Sunday and Monday were two very different days at Emerald Community House. Sunday was the monthly market which Emerald Community House coordinates and host on their premises/in the street in front of the hall. Meaning I shared the space I have been using as my studio all week with several other stall holders and a steady stream of people. Monday on the other hand was super quiet – I had the hall almost entirely to myself the whole day with only one brief visit from a gentlemen who I met on Saturday.
The day of the markets was freezing for a summer day and I was huddled in a corner of the hall at a little table set up with my sewing machine, cutting mat and the work I have been doing for the past week hanging on the whiteboard behind me (see below). The idea was just to hang out and chat to people as they walked through, letting them know about the project and hopefully getting a few people to sign up to the upcoming workshops.
Considering the number of meaningful exchanges with local community members I already had during the week I had high hopes for more of the same during the markets. In reality people were doing their own thing and there was too much going on for people to stop and pay attention to me. In saying that several people took the information leaflet about the project and several women showed interest in participating in the workshops. The fact workshops are on during the week was a barrier for some but two women said they would take part. One, a new mum, used to work for Access Arts Victoria as a community cultural development worker; and the other who was only just moving into the area used to have her own quilting business and has taught and exhibited textile art. They were both really lovely and intelligent ladies and were enthusiastic about the project – I hope they do end up participating.
By the end of the day I did manage to catch up with a lot of the people who I have already come to know as a result of my residency. It almost feels like I’ve moved into the community so to speak – like they are my new neighbours or something. I’ve become Facebook friends with a few of them and they are now following the project that way and interacting with me which is awesome. Plus I did quite a bit of writing on my PhD confirmation presentation so all in all it was a day well spent.
As I mentioned Monday was super quiet and as a result super productive, as you can see below I managed to piece together all the panels I’ve finished to date and incorporate some of the fabric that local community members donated to the project. Plus put some finishing touches on the panels themselves.
The one gentlemen who did came in to say hi to me briefly today asked whether I was going to keep the work and was very glad to hear that I am leaving the work in the hands of Emerald Community House and that it would be available for public viewing in the very least at this years PAVE festival. It was an important reminder of the ethical considerations at play when artists go into communities to document their stories – which can sometimes seem exploitative when the artist then takes the work out of the community and sells it. My work is very much about documenting local stories for the sake of keeping these stories alive in the local community.
I’m really happy with the stylised and almost naive aesthetic of this piece. Its far from technically perfect but one of the things that keep coming up in conversations I have about the work is that mistakes show that it is handmade; and being handmade makes the work more appealing, more precious. People really do see these types of quilted hangings as treasures and heirlooms which is of course how I see them too.