Ora Clay

Ora Clay

In Alabama, as a young child of four or five years of age, I observed my mother making quilts for our beds on a quilting frame of two-by-fours. I watched her stretch the balls of cotton that we grew into a batting layer, and wash and soften flour sacks for backing fabric.

In 2011, my daughter took me to a series of classes at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco (MOAD), which was taught by master quilter, Marion Coleman. As a beginner I started with quilt post cards and then moved to a set of 12 small quilts to illustrate a calendar series I made every year for family and close friends. My first calendar based on quilts was a “bed” series and the most recent one feature sayings my mother used when I was growing up.  

Since those first quilts, I have done more than two dozen quilting projects including cards, pillows, and wall hangings. I have learned to use quilts to tell a story by using photos, sayings, and events from my cultural background. My quilts have been exhibited over a dozen times, while one being featured in the New York Times Art Section.


I enjoy the process of quilt making. We have moved from coverings for beds to public and private art depicting who we are. Quilting not only allows me to create beautiful art, working with different colors and textures, but also to use the beauty of the quilting medium to draw the viewer into thinking about serious issues facing our world.


The best feeling I have had as an artist came when I saw one of my quilts hanging in a public space for the very first time. That quilt was part of a project sponsored by the African American Quilting Guild of Oakland, (AAQGO,) whose mission is  “To preserve and continue the tradition of quilting.”

ain't I a woman