Quilt Artist Extraordinaire!
Would you believe the person who made this stunning quilt is visually impaired?
It’s title is “Pips on Point” and it was made by my dear friend Lisa Giesfeldt. Here’s a detail picture to make sure you’re sufficiently impressed :-)!
I’m constantly amazed at her artistry and effort. I asked her to write her story for my blog in her own words and was delighted when she agreed.
“I started quilting four months after my oldest was born in 1993, and was completely hooked within the next few years. I began to enter local quilt shows after joining my first guild in 1999 where I met yours truly, Chris. Four more guilds later, and quite a few ribbons, convinced me to starting my own quilting business, which included craft shows and machine quilting for others.
Everything came to a crashing halt the day before my 35th birthday in 2000. I awoke that morning unable to see clearly out of my left eye. I thought it was due to a possible tear in an old contact lens. After putting in a new lens there wasn’t any change in the vision in the eye. After visiting an opthamologic specialist, who said I would never regain vision in the eye, I felt helpless and scared. Luckily my mom came up to help and took me to the Eye Institute of Wisconsin. We found out that I had macular degeneration, which is very rare in someone so young. I had a recessive gene from each parent as well as severe myopia. The cracks that had developed required laser surgery to prevent any more stress and cracks to the retina. After months of depression I finally got back into quilting. My right eye was strong, and my quilting muscular memory skills were also strong.
It didn’t take long before I adapted to the loss of the central part of my vision in my left eye. I also discovered some new tools which helped a lot. The June Tailor Shape Cut ruler recommended by Chris, really made a huge difference.
I could very accurately cut strips without any worries. I also started using the Creative Grid Rulers which have very clear markings. I also recommend rulers with high color contrast which make the black lines stand out.
Everything was going well for the next 7 years — designing patterns and teaching at some local quilt stores; winning more ribbons on my quilts;
quilting countless quilts for others; and being a stay at home mom for two young boys. In 2007 another catastrophe occurred. I received a head trauma to my right side which caused another crack, but this time to my right eye. I discovered at this point that I also had myopic degeneration and not just macular degeneration. The severe stretching of my eyes has caused the retina to become extremely thin and fragile. Needless to say, this caused another setback in my quilting endeavors. Another laser surgery was needed to prevent the cracks in my right eye from spreading and causing more damage.
I refused to let everything stop me from going forward. I still entered a competition piece that year in Sun Prairie titled “Circle of Blues” after my feelings at the time. It didn’t earn a ribbon, but, I got it done. By the end of the year my left eye, now having to be the stronger one even without the central vision, became my lead. I also found a magnifier attachment from Bernina that fit on my 150 machine.
I still use it today when quilting matching thread on dark backgrounds. It really helps me to actually “see” every stitch and how I’m doing. All the Ott lights I use around my machine and cutting areas also reduce any eye strain.
Over the years since 2007, I’ve adapted to my disabilities. I rely very heavily on the peripheral vision of my left eye when cutting and piecing. I use a Dritz machine needle threader to thread all my machines as I can’t see the hole in the needle anymore to do it by hand. In 2014 my husband bought a larger Bernina for me, a 710,
which enables me to quilt the bigger customer quilts much easier. (I still can quilt a 130″ X 130″ quilt on my 150 if I need to.). There are times when it is very frustrating not being able to see whether everything is accurate or not. I have to rely more and more on 24 years of quilting memory. But, I haven’t given up. I still enter competitions to keep the creative juices going. Each one pushes me to prove that I can still enjoy the hobby I consider my second passion, after my family of course. I also think that continuing to stay in two guilds has made a huge difference. The support I get from my quilting friends allows me to forget about my vision issues and focus on the future. And, that next challenge.”
She did add, in a phone conversation we had, that her greatest frustration is everything takes so much longer than when she could see well. I think from the following pictures, her work is worth the extra time!
Thanks to Lisa for allowing me to share her story and just a few of her incredible quilts.
I hope you are inspired and encouraged by Lisa, Maria and Mary. I think they all are a great example of Maria’s Insight Resilience group’s motto: “just because you’ve lost your sight doesn’t mean you’ve lost your vision”!