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Monday, August 27, 2012

Q & A Interview with Pam Druhen on the Winter Warmth Project


Northfield member Pamela Druhen has been creating representational landscapes and florals since 1996. Her "Threadscapes" paintings use quilting and heavy threadwork as design elements which enhance the texture, movement and depth of each piece. Recent explorations incorporate silk or procion dyes which she applies with a brush on silk or cotton to create the image which she then embroiders. Her works explore the relationships between light, depth, color and texture in the natural world and reflect her life in Vermont.












We wanted to get an update from Pam about her initiative to help people affected by last years floods. Read On!


Pam, last year Hurricane Irene roared through Vermont, leaving a wake of destruction that left many families devastated with their homes & belongings destroyed.

In response, as a fiber artist, you began the Winter Warmth Project. 


For people who haven’t heard of this effort, can you tell us what the project’s goal was?

The goal of the Project was to provide a brand new quilt for each member of every family displaced by Hurricane Irene in Vermont.

Have you ever done something like this before?
No. I simply couldn’t ignore the damage to the land or the people of the state that I love. I was compelled to respond, and I knew that there would be many others who would want to “do something”…but what?



How did you spread the word to gather support and assistance for this monumental effort?
I began by sending a letter to all the quilt guilds in Vermont, and all the quilt shops. I followed this up with a newsletter to my personal mailing list. I also set up a blog for the Project and an email address at yahoo.com for people to contact me to obtain quilts or to donate. The email address has been an invaluable communication tool. Many, many quilts were distributed through the information that came in to us through email.


Were materials and labor donated only by individuals, or were you able to enlist the help of larger groups?
The response was amazing. Quilt guilds from Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and New York got on the bandwagon. Individuals from as close as next door and all the way to Alaska sent fabric, finished quilts, batting, orphan blocks, quilt tops, and money. 
Was it mostly people here in Vermont who helped to create the quilts, or was the project attracting a wider audience? I received quilts from everywhere. One woman in Pennsylvania sent at least 5 quilts, if not more. A New York woman provided 10 finished quilts. A small group of women from Southern Vermont provided 24 finished quilts and 50 quilt tops with backs. A Massachusetts guild provided 50 finished quilts. Several long arm quilters from here in Vermont stepped up to the plate and quilted so many quilts for me….(I couldn’t have given away so many quilts without them) the response was overwhelming. I knew that there would be many people who wouldn’t be able to physically help with clean up from the storm, or who wouldn’t want to send money to relief agencies….because they would want to be practically involved. The Winter Warmth Project provided the perfect avenue for those people to give of their time, their talent, their practical resources and know that they would be bringing a little piece of love into someone’s life. The effort was not about keeping people warm through the winter. It was about bringing the warmth of love and care, the sharing of caring through a terrible loss, compassion for our neighbors and friends.


How many people ended up helping in this huge endeavor?
I have no idea. More than I could count. I sent out more than 300 thank you notes to people who were involved in one way or another. The guilds involved so many people, and many guilds have given seriously to the project.


To date, how many quilts have been made for the Winter Warmth Project?
About 1000. We have given away 850 quilts to date. There are still a few more orders in the pipeline. I originally thought we would need about 2000. As of 2 weeks ago there were still 840 families displaced in Vermont, I don’t expect to hear from those families until they are close to having a new home. You don’t need extra stuff when you don’t know where you are going. Many of the families involved have moved several times since they lost their homes. Many still don’t know where they are going or what they are going to do.


How were the quilts distributed?

There have been several different ways. Some were shipped to individuals, some have been handed over in person and others have been distributed by contact people in flood relief offices or community contacts.


Were you able to meet with any of the families or individuals who received a Winter Warmth quilt? Can you tell us about that experience?
I have met with a couple of the people, and communicated with many of them. This is such a touchy area. So many of these folks felt like other people suffered more than they did. I haven’t encountered anyone who felt like they deserved one of the quilts just because they lost their home. Most people haven’t wanted more than their “share”. To be asked what color is your favorite color, and what size bed do you have… has already personalized the project a great deal. One family thought a quilt for each of the kids would be more than they should ask for…when I pressed them to find out what they would like, she said…”Oh that would be asking for too much!” When I handed the bag of quilts to her husband he said…”You will never know how much these are appreciated.” Well….I can kind of guess.

Another woman described losing everything….watching it wash away. She was grateful that they had their lives. When she received the quilts she emailed me…a long email…and told me how she had felt about losing the quilts her grandmother had made, her dishes, her photos, the life she and her husband had built for their family. She said “These quilts are our new heirlooms. We will never forget where they came from. You are all angels!”


What was the biggest challenge in organizing such a huge project?

Keeping it organized and keeping up with all the different aspects of it…I generally wear a lot of hats, but this was pretty consuming. My own work has been sidelined for almost a year.


What was the biggest surprise for you with the Winter Warmth Project?
I’m not sure that there were any real surprises. The response was incredible, but I have always felt that if a project was worthwhile the needed response would be there. Perhaps the surprise was the offer from the Paine Mountain Arts Council here in Northfield. When I told them what I wanted to do, they offered me the startup funds I needed. I hadn’t really considered that. It was just a good idea until then. That was a blessing and a real boost right at the beginning. It allowed me to launch the Project. 


Since quilting is so time-consuming, did you ever worry that it wouldn't all come together?

It came together from the very beginning. I haven’t been discouraged. I have been pressed to get everything done that needed to be done, but it has all worked out.


I understand the project was to last one year, and we are up against the anniversary of Hurricane Irene on August 28th this coming week. Are there plans to continue the effort?
Because there are still so many families without homes the Project is going to continue for another year. We have been able to reach about half of those displaced. The Champlain Valley Quilt Guild of Vermont is going to take over the Project. They will do a great job. They are a large guild and the Project will be a separate arm of their Community Quilts effort. I am really excited and gratified that they are willing to take it on. Marty DelNevo is currently putting together a team to handle the Project. They will manage all the aspects of the Project much better than I did! 


Pam, Thank You so much for taking the time to let us know how The Winter Warmth Project has been doing. Your work is greatly appreciated, and we're so proud of what you've done to help Vermonters!

To see a few photos of The Winter Warmth Project, visit Pam's link here. To get in touch with the folks at
The Champlain Valley Quilt Guild of Vermont, you can contact them via their website, or email Marty DelNevo at: msundbyvt@comcast.net

To learn more about Pam and see her artwork, please visit her website here.


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