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: