Judy Paschalis uses PolitiQuilts to make political commentaryWritten by Jason Mack | | email@example.com
After a career in television and public relations, Judy Paschalis has turned to the art of quilting to express her political beliefs with what she calls QuiltToons.
“People find it interesting that it’s a quilt,” she said. “If I didn’t put the middle and the back on I couldn’t call it a quilt. For some reason, that’s the way I started making them. I was looking for a book on quilts at the library and saw a lady was doing memory quilts for her family.”
Paschalis earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Toledo and attended Bowling Green State University to receive a master’s degree in communications. She retired after working jobs such as television reporter, talk show host and public relations specialist.
She began making memory quilts and expanded to what she calls PolitiQuilts. The memory quilts center around family history while the PolitiQuilts express her views on current events.
“It’s because I listen to the news all day long,” she said. “I’m a news junkie. Not everything lends itself to a QuiltToon. It’s when I see something and want to make a statement about it.”
Paschalis has plenty of material to work with when it comes to memory quilts. She is married to Emmanuel “Manos” Paschalis, owner of Manos Greek Restaurant, and they have four children, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
She has also delved into the past for memory quilts with a series called “Tillie’s Story.” The series tells the stories of her mother, Matilda Heidebrecht Funderburk, who grew up in a Mennonite community in Kansas. It covers topics such as coming to America, the loss of her parents, meeting her husband, teaching, fighting for civil rights and her death in 2004.
“My mom had told me stories about her life,” Paschalis said. “I decided I would make them so the kids could see it. I keep them all in a box for any descendants that want to look at it. My family really seems to like it.”
Paschalis has done PolitiQuilts about everything from Stephen Colbert to the BP oil spill.
“I found this ugly gold-splattered brown and green material,” she said. “When the oil spill happened, I realized it was perfect for it. The oil spill is ugly, and so is this quilt.”
The first political quilt Paschalis ever made was inspired by the actions of Karl Rove prior to the 2004 election. The piece is called “Karl Rove’s Amazing Evangelical Jack-in-the-Box.”
“It made me feel like people in Ohio got used,” she said. “Karl Rove engineered putting on the ballot the gay marriage thing to get people out to vote so they would vote for Bush. Then, after Bush was elected, he never mentioned that again. If I were a fundamentalist Christian, I’d feel kind of used and abused.”
One piece Paschalis is particularly proud of is a quilt called “The Arab Spring Facebook Revolution” about how social media was involved in uprisings in the Middle East.
“I’m proud of the Facebook one because I think it’s accurate,” she said. “I had seen an hour-long special on CNN talking to the young people going through these revolutions. They said they were able to communicate using Facebook and the Internet.”
Many of the ideas for Paschalis’ political quilts have come from lively debates with her husband.
“Manos and I talk, and he is conservative and I’m liberal,” she said. “We talk about things and argue about things. Some of my ideas come from things he says. We’ll just be talking and I’ll think, ‘That’s a quilt.’”
Paschalis makes her quilts purely for the sake of expression. Her work has only been publicly displayed once, and she has sold a total of three quilts.
“I try not to get caught up in what other people will think of it,” she said. “I’m doing it for myself. Manos and I agree that I shouldn’t try to sell these, because nobody wants to pay what you need to charge. He thinks I should try to display them. A gallery doesn’t want to though because they want to sell them. I’ve only sold three quilts. I don’t want to make anything I don’t want to make, because then it’s not fun.”
All of her quilts are displayed on a blog at QuiltToonist.wordpress.com along with a description of the inspiration for each piece.
“I make one maybe once a month, so it’s not hard,” Paschalis said. “If I were doing a daily blog that would be difficult. Forget that. That’s just too much and not even interesting. It’s fun to put it out there though.”