PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

February 10, 2014

Casmore weaves family heritage into her quilts

Mary Meaux
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Laura Casmore unfolded a throw-size quilt and laid it across a table in the Lucy Stiefel Gallery at the Port Arthur Public Library.

The quilt depicts rough silhouettes of eight females made from bold-colored fabrics; at the center are the words “Life is good.”

“I tell people that’s for seven girls and my mom,” Casmore said with a smile as she looked back over the quilt she stitched. “Each one is different.”

“I’ve Come This Far By Faith;” The Quilt Works of Laura Marie Casmore,” will be on exhibit at the Port Arthur Public Library from Feb. 10 through Feb. 28 in commemoration of Black History Month.

A meet and greet with the artist will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Feb. 15 at the library.

Family heritage plays a major role in the artistry of her work. The talent she brings comes from generations of women who expressed themselves through thread and needle. The Port Arthur native and 1978 graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School  comes from a large family. She is a twin, and she has two brothers and six sisters still living.

“There has not been a quilt I’ve made that I haven’t thought about a family member,” she said.

It would likely be difficult for Casmore to stitch a quilt without thinking of her heritage. Her mother, Sylvina Casmore, would create string quilts and Laura and the other girls would help by tying them after they got home from school.

Her grandmother, Alberta Casimire, worked as a domestic for a white family in Louisiana and often brought home intricately embroidered pillow cases she had made in what little spare time she had.

While growing up, she and her sisters thought everyone had sewing machines at home.

“My mom would make quilts for every baby that came along until around 2000,” she said. “As soon as someone had a baby or were expecting, they all knew. Now I have to fill in.”

Casmore’s quilts are a blend of utility, or everyday use, and decoration. Each quilt she creates is different, and often the ideas for her work pop into her head at random times. She has had ideas come to her at 3 or 4 a.m. and once during a church service she stopped to jot something down.

Casmore’s work is her own creation. Her quilt titled “Dresses, Dresses” features dresses in the bold colors she favors on a black background.

“To those of us women who have too many,” she said. “We always think we need a new dress.”

Another quilt titled “Born Free” repeats her color scheme.

“I love black and white but thought this one needed something. Then I thought of how beautiful and colorful a butterfly is, so I incorporated a butterfly into the center,” she said.

Carolyn Thibodeaux with the Port Arthur Library said the exhibit allows the library an opportunity to bridge with the community with a new educational learning experience.

Casmore has been quilting for more than 15 years and has been exhibiting her works since 2008. She remembered back to a time while in Chicago that she  learned of Faith Ringgold, a Harlem, N.Y., native known for her painted story quilts. Ringgold had an exhibit in Chicago, so Casmore found her way downtown and saw the works at a museum.

“I want to be able to tell stories. I want people to wonder ‘what was she thinking?’ and ‘what’s the story?’” she said.

E-mail: mmeaux@panews.com

Twitter: MaryMeauxPANews