Good, Bad, and Ugly




"I'm sick of looking at all these magazines," she said as she pushed another quilt magazine away from the space in front of her to a pile she had spread out across her cutting table.

"That's nice," I said. I was only in the room with her because I was washing the inside of the window which, during the week we had been away, had become more of a catch-all for spider webs than a window to the outside world. I was only cleaning the window because she had asked me to, complaining that the natural light coming from the outside seemed webby and interfered with her quilting. Yes, webby.

"Aren't you going to ask me why I'm beginning to hate all these magazines?" she asked. I wiped at the window and cleared the glass of webs.

"No," I said. I knew she didn't hate the magazines. She loved them. She bought them and read them and cuddled them and reread them and left markers between the pages to tag every quilting article she wanted to go back to for a project in her quilting future.

"I'm tired of perfect quilts," she said.

"That's nice," I said. I am not usually that daring as to take such little interest in what she was saying, but my rag and my hand and my eyes seemed to be covered with webbing. I wanted to go wash up.

"I want ugly," she said.

"What?" My ambition to wash up was quickly put aside. I immediately became curious to hear what she was going to say about "ugly." She had never asked for ugly before. Actually, I really had no idea what she meant by what she had just said or what she was going to say. I only guessed that I was in for an explanation that would make my interest in cleaning spider webs off windows diminish even more. I gave her my full attention.

"Everyone of these magazines...." she began. She paused then, extending her arm and hand out over the magazines to show me exactly what she was talking about. "Here we have a plentiful pile of magazines full of pretty pictures of positively perfect and properly proportioned quilts."

"What you're saying is perfectly plain to me," I said. No, it wasn't.

"Open one," she said.

"Open a quilt magazine?" I asked, but I was already picking out a magazine. I opened it.

"Find a page with a photo of a quilt," she said.

"All right," I said. I found one. A nice photo of a nice pineapple quilt.

"How's it look to you?"

"Looks gorgeous," I said.

"See! See! Find another one."

I found another a photo called Cathedral Windows. "I found one," I said.

"Is it perfect?"

I looked carefully. "It is indeed perfect," I said.

"See. They're all perfect. Every photo in every book and magazine I have is a work of art, crafted to perfection, flawless and artistically a work of genius."

"That's a lot of praise," I said. "But they are nice."

"They're too nice. For once I'd like to see a crooked quilt, a wavy quilt, a quilt that has faults. For once I'd like to see a bad quilt."

"You want these magazines to print photos of ugly quilts?" I asked.

"They don't have to be really ugly, but fairly ugly is all right."

"Do you think people will buy the magazines if they have fairly ugly quilts in them?" I asked. I spoke in what I thought was a doubting Thomas tone of voice.

"I would. I would look at picture of badly designed, badly crafted, badly quilted quilts, and say to myself, 'My quilts are better than that.'"

"Ah, so you're feeling sorry for yourself and doubting your ability to quilt and need to be reassured that you are not wasting your time quilting all these quilts you spend day and night quilting, and looking at inferior quilts would raise your esteem about yourself and give you some self-respect and you would feel better as a person and, therefore, be a better human being as well as a happier darling Wife?"

"Huh? Yes, well, something like that," she said. "I never see quilts that look like mine. I want to see quilts that aren't perfect. I want to see quilts that are made by human beings, not quilt artists whose works belong in a museum."

"I can make a bad quilt," I said. It would be ugly and flawed and terrible to look at, but I was willing to help in any way I could.

"I don't want you to make a quilt. You're just trying to be nice. Remember when we went to the Quilt Museum in Paducah and when I staggered out in disbelief at how exquisite the quilts were, you asked if I were going to quit quilting because I could never be that good or be inspired to try harder?"

"You were inspired," I said. She was.

"Well, a regular average quilt can inspire me too. I can understand average. I can emphasize with a person who tries hard to make a perfect quilt but falls short."

"Do you want me to write to the magazines and ask them to put in a section for average quilts?"

"It's an idea," she said.

"How about below average or above average but not fabulous?"

"Those too.

"How about way below average, say a D or a D-?"

"That would be embarrassing. I never want to show my C and D quilts."

"You hide them," I said. She had half a dozen hidden in a back closet.

"But I'm learning from them," she said.

"You can learn from good quilts as well," I said wisely.

"For inspiration," she said.

"So, it's also good to look at good quilts and better quilts and perfect quilts," I asked.

"I look at them all the time," she said.

"But sometime you want to take a break from absolutely fabulous and look at quilts that are reassuringly average."

"Just a small section in a magazine."

"Maybe a section called, 'Hey, look what I did wrong to turn a potentially great quilt into an average quilt that I still like even if it's not perfect.'"

"That would be good," she said.

"And in the meantime?"

"In the meantime I'll suffer through all the terrific quilts in my magazines," she said, and with that she reached over and pulled a pile of magazines toward herself and opened one and began to look at A+ and A and A- and B+ quilts.

I went to wash my hands.

Copyright 1999 by A.B. Silver

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