“I thought I was in heaven, a paradise!”
This is how textile artist Ana Paula Brasil recalls her first visit to the New Hamburg Relief Sale last year. Every year, Relief Sales are held across Ontario to benefit the relief, peace, and development work of Mennonite Central Committee.
Ana Paula, who grew up in a family of artists, poets, and quilters in her native Brazil, started sewing at age eight and by 12 was producing and selling fabric dolls throughout the US and South America. Years later, now based in Toronto, a friend brought her to the St. Jacob’s Farmer’s Market where she saw a flier for the Relief Sale.
A major feature of the New Hamburg Relief Sale is the quilt auction which fills an arena with bidders and spectators. Bidding has, on occasion, gone upwards of $40,000 or more for the beautiful hand-crafted quilts donated by local volunteers. Seeing the quilt auction brought back emotional memories for Ana Paula of her grandmother who taught her patchwork, and her late grandfather who used to auction livestock in Brazil. Moved by these memories and the generosity of spirit at the relief sale, Ana Paula says she felt “something bigger than me. I was feeling a true love.”
Inspired by the relief sale, she decided that she wanted to create a quilt to donate to the 2017 Relief Sale. Recalling her visit to the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory the day before the relief sale, she realized that the butterfly was a perfect theme. “[In] the butterfly life cycle, the caterpillar turns into a pupa which turns into a butterfly. [It needs] time to develop but will eventually turn into a freely flying butterfly”. In the same way, Ana Paula saw that, “small quilt blocks will turn into a big quilt and together we can help MCC to save the world.”
She sent out a call to her art students telling them about her ambitious project and asking for individual fabric pieces called “blocks” to be sent to her. In addition to her students in Canada and Brazil, she received quilt blocks from students all around the world including Japan, France, Portugal, United Arab Emirates and more.
“People who [had] never stitched did the class just to learn and participate in the project. Together with butterfly blocks I received letters from donors telling me how I was helping them to overcome difficulties in daily life… I did TV shows in Brazil to talk about the project and the response was so positive that about 20 people from Brazil are coming to visit the sale!”
In total, a whopping 22 quilts ended up being created for the project she calls “Brazilian Butterflies Saving The World”. Ana Paula is looking forward to sharing her quilts and her story at the New Hamburg Relief Sale this year. “Every quilt block is filled by love and a different story”.
The New Hamburg Relief Sale is held at the Fairgrounds in New Hamburg, off highway 8, Friday May 26th (from 5pm) and Saturday May 27th (7am- afternoon). Visit nhmrs.com for more details and to see previews of Ana Paula Brasil’s quilts.