My great-grandmother's journey

Ellis Island id cardI just mailed another installment in my first Round Robin Journal project. Unlike my previous spread, I mailed this one on time. I'm happy with how it turned out. But I nearly screwed it all up!
The theme was "Journey." I spent lots of time thinking and scheming, long before I picked up a pair of scissors or poured a drop of matte medium. I free-associated. I brainstormed. I pre-visualized (whatever that means). I came up with an elaborate plan for a series of nested doors that actually opened, each door revealing another, slightly smaller door. This, I thought, would represent free will vs. determinism.
My great-grandmother Maria Madia BarileTalk about over-thinking! Thankfully, when I actually sat down to work, common sense prevailed and my materials took me in a totally different direction. Back to 1909, when my great-grandmother Maria took her own journey, from Italy to America. 
I often wonder about her decision to leave. Was this the first time she left her small hilltop village in Calabria? How did she travel to Naples? Was she scared? Excited? What did she take with her?

Here's the first page of my spread. I made the background by tearing strips from the index of an old atlas and stamping images of cloth onto tissue paper. The women in this village worked with textiles, as weavers. The swatch of burlap also represents how strong Maria must have been to undertake such a journey.
My journal spread with the theme "Journey"
On the map I circled her starting point -- San Giovanni in Fiore. The silver icon is a protective talisman against the Evil Eye -- others in the village may have envied Maria's ability to escape an impoverished future for the promise of America. 

The quote comes from a list of Calabrian proverbs I found online. I put the translation on the second page of the spread, below.
"She who leaves the old ways for the new, knows what she left behind but not what she is yet to find."
I found a photo of immigrant women at Ellis Island, and put it over a 3rd-class ticket for an Italian ship. The ad is for the same steamship line that my great-grandmother used in 1909. 
My journal spread with the theme "Journey"
After they disembarked at Ellis Island, new arrivals were examined for signs of physical and mental weakness. (Here's a description of the process.) Each immigrant wore an identification tag pinned to their coat or shawl.
Ellis Island ID tags
How long did my Maria wait at Ellis Island? Did she understand everything that was happening? Was she afraid of being detained? Separated from her cousins? So much I wish I could ask her.

I'm so glad I listened to my heart and not my head in creating this "Journey" journal spread.


  1. Wow, they are stunning. Tracy will love it! Heart wins over head every time. When I overthink its always a disaster. Thanks for sharing.

  2. This is wonderful - thanks for showing it off! I love all the designs elements and how well they worked together, and of course all the meanings behind them too.

    My grandparents hailed from Sicily, and I named my daughter Maria - the prettiest name I know!

  3. Great images, and story. It's good to know about your roots.

  4. It looks gorgeous, Claudia! And I loved reading the story behind it all, too, with all the meanings of the elements you used.

  5. Love it - phew, our great grandmother looks tough, doesn't she???

    1. Yes -- I wish I knew more about her. I wonder if your mom remembers her?


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