and there's another thing i want to do....
I have been thinking of another project that I would like to do while on tour, and it is inspired by two quilt stories I received lately.
The fist story was told to me inside of my tent in Salt Lake City. Almost everyone there is or was Mormon, and has had an experience with Mormon quiltmaking traditions. One woman told me that being inside of the tent reminded her of hanging out underneath a quilt while several people were working on it. Women gather with their children in a home, stretching the quilt out on a frame that fills the entire room. The mothers are around the edges, all stitching their own space at once. They poke the needle through the top of the quilt, passing it to a child who is underneath. They point to where they would like the needle to come back to them, and the child pokes it up through to their mother. I was so struck by this story, compelled by the visual it gave me and the cooperative system it implied, that I knew it would stay with me and become something. I mentioned this story to several other visitors in the tent that night, and they had had the same experience as a child. I would very much like to witness this event, and also recreate or pay homage to it in some form of artwork.
Perhaps here I should explain that I have no family history of working on quilts, or even owning quilts. The only quilts I can remember in my family are two that my stepmother had made for my stepsisters, whom I spent summers with growing up.
The second story was e-mailed to me by a backer. His mother, who is 90 years old and had found this story in a magazine several years ago, she passed it on to me. It is scanned from a type-written original with hand-written notes on it, and it appears to be a script of sorts. The story is about a woman airing out her quilts in the spring air, it begins with this:
The aunt, who is the quilter in the story, sits down to explain her quilts, detailing all of the poetic, sentimental, fulfilling, and symbolic aspects of working in reclaimed fabric patchwork. The character has pieced all of the quilts herself, but had help with the quilting. She points out three different women's stitches on one quilt:
The entire story is very lovely, the way she describes the satisfying process of piecing the patchwork, and how one can become obsessed with it. The quilting process is when the layers of the quilt are stitched together, and that stitching makes a drawing of sorts. This process I do not have very much experience with, it is often done by fancy machines now. The tradition of gathering to stitch is one key aspect of quilting history, regarding women's handiwork, socializing, and communication. I would like to create a space for people to gather and collaborate and try their hand at this ritual of skill.
The project inspired by these stories will be a white quilt, in the tradition of Amish quilts that are solid white but fully quilted. The quilt will travel with me on the tour, and at each stop visitors will be be asked to contribute stitches. I hope the result will be a tangible amassing of personal touch, and a feeling of integration in the participants.