“Come Feel the Fabric!” invites the sign on the door of Peacemakers Quilt Shop in Dripping Springs. It’s no coincidence that, as you run your fingers along vibrant folds of cloth, what you really feel is the peaceful, welcoming charm of the place. Co-owner Jote Khalsa runs the shop not only as a business, but also as a kind of community -- inviting customers to linger, connect and chat. “Peacemakers was conceived as a place where women could come together to talk and do different things,” Jote explains. “Women and their children are always welcome here.”
Raised in Texas by parents who’d converted to Sikhism in the 60’s, Jote’s core ethics were formed by the spirit of egoless service practiced in that sect. She spent her teens at a private school in India sheltered from pop culture, where she met Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama without being aware of their public personae, yet sensing in them an innate divinity. “You feel they know something that you don’t. Some people have a charm that’s not political. It’s a magnetism.” Jote continues to draw from her years in India as a place of great strength and clarity.
The next chapter of Jote’s life was written at Hampshire College, where she studied Elementary Particle Physics and Neuropsychology. She left after three years without a degree, but with a passion for paddling -- a gift from the competitive kayaker she dated. “Kayaking sparked something in me that I’d never felt before. I found my spirituality, a sense of freedom, independence and strength born of knowing the abilities of your own body and mind.”
Jote married husband Matt at age 22, and started apologizing to her parents for never giving them any slack. She recalls wryly the realization of how difficult marriage can be, and her mother’s laughing response to this newfound respect for a parents’ hard work. “They are such kind and gracious people,” says Jote, “They are definitely my inspiration.”
These days you can find Jote arranging class schedules and measuring fat quarters for the loyal and enthusiastic quilters and crafters who frequent Peacemakers. Sometimes her children, first grader Liam and preschooler Fiona, play among the bolts; often there’s lively conversation overheard, ranging from childrearing to politics, to whatever project had Jote awake and stitching at four a.m.
We caught up with Jote recently. Here's what she had to say about life, motherhood and blending the various aspects of her life.
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Which two notable people would you like to see handcuffed to each other for a day?
Karl Rove and Ann Richards. Whichever one you favor, that would be interesting.
You are face to face with your ten-year-old self. You have one thing to say to her about her future, what do you say?
Don’t be scared of change
What is the biggest challenge you see mothers faced with today?
Lack of community. When I look at the big picture of the shop, it started as a reason for women to come together. Mothers need something special.
What do you see as your biggest challenge in being the kind of person you want to be?
My biggest challenge in life has changed; currently, it’s being more businesslike to mesh the ideals of the shop with making it fiscally successful.
What makes you most happy about what you give back to the world?
Providing a space for moms to come together.
What makes you most happy about the way you parent?
I have periods where I’m proud of the way I parent. Now I’m in a period where I’m gliding. Both kids have just started school, so we’re in a holding pattern rather than in a blossoming pattern. I’m really proud of both my children right now, but that’s not so much to do with us, but with them.
How do you balance motherhood and art?
It’s not separate, so there’s no question of balance. The family, the art, the mothering: it all goes together. The kids have grown up here. The outside world comes in consistently. It’s all life.
What do you wish you could automatically grant, like a fairy godmother, to mothers during trying times?
The Sikh gift of “seva.”
Translated to English, this means “selfless work.”
In practical terms, it’s 40 days of help for a mother who’s
just given birth.
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