“We recognize the creative voice of every citizen and believe that we are all richer for having listened.”
This Is My City visual artists Linda Hawke and Cat Schick were in residence at The Women’s Centre to create innovative art quilts based on themes of sleep and dreams. Collaborating with workshop participants, Linda and Cat explored how simple techniques can transform quilts into powerful artistic statements.
making DREAM QUILTS together
Making a quilt is an exercise in balance. As the quilter’s focus constantly shifts between small details and the vision for the final piece, the quilt itself takes shape. In this collaborative project the big picture included voice, group dynamic, and expression of ideas. In these quilts I see not only the individual stitches made with care, I see the grace and optimism with which the makers face adversity; I see people making time for art in their lives because it sustains them; I see women finding community in creative acts because creative people know the heart of them. We should all be so fortunate.
Dream Quilts: The Movie
Born from the remnants of a functional blanket-making project, Dream Quilts took shape when This is My City Art Society (TMC) became Artist-in-Residence at The Women’s Centre with support from a Calgary 2012 grant. A truly remarkable place, the Women’s Centre answers close to 60,000 calls for basic needs assistance annually and provides – among other things – peer support, diverse educational programs, and a strong social network at no cost to clients. 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 around themes of sleep and dreams. Our in-house residency took place weekly in the fall of 2012. In the afternoons we welcomed those who wanted to observe or work alongside us in open studio sessions. In the evenings we led workshops featuring demonstrations of traditional textile techniques such as embroidery and appliqué as well as art practices such as mark-making and image transfer. Guest artist Sally Truss led a session exploring relationships between visual art and music. Participants experimented, combined materials and techniques, 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.
View a Presentation on the many facets of Dream Quilts
Collaboration stitched the program together. Some women created small works that were grouped together according to theme or aesthetic. Some worked directly on a quilt surface, then invited others to respond. 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. People from all walks of life gathered around the quilting frame. Conversations often reflected memories of people in our lives who did handwork. Something about the communal work of hand sewing invited a very personal kind of sharing.
These quilts 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; some of the materials used would make sleeping under these quilts uncomfortable at best. Through this abundance of tactility I am reminded of the power of handwork to connect us through the shared human experience of touch. I see familiar sentiments become unique through genuine and heartfelt expression. I sense a vulnerability which helps me believe that even with pieces missing, our quilts – and we ourselves – are beautiful.
Dream Quilts project lead
Participants: Kathleen, Jackie, Yoshimi, Flora, Monica, Kim, Barbara, Marianne, Gisa, Anna, Pooja, Myra, Shirley, Eva, Lacey, Adrien, Jennifer
Facilitators: Cat, Linda, Guest Artist: Sally
Organizers: This is My City Art Society, The Women’s Centre
Supporters: Calgary 2012, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts