‘What am I facing this week?’: Perry artist’s yearlong quilting project depicts her weekly challenges

photo by: Samantha Levi

Gina Kellogg is pictured in her rural Perry home with the faces she has quilted and made into pillows over the last year.

A yearlong quilting project has resulted in a colorful, vulnerable glimpse into the weekly challenges of an artist’s life — from a need to rekindle her creative fire, to the COVID-19 pandemic, to facing the converging crises of the world.

Each week for the past year, Perry artist Gina Kellogg asked herself, “What am I facing this week?” Then, she quilted.

The result is a series of faces that Kellogg turned into pillows: different variations of a woman who Kellogg said most weeks was a reflection of herself.

“It gave me a chance to kind of process what was going on with me,” she said. “It’s like my weekly personal therapy session with fabric.”

In one quilt, called “Facing the Voices in my Head,” the woman’s curly hair is flowing out in all directions and is intertwined with words and phrases and numbers. In “Grieving Green Woman,” a blue-faced woman with an expression to match her coloring cries tears on her blouse and green hair.

photo by: Gina Kellogg

Gina Kellogg’s quilts, from left: “Facing the Voices in my Head” (May 22, 2020) and “Grieving Green Woman” (Aug. 10).

Before working, Kellogg, 67, always asked herself what she was facing, but the result wasn’t necessarily always what she imagined it would be.

“I really let the fabric and intuition lead me, and I am always surprised,” she said.

Kellogg started her project on her birthday last year in order to rekindle her creative fire. She had recently started a new business, Kellogg Sisters Feed & Seed, which she runs with her sister, Paula Kellogg, who lives in Lawrence.

“When you start a new business you’re just busy all the time,” Kellogg said. “I just noticed that I wasn’t being creative.”

So she committed herself to making a quilt each week for a year. Her project will end this week on her birthday.

At the beginning, not all of Kellogg’s quilts were faces. One from last September was about the absence of birds from her feeder. The small quilt is about 14-by-14 inches and includes feathers and words and the image of a dead bird.

Kellogg described her first eight or so quilts as “clunky” and “ugly.”

“I couldn’t find my voice. I couldn’t even figure out how to be creative again,” she said. “So I think what I was facing was having to be persistent and committed in the face of not being happy with what I was doing.”

But a couple months in, Kellogg hit her stride and began having fun with the project. She found that she enjoyed making faces, then turning those faces into pillows. Each pillow took Kellogg about eight to 10 hours to make, she said.

The first half of the year, Kellogg said she was in this “wild experimentation time, which was actually true of my life as well.” Then, in March, COVID-19 hit. Her faces took a somber turn, with titles such as “Facing the Virus,” “Facing a Disjointed World” and “Rest as Resistance.”

photo by: Gina Kellogg

Gina Kellogg’s “Facing a Disjointed World” was created on March 22, 2020.

“There was kind of this theme of ‘Oh my gosh, what has happened? What has happened to my life? What has happened to the world?'” Kellogg said. She’s pretty sure she had COVID-19 at the beginning of March based on symptoms she had.

From mid-May up until the end of her project, Kellogg has created a lot of grieving women. She said the converging crises of the world and her personal struggles have been exacerbated by living alone during the pandemic.

In “Waving for Help,” Kellogg portrays a woman who appears to be drowning. At first, Kellogg said she believed the woman was sinking, but when she finished her quilt she realized the hand above the water’s surface was actually waving for help, a sign of hope.

photo by: Gina Kellogg

This quilt by Gina Kellogg is called “Waving for Help.” It was completed on July 17, 2020.

Kellogg said her yearlong art project has taught her to trust the process and be unattached to the outcome. Learning these skills, she said, has changed the way she lives and has caused her to pay more attention to herself and the world around her.

Kellogg is currently selling some of her pillows on her business’ website, kelloggsisters.com. In a Facebook marketing image, Kellogg’s faces are meant to look like they are on a Zoom call with one another, a promotional image Kellogg thought was a fun idea.

photo by: Anna Driscoll

This Zoom-inspired marketing image was used on Facebook to promote Gina Kellogg’s pillows she made over the course of a year.

Kellogg Sisters Feed & Seed at the moment mostly consists of online sales, Kellogg said, but she hopes the business will soon be able to host community events, retreats and artist residencies. Her grandfather and his brother started Kellogg Brothers Feed & Seed many years ago, and they sold just that: feed and seed. But Kellogg thought “it was time for the Kellogg sisters,” so now her and her sister’s business seeks to “feed and seed creative life and community.”

Kellogg plans to end her faces project on her birthday, but she said another yearlong project was in the works. She thinks her weekly question will revolve around the idea of “How am I reinventing myself and my life this week?”

The structure of her project gave Kellogg hard deadlines and something to look forward to each week. And viewing her pillows, she said, is like viewing the arc of her past year.

photo by: Samantha Levi

An arrangement of Gina Kellogg’s face pillows.


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