Friday, January 3, 2020

Going full circle - again!

Delving into my stash in the last few weeks in an effort to discard some to a ‘better home’, I found the fabric off-cuts to a quilt made for Nickie. They are so beautiful that I don’t believe I’ll ever part with them. I wondered how else I might bring them into manifestation. They are originally from Damascus, and literally have gold thread running through them. I do remember very well how the fabrics appeared, how precious they are, and it humbles me to think of the many facets of story attached they carry.

I have written about this quilt on my blogspot in 2011, and I’m glad I did because I’ve looked through my card files for information about it and cannot find any record at all. In one of my visual diaries I have found two pages, with vaguely sketched ideas and side notes, and ‘commission from Nickie Millard’. And although no title is referred to, the influence is evident in the way it turned out: a heraldic banner to the sisters and their parents, a family coat of arms perhaps to celebrate their ancestry. With lives, torn apart by war, abuse and distance, Nickie told me the sacred threads of their various stories. The final quilt was at once very personal and took on the ethics, values and beliefs of generations of family.

It was at a Women’s Health Centre on the Central Coast. I had been invited to take my first series of quilts for the Seasonal Cycle for the Southern Hemisphere, to show them and tell their stories. It was lovely, casual and very friendly morning. Leo, who was nine or ten then, came along too. We loved doing road trips and discovering new horizons.

At the end of my presentation, or during morning tea break a woman approached me and asked if I would make a quilt for her from some very special fabrics she’d been saving for just such an occasion. She said she would have to go home to get them and when she brought them back, carefully packaged over a long time, I was quite overwhelmed, and as she told me her story I became even more so. Although it took ten years to come into its full form, this was the beginning of what was to become my own journey into exploring art as therapy, as I started to take on other commissions to make quilts depicting the personal stories of other women. Why so long? Single parenting, casual work, Masters thesis by research into women’s empowerment through textile art, soon followed by PhD while curating textile art exhibitions.

The choice behind the symbols used in Nickie’s quilt can be found here:

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Season of the Rose: a quilt for Summer Solstice

A quilt memory on Facebook came up, and I thought this was a good opportunity to share it here. Having been designed for the Summer Solstice, it’s a bit ahead of the seasonal cycle. It is a Solstice quilt celebrating the fullness of the season, as roses bloom during this time, only to drop after they have come into fullness.

Today is the day of the Summer Solstice for 2019 (22 December), the longest hours of sunlight of the year, before our journey on Mother Earth around the Sun carries us back towards the shortest hours at the Winter Solstice. Off course it is the reverse in the Northern Hemisphere, a result of the tilt of Earth’s axis in relation to our life-giving Sun. It is a little difficult to think of Sun this way at the moment, being surrounded by blistering weather and mega bush fires. But Sun is not the one to blame. Here are some words from a dear friend, posted today on Facebook.
It's Summer Solstice - called Lithe in the Celtic Festival Wheel of the Year. I wish you all blessings of the celestial moment. Some of us remember the old ways at this time, and some of us honour this land and the many spiritual connections we weave with country. But somehow it no longer feels fitting to celebrate the Fire Festivals with Mother Nature rubbing our faces in our own soiled nest and forcing us to pay attention... there is so much that is out of kilter. Let the rains come when they may... meanwhile we must express our gratitude for all the land has given us, our grief for all the abuse we meter out upon the Earth and her creatures, day after day, and ask the unthinkable - that we might be given another chance to take our seat at Her table and then to take only our fair share. (Margi Curtis)

This quilt was made nearly 20 years ago, in 2000. The form it took on eventually was of a type of banner. Designed to represent a rose in full bloom, I used Thai raw silks for the rose in full bloom and over-dyed commercial cotton fabrics for the background. All of the stripped fabrics are cut on a 45 degree angle, machine pieced and quilted. The symbolism of the rose is important in many cultures, representing eros, an anagram of the word ‘rose’, cognate with the Greek word meaning the power of the life force. The rose is symbol of life’s passion to be renewed in beauty, strength, fragility and endurance through the endless cycles of destruction and creation.

The quilt became an icon to the continual seasonal blossoming of Mother Earth, in particular experienced through the body of Woman, as a cross-cultural icon that represents the female genitalia, the vulva, the yoni – and expresses the desire for union with the Mystery that is the gateway giving rise to all life. It is symbolic of the power, pleasure and the pain that comes with ‘a kiss from a rose’.
On the back of the quilt there is a nine-point square, included in order to make the point that we all live on the same planet and every cardinal direction shows the potential that life, in whatever form it takes, is the creative outcome of the wondrous 15 billion years of Earth’s evolution from a spec of dust…now that’s resilience! If we truly took this in would we be so keen on ignoring the effects of changing climates due to our human habitation.
It dawned on me quite a while back that this planet Earth will continue, diminished from Her former glory of wild forests, wonderful varieties of flora and fauna, birds and sea creatures – diminished, but nevertheless surviving. We humans will be the ones to become extinct – due to our self-destructive activities that can be avoided were it not for greed of the few, and denying justice, causing lack of social cohesiveness to achieve their personal wealth. Reckon it’s a safer bet to call those deniers to account than relying on an imaginary “G*d” to fix it for us.

Monday, August 26, 2019

The finished Uluru quilt: “Makarrata”

Earlier this year, on 29 April, I started a blog post about the creation of the quilt from a jellyroll of Indigenous style prints that I’d bought in Alice Springs, as part of our journey many years ago to places that we Aussies lump together as “the Top End”. I can now reveal that the final quilt is resting on my own bed, and I am so delighted to be resting underneath the “Makarrata” quilt on these cold nights. It started out in name as “The Uluru quilt”, and since then I have decided to call it “The Makarrata quilt”, the term used in the “Uluru statement from the heart” of 2017, meaning ‘coming together after a struggle’ – such a discussion cannot be put blithely aside by our ‘governors’, as though such a thought was some sort of ‘invasion’ into a sovereign territory that had not already been invaded. On a personal note, it is also relevant to how this quilt finally emerged, after having been put to one side whilst I was dealing with breast cancer, followed closely by treatment for Stage IV melanoma over the past three and more years.

The quilting design I originally started with has been continued into the borders the colour of which reminds me (almost - in reality, much redder!)) of the sands of the 'red centre'. They were added on to make the dimensions for a queen-sized bed. I love snuggling under this blanket of fiery warmth at night and waking up to the bright colours. It might have to come off when summer hits! (By coincidence, I have a very bright linen set that seems to go very well with the quilt's colours, as shown here.)

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Season of the Quickening FOR SALE

Heading up to the cross quarter day[1] of Imbolc (August 8 this year, but traditionally remembered on August 2), I’ve started to notice small changes in the vegetation. Lots of native blooms, especially the native varieties of wattle (acacia) are starting to show their colours, moving from green into all shades of pale to vibrant yellows, as our southern orientation of planet Earth takes us gradually back towards the sun - and into the fullness of warmth and light. For me, this season is a signal of reassurance that life’s energies are returning for another cycle. For the cycle of creativity as expressed through the natural cycles, it is the breath of fresh air that signals renewing energy and inspiration to create.

The quilt I made for this early pre-spring equinox revival in nature is called “Season of the quickening”, a term that I understand was used originally in farming practice, in reference to the lambing season as spring approached. It’s a large quilt, (140cms long and 93cms wide), and it is made from hand-dyed cotton fabrics, using a combination from the more conventional stripping with free-cutting techniques, to evoke a sense of continuity and change experienced in the cycle of Earth’s seasonal expressions. The design started with the idea of looking through a shuttered (remember venetian blinds?) window frame out into the bush that is starting to regenerate and come into bloom after the dormant winter months, and skies are lighting up to their wide and  intense blue. Now, many years on, I have to return to the comments made in my PhD thesis about the grid formation at the bottom of the quilt, where the reddish strands are interwoven through the yellow and blue patches. No doubt I was experimenting with technique. I think, put simply, I was engaging with the space of the creative void and the possibility of change as the ongoing act of all Creation.

There is a strong resonance with the earlier quilt made for the season of Imbolc for my Masters thesis, but the second version for the Southern Hemisphere is much more daring, even bolder and wilder. The earlier one is also based on the concept of light returning, this time through a window in the form of a square of 16 conjoined panels with a Celtic knot influence, looking like the casement window in a medieval building. The influence was the Goddess Brigid, (she, who is made a saint with the coming of Christianity). She keeps the flame alive all through winter, and as Virgin carries in her the returning life energy. After much unexpected organic flow, the work becomes a banner for Imbolc, with reference to wattle blossoms, warming fires, and the return of light. It has left these shores and now hangs at Letterwalton House, in county Argyll, Scotland.

[1] A cross quarter day marks and celebrates what the name indicates: the halfway mark between Solstice and Equinox. There are four of those in the year, and so there are four cross quarter days: Imbloc, Beltaine, Lammas and Samhain (usually known as Hallowe’en from the Christian Church’s apellation).