Wendy Mamattah was a young child living in West Ghana when she discovered she had a gift for sewing. Her mother, a dressmaker, would allow her to sew, helping her hone her skills. In school she excelled at sewing, however, her father believed that sewing would get her nowhere and encouraged her to focus on academics instead. Wendy excelled at school and went on the get a Master's Degree in Journalism and Communications. Consequently, sewing for her became a hobby, but her passion for the craft still remained.
After moving to America, Wendy struggled. She couldn't find a job as a journalist and ended up becoming a certified nursing assistant in order to support her teenage son. In the meantime, Wendy began to rediscover her passion - sewing. She bought books on how to quilt from Nancy Zieman, who she admired as a teacher. And then, the recession hit and Wendy found herself without a job.
"I came back home, sat down and just felt sorry for myself," she recalls. "At that point, I realized that I have been doing this for over 10 years... and my son was in his last year of school and living on his own. So, I thought to myself 'I am going to start a sewing business.'"
She created an Etsy store and started selling her creations and, for the first time in a long time, Wendy went to church. At her church, she met an older woman who agreed to teach her how to quilt. Five days a week, Wendy would learn traditional ways to quilt and although she was interested how quilting worked, she was more interested in quilt art than the traditional style.
Wendy wanted to bring her African culture into quilting and decided to make a quilt with an African dance pattern, priding herself on bringing movement and momentum to the piece. She showed her mentor and she was amazed, she had never seen someone quilt like that. At the advice of her mentor, Wendy showed her designs to a local quilting guild that immediately wanted to show six of her quilts in their upcoming show.
At her first show, Wendy ended up winning the Sharron Guthri Award for her quilt "Under the African Waters" (which will be featured at the Flint Festival of Quilts). After winning her first award, the rest was history. Mamattah went on to win four more awards at various quilt shows. She was also featured many publications and most recently she was featured on Nancy's Corner on PBS.
"Winning that first award made me realize I was giving birth to my dream," Wendy says. "In my second chapter, I wanted to something that would make me happy."
As part of the Flint Festival of Quilts, the Flint Public library will host the 28th Annual Exhibit of the Flint African American Quilters Guild featuring works by Wendy Mamattah with a free presentation on Wendy Mamattah's journey to quilting on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
The Flint Festival of Quilts, hosted by Greater Flint Arts Council (GFAC), is still going strong after 22 years. This year, the festival will present Unique Histories & Expressions of Creativity. Eight locations downtown Flint will each feature an artist with presentations hosted at four of the locations throughout the weekend. Quilting has a long-standing history in the United States. According to Greg Fiedler, President and CEO of GFAC, one in ten households have a quilter.
"Festival attendance is around 4,000 people," says Fiedler. "A good amount of attendees come from out of town and we even have people who come internationally. Ontario has a big following and people come from all along the mid-west."
The Flint Festival of Quilts will be held Thursday, October 12 through Saturday, October 14 at varied times depending on location. For more information visit geneseefun.com.