Catherine

Catherine was born in a little village in the heart of France.  Her father’s family came from this small village and her British mother went to France to be an au-pair and learn French.  There, they married and had four children.  Not wanting to put the children in boarding school, they moved the family to the south of France where there were good schools.  Being raised bi-culturally evoked a love of diversity and curiosity.  Catherine has dedicated a good deal of her  life to being a mother, raising four children herself, and being passionately involved in the different public schools her children attended.

Luca's quilt. I made this quilt for my friend's first grandchild, Luca, who lives in Marseilles, on the coast of the Mediterranean

As a young adult, she got a job in Marseilles as a conchologist (sea shell collector) and every time she gathered enough money, she traveled to different countries: Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Afghanistan, and later South America.  One winter in Montreal, surprised by the harsh climate, she got on a bus to New York City where she arrived in the middle of a freezing night.  She immediately boarded a bus to Mexico City.   She supported herself by sending seashells back to Le Peigne de Venus,  the company she had worked for in Marseilles.

While she was married she lived in Mexico City; Santa Cruz, CA; Austin, TX; Bethesda, MD; and Ann Arbor, MI.  The loop was completed when they moved to Berkeley, CA where she now resides.  During that time she worked as translator for the Renoir Foundation, worked at a solar consulting company, and taught weaving at Univ. of Texas Extension.  She raised four children during all of this, two of them her own.

Catherine took her first solo trip when she was seven years old to stay with her grandmother  in London.  Rummaging through her grandmother’s linens delighted her and began her life-long passion for fabrics and quilting.  Her travels in warmer Mexico were guided by her love of textiles.  She studied weaving with an old master from Oaxaca at Bellas Artes art school in Mexico City.  She learned to do back-strap weaving from the Mixtec-speaking mountain people.  Catherine honed her skills in many cultural textile mediums by taking a number of classes offered in the diverse Bay Area.

A bright star made out of brilliant batik to welcome little Nhelete in the world.

She recognizes the true power of quilting in its ability to build community through quilt-making and by illustrating a community’s tradition.  She has designed quilts to celebrate a variety of occasions, from weddings and anniversaries to birthdays and graduations.  She has created quilts, perfectly sized for newborns, to tell stories of the origin of their family.  She sees the creation of a quilt as an act of love that honors the personal lives of their creators and recipients.

Quilt made with Willard Students after they learnt about the Underground Railroad. Many students followed patterns from the Underground Railroad quilts, but some created and designed their own pattern after being inspired by those quilts.

Catherine has worked extensively with children and adults.  She taught Spanish and French to children in Ann Arbor and Bethesda.  She led Berkeley High students in a quilt-making project in response to their viewing of panels from the AIDS quilt.  She helped middle school children create a quilt that celebrated the Underground Railroad, a project that especially delighted her when not only teenage girls but boys became involved as well.  For the last three years, Catherine has taught quilt-making to a group of immigrant woman at Harbor House in Oakland.  A number of these woman have sold their quilts at art shows that Catherine developed. She coordinated the Katrina Quilt Project with radio station KPFA at their annual Crafts and Music Fair where eight community quilts were created and sent to the Tipitinas Foundation in New Orleans.  Catherine, who has worked in other textiles arts such as weaving and batik has had her own work on display in many public spaces in Berkeley.

Children, language and textiles are what drives Catherine’s passions.