Back To Festival Schedule
April 23rd, 24th and 25th
Arts Learning Centre, Main floor
Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts
225-8 Ave SE
Presented with support from:
Making Art Quilts Together
The idea for Dream Quilts was born after a week-long blanket-making effort at the Glenbow Museum in 2009. Not all of the 100 donated quilt tops (the decoratively pieced ‘fronts’ of quilts) were used. This is My City Art Society (TMC) agreed to repurpose the few remainders for an artistic project. It took shape when TMC received an Artist-in-Residence grant from Calgary 2012 and one of our ongoing partners, The Women’s Centre of Calgary, agreed to be our host. A truly remarkable place, the Women’s Centre answers close to 60,000 calls for basic needs assistance annually and provides - among other things - legal guidance, peer support, access to computers, diverse educational programs, and a strong social network, all at no cost. Almost all clients face issues of poverty; the vast majority feel a strong sense of belonging there.
My colleague Cat Schick and I entered this environment with an armload of quilt tops and a plan for creative collaboration. We focused our project around themes of sleep and dreams - it seemed a natural fit for a project using quilts as a starting point. Our in-house residency took place weekly in October and November 2012. In the afternoons we welcomed those who wanted to observe or work alongside us in open studio sessions. In the evenings we led structured workshops featuring demonstrations of traditional textile techniques such as embroidery and applique as well as art practices such as mark-making and image transfer. We invited guest artist Sally Truss to lead a session on relationships between visual art and music. Participants experimented, combined materials and techniques in interesting ways, and took creative risks. Through making our own quilts, Cat and I demonstrated that personal experience is a rich and valuable source of inspiration, and we nurtured a sense of trust in each individual`s expertise and intuition. Collaboration stitched the program together. Some women created small works that were grouped according to theme or aesthetic. Some worked directly on a quilt surface, then invited others to respond.
Close to twenty women participated. About five of them attended workshops on a regular basis and contributed the majority of the work and vision in the quilts. Cat and I supported and at times augmented their efforts with our own contributions.
Once the quilt tops were complete, we layered them with batting and backing and recruited more participants in public quilting sessions at the Central Library. In this open environment, men, children, seniors, women, readers, and people on their lunch hours joined in conversation around the quilting frame as we stitched through the layers together. Talk often reflected memories of people in our lives who did handwork and the things they made. Something about the shared task at hand allowed for the possibility for such personal sharing. Making a quilt is multi-faceted undertaking. The quilter has one eye on the big picture, while she simultaneously considers stitch length, thread tension and other minutia. The art quilter who collaborates also thinks about voice, group dynamic, and expression of ideas. Our work was not concerned with peerless craftsmanship, and function was important only so far as it allowed the textile to hang on a wall and communicate some sense of the maker. These quilts tell me that the women who created them face many hardships with grace and optimism; they make the time for art in their lives because it sustains them; they find community in creative acts because creative people know the heart of them. We should all be so fortunate.
These artistic, contemporary quilt interpretations contain a myriad of emotions, a constellation of dreams. At first, one gets a sense of the warmth and comfort traditionally associated with quilts. But an edge exists beneath these cozy surfaces: holes slice through the layers; entire blocks are absent; materials that would make sleeping uncomfortable at best are included. These works remind me that the power of handwork can connect us through our shared experience of touch; they demonstrate that even the most familiar idea can find unique expression when it is genuinely felt; they say that even with pieces missing, our quilts - and we ourselves - are beautiful.
When our eyes see our hands doing the work of our hearts, the circle of creation is complete inside us, the doors of our souls fly open, and love steps forth to heal everything in sight.
Dream Quilts project lead