Late last year I made a gift for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – a Wagga quilt adorned with 121 hand stitched messages for the PM from over 100 Australian citizens who contributed to this project. When I reached out and asked people to contribute their messages for the PM my promise to them was that I would ensure the quilt gets to him.
Above are a few examples of the 121 messages hand stitched onto this quilt.
A few months ago I received a letter in the mail inviting me to take part in a letters exhibition at the George Paton Gallery at the University of Melbourne titled ‘f Genereation: Feminism, art, progression’ which was to be held between the 7-16 of October 2015 .
The letter explained that this unique exhibition will mark 40 years since International Women’s year in 1975 which was the year that the George Paton Gallery held a range of feminist art events including a pivotal lecture by renowned international artist and theorist Lucy Lippard. 1975 was also the year that the Women’s Art Register and Lip Magazine launched, two feminist resources that have played a critical role in the Australian feminist/art movement and which are still in operation today.
Co-curators of f Generation Veronica Caven Aldous, Dr Juliette Peers and Caroline Phillips looked to acknowledge, reflect and reconfigure this rich history as well as examine contemporary modes of provocation in feminist art practice. Needless to say I was thrilled to be asked to contribute and intrigued by the question we were asked to reflect on: How is feminism Important to you?
The curators received a huge response to their letter of invitation and in the end the show included the work of over 80 Australian and international artists who responded with work across many mediums including: photography, video, painting, drawing, text, textile works, artists’ books, printmaking and performance. I am very proud to have two of my textile wall hangings included in this exhibition, even more so as this is the first time my textile works are being exhibited in a group show and I could not imagine a more fitting exhibition to be part of.
Below are the two tiny appliqué quilted hangings I contributed and here is the letter I wrote in response to the question How is feminism important to you? titled: F-is-for-FREEDOM
“Girls just want to have fundamental human rights” 50cm x 50cm (2015) made using new and recycled materials, machine appliqué quilting and hand embroidery.
“Feminist Killjoy XOXOX” 50cm x 350cm (2015) made using new and recycled materials, machine appliqué quilting and hand embroidery.
Further information on the exhibition f generation: feminism, art, progressions, George Paton Gallery and the launch at MUDFest can be found via the following links: www.facebook.com/pages/F-generation-feminism-art-progressions/811027382324243 | www.umsu.unimelb.edu.au/what-is-on/gallery/ | www.umsu.unimelb.edu.au/what-is-on/mudfest/
This is just a bit of an update about what I’ve been up to lately and what projects are coming up just over the horizon… in no particular order.
Firstly, I was extremely honoured to have recently visited “Knit Your Revolt” superstar Shannon Morton in Brisbane to talk all things Craftivism. She said that my figurative quilting has inspiered her to create a story quilt about the “Knit Your Revolt” gang. So we met up so I could show her some techniques and talk more broadly about the power of craftivism. We made this little prototype portrait of one of the gang members:
After which Shannon made gave me a “Knit Your Revolt Tricycle Gang” patch and made me a member of the gang (even though I can’t knit!). I’m so stoked about it – watch this space for future Craftivism actions taken as part of this inspiring group of dissenters.
After this exciting trip to sunny Queensland it was time to head back to Melbourne and get started on the next two projects:
The ‘Great Stash Swap’ and ‘fGeneration: Feminism, Art, Progression’
I was very excited to be invited to take part in these two totally separate really awesome projects. The Great Statsh Swap was a week long event organised by fellow Craftivist and Crafiti artist Sayraphim Lothian. The project involved getting a bunch of crafty people to get there fabric stacks together at Gallery 314 in Richmond, Melbourne and then to basically swap it for other people’s stash. Over the week this was happening Sayraphim held a sort of pop-up artist in residence, where she invited one artist/crafter to sit and make in the space with her every day. I was one of those lucky artists invited to raid the loot and make something out of it. This was super timely because I had just been invited by artist and curator Caroline Phillips to contribute to an upcoming exhibition at the George Paton Gallery, Melbourne titled: fGeneration: feminism, art, progression. So I ended up making a mini-appliqué quilted hanging titled “Girls just want to have FUNdamental human rights” as my contribution to the exhibition while at The Great Stash Swap.
I’m also going to show another little mini-embroided quilted hanging at fGeneration, this one is titled “Feminist KillJoy”. I made just for fun not long ago and luckily for me it fits right in with the exhibition theme!
Another really exciting art-making project which I’m happy to finally be able to share is my first ever commission. Venus Court is a Melbourne based band made up of two talented brothers Jake and Sam O’Brien, I’ve known them forever and my partner George Carpenter produced their upcoming EP at his Gold Coast studio ‘Little Pink’. They have both been big supporters of my work and at the start of the year they asked me to make them a quilted banner for their band that they can use on stage. I made them this hanging below (2m x2m) and they were so stoked with it that they’ve decided to use it as the cover of their upcoming EP!
Below is a super close up to give you a sense of what the work looks like up close and in 3D.
In between these bigger projects I’ve been playing around with some smaller crafty ideas. I’ve started hand making patches using felt and embroidery and I’ve also started a very ambitious cross-stitching piece as my response/contribution to Peter Drew’s “Real Australian’s Say Welcome” campaign.
As you can see this cross stitch is nowhere near finished – I can’t believe how long it takes! Luckily I was in bed for three weeks with pneumonia recently otherwise I would never of got as much as I have done. I guess its going to be one of those ongoing labour of love type pieces.
Finally, I have three really exciting projects coming up in the next 6 months that will make up the primary case-studies for my practice-led PhD research. They are all socially engaged craftivism projects that involve a partnership with different non-profit organisations.
The first is a non-traditional residency with Igniting Change, a charity that works to support some really outstanding organisations including the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. I will be spending about 4 weeks over Oct/Nov this year in their office space making a story-quilt that celebrates the values of the organisation and shares some of the impacts they’ve had. I’ll be donating this work to Igniting Change so they can use it as a story telling device to help with communicating their complex work going forward.
The second will be a project delivered when I’m a guest-in-residence at the Billilla Historic Mansion in Brighton thanks to artist and craftivist Kate Just who has kindly given me her studio there while she is overseas. The project will involve raising funds and awareness for the International Woman’s Development Agency through me making and giving away a appliqué quilted portrait of the first 50 people who donate $50 to the organisation as part of this campaign. I’ll be launching this project in December so keep an eye out for that.
The final project is a series of Crafternoons which I will facilitate at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka in Ballarat. These workshops will hapen around March 2016 and focus around the issue of getting young people engaged and excited about voting. Again I’ll have more information to share about this project later in the year.
Oh yeah, and I nearly forgot – I am also going to be contributing a quilted/appliqué hanging to an exhibition that the Ballarat Quilters Association is holding at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka in Ballarat. Contributors to this exhibition were asked to create works in response to the lyrics from a selection of songs about freedom and democracy. My contribution will be called “this old freedom train is such a long time in a comin'” and above is a work-in-progress shot of the piece.
That’s all for now, thanks for stopping by and keep an eye out for more updates in the coming weeks.
As promised here is my full PhD Confirmation Report, submitted in April 2015
as a PDF document: Confirmation-Report-Tal-Fitzpatrick-2015
Alternatively, below is the Title/Research Question/Abstract for all those of you who “aint got time fo’dat!”
Research Title: Craftivism and the Political Moment
Research Question: Can craftivism create Political Moments?
- How is craftivism different from other forms of activism?
- Can a material, craft based practice such as craftivism be understood as a socially engaged art?
- In light of a post-political critique of participation is it possible to initiate political moments through socially engaged artistic practices?
- How do feminist new materialist and post-humanist conceptions of agency and matter reshape our understanding of power and the potential of art to enact social change?
This practice-led research project is shaped by an artistic practice that plays in the spaces between craft, socially engaged art, activism, community development and autoethnography. It looks to explore how a particular style of figurative appliqué quilting might be used to initiate what philosopher Jacques Rancière describes as ‘political moments’ in a post-political environment. Through a series of creative case studies delivered in and with different community groups and organisations, this project will test the material-discursive potential of appliqué quilting to act as a socially engaged strategy for activism.
Importantly, this project doesn’t aim to develop a set of tools for leading revolutions or even to create a methodology where outcomes can be reliably repeated. Instead it looks to develop a practice based methodology for becoming more mindful of the patterns of consequential differences and of the overlapping ideas between: art, craft, activism, socially engaged practice, feminist new materialisms, post-political critique, post-humanism and community development theory.
However, if anyone actually does read my full report – I would love to hear your thoughts, feedback, reading suggestions, artists I should know about and constructive criticism. As always you can get in touch with me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally – just for fun, below are some of my powerpoint slides from my PhD Confirmation presentation.
Okay – So, I took a month off after my confirmation presentation and went to the Gold Coast to spend some time with my partner and my family… and now there is a bit of a backlog of things to fill you in on, including:
- How the exhibition at Emerald Community House’s PAVE art festival went
- The final PhD confirmation report in full
- A sneak peak of some of my most recent artworks
- Upcoming projects with Igniting Change and Emerald Community House
- Updates on artists and crafters who are inspiring me at the moment
- Upcoming projects
- Plus a bunch of thoughts about books I’ve been reading
In the coming weeks I will get to all the above, but for now let’s just focus on a bit of a show-and-tell about the opening of my exhibition at the Emerald PAVE Art Festival.
Above is a photo from the opening, you can see Mary Farrow pictured as she introduces our project. I would like to say a big thank you Mary Farrow and Noelene Blair from ECH – for all their generous support and encouragement during the development of this project and of course for having me at ECH. I’m really excited that we will be continuing the work we have started later in the year (more information on this will soon be anonouced).
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Bruce Esplin (below) and his wonderful partner Roz for coming to officially open the exhibition and for your ongoing support of my artistic practice and my community resilience building work. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience with us through your unique and engaging brand of story telling at the opening. Your support is invaluable to me.
Finally I would like to thank Katherine and Lisa who participated in the 8 week long workshops which I facilitated in Emerald and who made their own quilted hangings to exhibit as part of this exhibition. Ladies, it was a pleasure to get to know you and a real treat to see your textile works take shape week by week, keep it up! Here is a photo of what the full exhibition looked like in the space including the two works by Lisa (far left) and Katherine (third from the right).
Below is the finished quilt I made as part of my 2 week residency at Emerald, titled “Resilience, Resistance and Responsibility” (made of new and recycled material, 2m x 2m, 2015). I officially gifted this artwork to Emerald Community House and the Emerald community at the opening of the exhibition, this way it will always hang in Emerald where it belongs and where it can function as a story telling device for passing on local knowledge about the people and events which inspired me to make it.
Briefly, this work tells several stories about the resilience of the local Emerald community and its strength in advocating and preserving the things that are important to it; that is the natural and built environments that are unique to the area and which enable the community to come together and continue growing stronger. If you want to know more about the meaning behind this work you can read my previous posts about it.
This is a photo Bruce took of me at the exhibition opening in front of my work… that should help you with picturing the scale of it! In summary, it was a fantastic day and I’m really humbled by the turn out we got. Lots of people came to look at the work over the week it was installed and gave lots of kind and interesting feedback to the team at ECH. Thanks everyone!
Anyway, that’s probably about enough for now… expect to hear more from me soon 🙂
This weekend is the official opening of the exhibition of my Emerald ‘Resilience: Stories in Cloth’ project. The exhibition, which opens on the 12th of April and continues until the 17th of April, is being held as part of Emerald’s annual PAVE Arts Festival. This will be the first public exhibition of the work I am making as part of my PhD research into ‘Craftivism and the Political Moment’. I’m very proud to announce that my good friend Bruce Esplin will be opening the exhibition, it’s worth coming just to hear that man talk about resilience and the Arts!
As well as the work I made during my residency at Emerald Community House the exhibition will also include two works by local community members who took part in the workshop series I facilitated at Emerald Community House. If you are in Melbourne or somewhere in nearby Victoria please come join us, there will be cheese and biscuits, plus lots more things to do around Emerald as part of the PAVE festival’s Fun Fest!
Here is the official invite, consider yourself invited!
Update: here are some lovely words about the project from Emerald Community House coordinator and powerhouse extrodinare Mary Farrow
Thursday and Friday were my last two days at Emerald Community House for the residency component of this project. They were quiet, sunny and warm and I was able to finish the quilt-top with time to spare. This is it:
I worked in the Emerald Star Bush, the Helmeted honey eater, the orange bellied parrot and some bees into the borders of the hanging (the possum didn’t make it unfortunately – I tried a few different ways of doing him but he just looked like a giant mouse). Here are some close-up shots:
The next step is to do the actual quilting bit, where you sandwich the quilt top and the backing with batting in the middle and sew it all together. I have finished off a quilt this size on my machine before, but I decided to pay someone with a ‘long-arm’ sewing machine to do it this time. I’m not sure if I’m going to like the results aesthetically as Kelly (the lady with the long-arm) is going to do a one colour thread ‘meandering’ pattern over the entire hanging… but its worth trying at least once and its saving me about three days of sewing at a time when I really need to focus on my upcoming confirmation. Hopefully it goes okay.
The second part of this project will begin in the first week of February when I start running an 8 week workshop series at Emerald Community House project. Hopefully around 5 people will sign up to participate, registrations are only opening now. The workshops are less me teaching how to make stuff (as I’m just learning) and more an opportunity/reason to get together and be crafty around a subject with an exhibition outcome. We will be working on individual, smaller sized wall hangings that will be exhibited as part of this year’s PAVE festival – a local art festival held in Emerald. The theme for this work will once again be resilience as that is the issue that Emerald Community House has identified as being of particular importance and it is also an area that I have some experitice in which is part of the reason I’m there in the first place.
These two different approaches (residency v. workshops) to working with a community around a specific theme are the beginnings of my practical/practice led PhD research. Essentially I am experimenting with different ways of engaging and interacting with community in order to explore what the practice of cloth-art can reveal about a specific site. What does the unique logic of this practice reveal about a community? what can be learned through this type of engagement? What is generated as a result of these experiences? How does engaging with community impact my practice? These are just some of the questions I am interested in unpacking as I go forward and do this type of work in different communities and contexts.
Thats all for now, I’ll put up a photo of the finished ECH wall hanging as soon as possible. I think I’m going to call it “Resilience, Resistance and Responsibility”…
Today is Friday and I am not going up to Emerald. I needed to go buy a whole bunch more fabric and get a few things organised befor the weekend. Saturday and Sunday are both going to be super busy! On Saturday the community is taking over the airwaves in a localised pirate radio protest to keep the old local radio station in community hands, everyone is dressing as pirates! Plus, I’m going to be interviewed on the airwaves about this project. Sunday is the day of the monthly local markets which are held at the hall where I have been working. I am going to have a little stall and do some ‘performance sewing’ and continue my conversations with locals about what being resilient means to them.
Yesterday, which was day 4 of the residency was a busy day. I had lots of people come in and have a yarn with me.
It started with a visit from Graeme, who is on the Cockatoo Neighbourhood Centre committee and a long-time local to the region. Mary and Non joined us and the four of us had an hour long conversation about a wide range of issues affecting them on a local, state, national and global level. Graeme is the full time carer of his adult son who lives with a disability and needs constant care. I identified strongly with the challenges that Graeme faces as a sole carer as my older brother also lives with a disability and requires full time care. Currently my brother Guy lives with my parents, our long term plan as a family is that I will take over as his carer when my parent can no longer manage. Luckily for us we don’t live in a high-fire danger area and do not have to worry too much about what we would need to do if we had to evacuate the house on a high-risk day. Graeme does, and he told us that there is nowhere he and his son can really that he can go on a high-risk day; Frustratingly for him the nearby respite centres all close on high-risk days… So he got a car that they can sleep in.
It’s stories like Graeme’s, or like the story Non shared about another young (25year old) local man who has taken on a carer role for his brother after he was in a serious accident, that really strike home how important it is for us to operate as communities that look after one-another. That is the kind of society that I want to live in at least – one where we can rely on each other for help. They also reminded us that it is not only women taking on carer roles and that men also struggle with the same challenges of isolation, inability to get work that allows them the flexibility they meet to meet their responsibilities and the worry of what will happen to their loved ones when they are no longer able to care for them.
Later in the afternoon Suzanne, the ECH cleaner came over to have a yarn. We talked about some craft projects she has done in the past and then Suzanne shared a deeply personal story about what resilience means to her and what has helped her to overcome the challenges she has faced in life. She told me that what has helped her to live with the effects of trauma was learning how to get a critical distance from what happened. Adding that ‘fear might be all you get – we have to learn to listen to our intuition more’. Whether its on a high-risk day when you have to decide whether to leave, or whether you are feeling uneasy about being alone in a dark ally or in a domestic situation, sometimes fear is a red flag that we must listen to in order to save ourselves.
While Suzanne and I were talking another lady came in, she is a local artist that works in leadlight and glass. She wanted to know a bit about my practice and my process, and whether I was getting paid and fining a way to make a living off my practice. She said that despite the fact she has been living off her own practice for over 30 years people (mostly men apparently) still treat her like she is a hobbyist – not a real artist. we talked about the unfortunate statistics around how much less women are represented by professional galleries, exhibited in solo shows and how much less money they get for their art. She told me not to listen to people’s bullshit and to keep going with my art – generous advice. She also talked about how much Emerald has changed since she when she was a child growing up here; about how lots of building that should have been heritage listed have disappeared and how the culture of the area has changed. She’s going to be there on Sunday for the markets and I look forward to talking some more and having a look at her work. Finally another lady who makes bags to sell at the markets walked through and had a quick chat – we mostly talked sewing techniques, I’ll see her again on Sunday too.
Meanwhile Lee, who visited me on Tuesday and whom I wrote about in my previous post shared this on her FB page which was nice of her.
From all the conversations I had today the two main points that stuck with are issues that I’ve been exploring in my work in community/ non-profit sector for several years:
1) How can we address the crucial difference between equal opportunity and equal outcomes – so that everyone in society, even if the are somewhat disadvantaged/margionalised (whether that is because of class, race, gender, beliefs or ability) are able to achieve the same outcomes as everyone else?
2) How do we move from the -I- to the -WE-. From an isolated collection of individuals to a globalised community without loosing our hard-won individuality and the things that make us unique at a local level?
Between all these chats I did manage to get some sewing done. I’ve based the design of this quilt off a piece my grandmother made which is in her book “Folk Art Appliqué Quilts” (pictured below). I’ve been working for like a day and a half on the patchwork border and spent the afternoon trying to do the leaf border panels she has in her quilt but I failed miserably… I’ve got a bit of work to do before I can sew so many random curves together in such a way that they lie flat. Unfortunately her book isn’t very instructive when it comes to the finer details – Dawn was self taught and I get the feeling she just made things up as she went along.
So for now this is where I’m at,
Today was another rainy but all around lovely day at Emerald. After a long chat with Mary in the morning about the ‘bushfire lifestyle’ I started working on the panel of the Emerald Community House hall again. I’m not sure about these trees yet. I have to think about it.
Other than Mary, I had several people come into the hall today and have a chat to me today. First was a mother and her 10 year old son. They poked around at looked through what I’ve been doing, touching everything and moving it about. She seemed interested in the making process and asked about the workshop but unfortunately she works at the times they are scheduled. She told me that her mother used to quilt, but that she is currently in hospital. Her son and I talked about the Cockatoo kindergarden and I was able to fill him in on the latest of what’s happening with the rebuilt – he knew about the building and was happy that it is being turned into a museum. He looks forward to the project being finished already – time goes so slow when you are young, a couple of months can feel like forever.
Separately, two older gentlemen meandered in over the course of the day. The first, a local, who heard about the residency thought the promotional work that Emerald Community House has been doing about the project. He was expecting some kind of exhibition and was a bit disappointed but we had a nice chat anyway. He commented that he was always surprised by how much these ‘little old ladies’ charge for the quilts they make, but recognised they involved a lot of work. He said that he would come back and say hello on Sunday during the markets where I will have a stall. He goes to the markets every month to buy flowers. The second gentleman was a tourist from the UK, he and his family were in town as a stop on their trip on the Puffin’ Billy, a century old steam train that still operates through town. He wanted know if the hall was still a chapel, I informed him that it was not but that couples do hire it out to have their wedding there. He didn’t have much more to say.
My favourite visitor today was Lee, a member of the Emerald Sustainability Committee. Lee bought in a quilt she had made to show me, telling me how she sometimes makes them to raise money at local charities. Featured on the quilt was a flower, which she proceeded to explain is known as the Emerald Star Bush. A very local, and highly endangered bush with tiny white flowers “about the size of my fingernail”. This is it:
Lee and I spoke for about 20min about her work on the sustainability committee and about her experiences of living locally. Like Donna had yesterday Lee also talked about the struggles of trying to take on a leadership role in the community as a women. Its becoming a theme here it seems… so many talented, driven, experienced and capable ladies – so much resistance to women in leadership positions. *sigh*. I’ll have to find a way to address this somehow.
Anyway… Alongside many other projects, like helping out the local bee population and working to save two local bird species from extinction: the Helmeted Honeyeater and the Orange Bellied Parrot, the Emerald Sustainability Committee are working hard to ensure that this unassuming but precious little plant isn’t decimated. I was very inspired by our conversation about the local environmental issues and think that Lee made a really good point when she said that although the two building I have chosen to represent are important, the natural environment around them is equally important to people in the region. I promised to incorporate some of what we talked about into the piece I make during the residency.
With all these people taking time to have a conversation with me about their local community today I realised something, or rather put into words: often, communities feel like their stories aren’t told, which makes them feel unimportant and unappreciated. By simply being there, to listen and learn about the local community, I – as the artist in residence- am validating these stories. By being there to listen I am creating an opportunity to share and celebrate what it is that’s important to people locally. This act of validation may be small and simple but potentially it is very meaningful for those concerned.
I am always surprised when I go in and work with communities at how much I get out of the experience. I am not really a ‘people person’ and I don’t often talk to strangers – but through my practice (whether that is workshop facilitation or my arts practice) I am able to engage with people in a very open, honest, meaningful way. People tell me their stories, even though I am a stranger – precisely because through my practice I am positioning myself as an active listener. Its a performance. My practice acts as a catalyst that invites strangers to engaged and be vulnerable. Yet it’s not me performing… the practice – the act of making or facilitating – performs this function of creating a safe space for sharing (with me as the artist as just one part of that material and social process). That is what I want my textile work to do – not to tell a story per say, but to act as a catalyst – to prompt people into sharing a thought, an anecdote, an interpretation or a story with the person next to them.
This is what awaits me when I return tomorrow: