After months of fertility treatments, Bernadette Merikle and her husband, Robert, had finally made it to 20 weeks — the longest yet.
The couple was elated, but ever so cautiously. They had discussed and planned for this day — decoration of the nursery at 20 weeks — but with wisdom gained along the way of their journey, they tempered the desire to go headlong into it. They allowed themselves a timid kind of joy, and waited. Then, in a follow-up sonogram, she sensed something was off.
“Trying not to panic, trying to keep my mind occupied, trying not to expect the worst,” Merikle says, “I did what any artist would have.” She became inspired. And through her rediscovery of characters in childhood tales, Storybook Weavings, a work of textiles, gratitude, love, time and tears, took shape.
She describes her handmade works as “textile weavings and wall hangings depicting characters from our favorite children’s books.” As she and her husband were once again coming to terms with their hopes deferred, “other mothers in waiting were snapping up my creations for their own nurseries.”
Now Merikle is a mother to John, 15 months, and Julia, who with her own hashtag, #juliaunbothered, commands an adoring audience at just 3 years old. Both of these beautiful children were adopted. Merikle’s Instagram account displays their many wide-eyed smiles and serious play.
Thinking back on that time, Merikle recalls her devastation at the loss of her unborn child, but a new kind of bond as well: "I love working with moms who have struggled to persevere through the journey to motherhood."
“Folks commission me to remake popular children’s book characters,” says Merikle. For example, the Wolf from Three Little Pigs, the Owl from Owl Moon, and Baby Bear from Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Each comes with a copy of the book on which the art is based. One of her favorite parts of the process is thrift-store hunting for books and textiles that allow her to tell stories in this new way, through deconstruction and reconstruction.
Custom pieces are accompanied by a studio diary that details Merikle’s creation process. These are heirloom pieces; one day, parents will pass them down to their children. Lineage is especially important to her.
Like her mother before her, Merikle was born in El Paso, Texas, and her grandmother on her mother’s side is from Alabama. She hails, she says, from “very Southern women.” Black women, Southern ones specifically, have long created whole worlds made from necessity, persistence, and the work of their hands. There’s a certain pride in that.
Merikle’s story is a tender and very personal one, retold through creativity and generosity. Follow her for information about Mommy and Me, guided opportunities to create art and memories with your children, coming this spring.
Carla Bell is a Seattle-area freelance writer focused on civil and human rights, social justice, culture and the arts.
Custom weavings priced from $250. Artist-selected weavings priced from $150. All weavings are approximately 8 x 10 inches. (Non-standard sizing may be available on a case-by-case basis.) Merikle can be reached via her website.