my things in a local shop here in my town of Paradise . The shop helps the physically challenged in our community. I make bags, dolls, fabric bowls, fabric cuff bracelets and 3D landscape quilts using scrap fabric, and beaded bracelets, necklaces, and brooches. I was voted artist of the month last month in my local art center and I’m a grandmother of four wonderful grandchildren. My son is a wonderful father and I’m so proud of him.”
Barbara is an active member of the community, donating her time and her work to support many charities and community projects and sharing her expertise with young people.
This morning, I had an email from Barbara. ” I was looking through my emails reading some from better times and saw yours. I haven’t kept in touch. So sorry. I was very ill and had surgery and my sister passed away. On Nov 8 tragedy struck my town of Paradise and our town was wiped away by fire. My friend saved me but our home and my business burned to the ground. I lost all my quilts except for three that were in an exhibition. I’m hurt but determined to survive and make my quilts again.”
Barbara had lived and worked in Paradise, California, in the path of Camp Fire, the deadly wildfire that has devastated the area and cost so many their lives and homes. A family member writes that she,”is an amazing woman” who has already faced more than most of us can imagine “with perseverance and self-reliance.”
Barbara’s home was destroyed, along with “all her quilts and art, her orthopedic aides, tools, supplies, and sewing machines”. Just a month after “a serious, long, medical battle and three months after losing her sister to cancer. Her wonderful caretaker Rob, a retired carpenter, is helping her relocate.”
Barbara’s story is just one amongst thousands, but few can have faced quite so much with such strength and determination and not everyone can create paradise from the ashes of tragedy.
This is one story amongst many, but it is one you can help to change and bring to a happier ending. A crowdfunding campaign has been set up to raise funds to rent a new home for Barbara and to replace the mobility equipment and crafting supplies lost to the flames. Please help Barbara rebuild her life in any way you can. Even the smallest donation will make a difference….and if you cannot afford to donate, please help spread the word by pressing the share buttons.
Read more about the campaign, share and donate if you can, at the Go Fund Me website: Lifeline from Camp Fire.
To see more of Barbara’s work, please visit her website at Threadscape Studio.
All images copyright Barbara Williamson except the last one, which is taken from the gofundme campaign that has been created to help raise funds to help Barbara find a new home and replace the medical and art supplies lost to the flames.