Sunday, December 21, 2008

When Research becomes Obsessive: A Quilting I shall Go!

Something becoming obsessive isn’t a far stretch for me. I get caught up in details. I fuss over symmetry. I lay a perfectly squared-off dinner table. (no round tables for me)
I love to do research for my books. I enjoy research just because…just because I heard or read a word I’d never encountered before. What is its origin?
In the next Grace Marsden, The Innkeeper: An Unregistered Death, I present a cold case involving slaves and the Underground Railroad. During the course of my research I discovered stories about quilts used to signal ‘freedom seekers’. A quilt laid over a porch railing could either give directions or indicate it was safe to approach the house.
I became intrigued with the various symbols hidden in plain sight. My research led me to websites where I realized there were thousands of people interested in the subject.
In casual conversation about the book I discovered several people who I thought I knew well who revealed their interest in quilts and quilt making. I discovered societies for quilt making and quilt makers. My long time neighbor, who collects quilts, offered to help me put together a quilt depicting the Log Cabin design.
Does anyone make quilts with symbols from the Underground Railroad.? I’d love to hear about your quilts, maybe see some photos. I’m fascinated by this visual art form that served as a successful life-saving method of communication. The layers of meaning appeal to me; anyone else get that sense of full circle from that type of quilt?
I am embarking on my first quilt this holiday season. My neighbor, who is a grade school teacher, has time over her break to teach me. We have chosen the design and the pieces. I’m looking forward to spending my spare time learning a new art form.
I should be spending that time writing the next Grace Marsden but I can’t do two art forms at the same time. The compulsive format in my head allows concentration for only one project at a time.
Fortunately, I can walk and chew gum but I choose not to.
My next book, The Re-Enactor: A Staged Death, has a cold case involving Civil War re-enactors. I hope I don’t become obsessed with that period's clothing or lifestyle—I enjoy my jeans and my flush toilet!
Luisa Buehler

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