Imagine this amazingly American solution to the isolation so many of us experience upon arriving in another country where we can’t speak the language, and don’t understand the culture: a one-woman quilting bee.
Cathy Mata arrived in Perez ten years ago, taking early retirement from her high-pressure executive position to run away with a handsome Tico to his hometown – Perez. To many of us this sounds gloriously romantic, but Mata felt lonely and marginalized. For two years she struggled with her isolation, then rediscovered a hobby from her youth: Quilting.
Fast forward to today where she has just returned from her debut at the Houston International Quilt Show, the biggest and most prestigious quilt show in the United States. And her quilt, “Pickin’ Berries”, which depicts Costa Rican coffee pickers, has just finished a one-year tour, garnering recognition and praise for Central America’s only quilter represented, Cathy Mata. And that ladies and gentlemen, is how we make lemons into lemonade.
Of course, quilting is what our pioneer ancestors did to utilize every scrap of fabric to provide warm bed covers for their families and to have a chance to meet other women to gossip, exchange news, and trade tips on household management. But Mata developed herself as a textile artist completely solo – except for the pack of dogs she accumulated as she stitched away. Most of them were strays. They keep her company as she stitches 50-60 hours a week in her home studio behind her house.
What comes to mind immediately is: How does she find her materials? How does she manage fabrics in the humid tropics, where glue tends to melt and stop sticking? Where does she get her inspiration?
Mata solved all those challenges one by one and used images of her dear new homeland like toucans, frogs, palm trees, surfers, and flowers to make the quilts her own. Her quilts have become more sophisticated in recent years as she has incorporated new sewing machines, materials imported from USA, more intricate quilting techniques, and involved others in her quilting passion. Her quilts have become true works of textile design.
Mata has expanded her brand to include “PuraVida” custom dog beds, designer ladies’ cocktail jackets, cushion and upholstery creations, and even has perfected handbags made of woven coffee wrappers – ingenious!
It is also possible to study quilting with Mata in her home studio where she teaches small groups of both Gringos and Ticos how to make magic with textiles.
Mata says, “I hope my work will encourage more women to enjoy the art of quilting in Costa Rica.”
For more information on Cathy Mata Quilts, please see coffeequilts.blogspot.com/. To enroll in a quilting class, please contact her at [email protected]