By Susan Fisher
Tired of driving in snow, Elaine Ratiner decided to relocate from New York to Florida, which her mother described as “paradise.” But when Elaine stepped off that plane on March 1, 1971 and felt that heat and humidity all she could think was, “Oh, what have I done?” However her kids loved living there and made her promise not to move until they left for college.
In the early 80s when they left for college, Elaine moved to Houston. She happily stayed there until the economy took a nose-dive at the end of the decade. Her son and his wife were living in Atlanta and expecting their first child and so Elaine moved to Atlanta and coincidentally began her quilting life.
She joined her pregnant daughter-in-law at a water aerobics class. The instructor was also pregnant. When Elaine’s daughter-in-law said she was looking for something to decorate an empty wall in the nursery, the instructor said, “Me, too.” So with no experience or instruction Elaine made large wall hangings for both the moms - to - be. As she says now, “Looking back, a lot was wrong.” But her interest in quilting began.
One day, after a bad week at work she was leafing through a catalog for the John C. Campbell Folk School and spotted a quilt class. She didn’t know what string piecing was but she went anyway. That week was one of those life-changing experiences. She still remembers it as “the most relaxing, wonderful place.” Back in Atlanta she started to take quilt classes everywhere as she moved from traditional to art quilting. Now she looks back and is pleased to see that many of those great teachers have gone on to become famous.
Like so many quilters Elaine finds herself with too many UFOs and not enough hours in the day. She is determined to go through everything in her quilting studio and ruthlessly edit those unfinished projects. She says, “We grew up thinking we have to finish what we start whether we like it or not.” This year Elaine vows to get rid of the old stuff she doesn’t like and focus on the good stuff.
It was nearly ten years ago that Elaine had gone to drop off a quilt entry for the East Cobb Quilt Show. She wasn’t interested in joining a quilt club but in a casual conversation with a guild member that day she mentioned that she WAS interested in seeing a quilt museum in Georgia. She learned that an exploratory committee was forming. A phone call or two later and Elaine found herself on that committee and one of the “founding mothers” of the Georgia Quilt Museum.
In those early days Elaine believed the museum would be a reality in five years. She worked on the business plan and various money-raising ideas. Her thought always was that once a location was secured, people would take the committee seriously. When she toured the proposed site in Carrollton she could only marvel at the progress that had been made even if it had been ten years instead of her hoped-for five.
Sadly, Elaine lost a valiant battle with cancer on Sept 24, 2010. She will be missed by all who knew and loved her.