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

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