Monday, 29 August 2016

Talking Quilts

Talking Quilts Exhibition at the Festival of Quilts
When I visited the International Quilt Festival in Houston six years ago, I was very taken with a project called Quilt SOS, or Save Our Stories, organised by the Quilt Alliance.  It records the individual histories of quilt makers, creating a vast, recorded oral history of US quilt making.  You can access loads of information about it here.
Kate Smith's quilt about her amazing mother
I wrote an article about it for The Quilter and asked the question why were we not doing something similar here?  Well, it turned out that some people were already starting to organise such a project.
Jennifer Campbell Kirk
Led by Pauline Macaulay, and under the banner of the Quilters' Guild, Talking Quilts came into being with help from lottery funding.  Over the past few years, volunteers have recorded and transcribed over 140 interviews with quilters talking about one of their quilts.

And at this summer's Festival of Quilts, there was a gallery of some of the quilts which were the focus of the interviews, alongside some details from their recordings and you could listen to the recordings themselves.
Sabi Westoby
It was fantastic to see this project come to fruition and the interviews on display were just as exciting and interesting as those I had seen in the States.  It is fascinating to discover which quilt the maker chose to share - often not their favourite or their best, but one with personal meaning attached.

As a gross generalisation, the ordinary person, in particular women, can get missed from history, as their lives even to themselves, can seem unimportant.  This project records the history of such people as well as more well-known ones, and it shows that there is no such thing as ordinary, everyone counts and everyone has a story to tell and share...or at least quilters do!

This is a link to the Talking Quilts website, where you can read some of the transcripts of the interviews and listen to the audio.  More are still be added.  It is an amazing project aided by so many volunteers, all helping to preserve the history of their craft.
Alongside the Talking Quilts, there were historical quilts owned by the Guild, also with interesting family connections

Friday, 19 August 2016

Some highlights from the Festival of Quilts 2016

The Festival of Quilts at the NEC, Birmingham took place last weekend.  I went down for three days, but as I had decided to take a number of courses, I only really had 1/2 a day for mooching around looking at the quilts.
As always there were some lovely quilts and looking at my photos this morning, I didn't take many photos this year and I don't seem to have taken photos of all my favourite galleries such as that by Claire Benn and Ingrid Press.  Rather than share full photos at such a small resolution you don't get any idea at all of what the quilt was really like, here is a selection of close ups of some that caught my eye at the Show.
Ineke Berlyn - Pieces of Positivity 2
Edwina Mackinnon - Pathways

Helen Cowans - Forgotten Women of the Land

Leah Higgins, winner of the Art Quilts Category - the breakdown printing was beautiful

Cas Holmes - Unfolding Landscape Summer Verge

Laura Kemshall, Winner of the Quilters' Guild Challenge.  You can read about this amazing quilt and her new processes on her blog at

Ruth Singer with her winning quilt in the Fine Art Quilt Masters category

Monday, 15 August 2016

Italian sketchbook

Coliseum, Rome
On holiday we took minimal luggage as we were travelling everywhere by train and had to carry our bags a lot.  Minimal means different things to different people.  For me, it meant few clothes, books on Kindle on the iPad rather than paperbacks, a little bit of hand sewing, full SLR camera, sketchbook, pencils, pens etc.  
Archaeological Museum, Florence
I greatly enjoyed having the sketchbook with me, especially as it was so hot - sitting drawing/doodling was more relaxing than trying to pack in seeing too many things.  It also kept me occupied on train journeys and in the evenings. 
Large tomato from the market
One of the nicest things was sketching in a museum with the kids.  When they got bored, they headed off with the camera whilst I continued sketching.  We have some interesting photos from these museums! 
Large, fresh porcini mushroom from the market
These are a selection of some of my more successful pages.  No, I am not going to share the terrible drawing of Mount Vesuvius looking like a pair of boobs! Even the kids noticed it. 
Stones at the Forum, in Rome
I think this is important to mention as so many people get intimidated by the beautiful work that others share and imagine that all of their work is amazing (I can be just as guilty of this too).  It's useful to remember that what people choose to share is selective and to get to the good drawings, most artists have to plough their way through lots of dross too.

Half a Roman streetlight - I ran out of time to finish it

Based on the crenulations at Sirmione

Based on the millefiore patterns in Murano glass

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Out & About: Mitoraj sculptures at Pompeii

Sculpture by Mitoraj at Pompeii
The blog has been quiet for a few weeks as we were away on our summer holiday.  Rather than our normal family camping trip, we decided to do something different this year and we spent three glorious weeks in Italy visiting some of the major cities - modern and ancient.  
Richard standing next to one of the sculptures gives you a sense of scale - he is 6foot4!
We took rather a lot of photos - the numbers increased hugely increased whenever one of the children borrowed the camera.  Over our three devices I think we have around 4,000 photos.  The number is going down as I remove all the photos of the kids' feet!
Not one of the kids' feet!
One of the highlights of the holiday for me was a visit to an incredibly hot Pompeii.  The visitor facilities were sparse, which was a positive thing, rather than turning it into a theme park.  The main facility was plenty of water taps, which we made good use of refilling our water bottles.
Looking up at one of the Mitoraj sculptures
Fitting in with the ancient town were a number of monumental sculptures by Igor Mitoraj.  They fitted in so well that it was only on a second glance that I noticed they weren't from Roman times (maybe I was a bit hot and tired... or had had too much to drink at lunch prior to visiting!).  The sculptures were generally of parts of the body - never complete - and sometimes with an unexpected disconnected head, for example, in the fold of a shoulder blade.  
Another Mitoraj sculpture

I found these pieces intriguing and when we got back home, I tried to find out a bit more about Mitoraj and the exhibition.  There wasn't a huge amount on the web, but these are a couple of quotes from his 2014 obituary in the Guardian, which echo why I found the work so exciting:

Rupture & fragmentation became metaphors for the passing of antiquity, but could also stand for the nature of time itself and indeed the whole human condition.

Quoting Mitoraj directly, it said:
I feel that a piece of arm or a leg speak far more strongly than a whole body.
Given that I have spent so much time making work inspired by ancient sculptures, it is fascinating and exciting to see work which is interpreting similar ideas more deeply and in a totally different way. 

Another Mitoraj sculpture, this time besides the Leaning Tower of Pisa

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