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.
The “50/50″project is a participatory art project that looks to both highlight the importance of gender equality and support practical projects that advance women’s human rights across the Asia Pacific region by encouraging people to donate to International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA).
This project involves making 50 portraits of the first 50 people who donate $50 or more to IWDA as part of the IWDA “50/50” Project. When all 50 portraits are completed and documented I will mail these portraits to the donors who participated in the project as a gift to say thank you for caring about gender equality and for supporting IWDA.
100% of the donations made to IWDA as part of this project go directly towards supporting the work of IWDA.
Tal Fitzpatrick is donating both her time and her own resources to complete this project. IWDA will bare no project costs whatsoever.
To get involved in this project and have a cloth portrait of your face mailed to you as a gift from the artist follow these simple steps:
1) Make your donation directly to IWDA and forward your copy of the confirmation you are sent to me: email@example.com
2) I will then email you with further information and ask you to provide her with a photo of the face you want crafted and your mailing address. You will also be asked to sign a consent form, as both I and IWDA would like to use images of the portraits throughout various mediumsand publications, including on social media.
3) Once I have your photo and signed forms I will then make you a portrait of your face in cloth and at the end of the project I will mail all 50 portraits to the donors who took part in the project. The portraits will also be photographed and used in an exhibition once the project has been completed.
4) Get in quick – Only the first 50 people to donate will get a portrait of them as a gift 🙂
Here are some of the portraits I have completed so far…
IWDA is the leading Australian agency entirely focussed on women’s rights and gender equality in the Asia Pacific region. IWDA’s vision is for a world where every woman and man, girl and boy has equal rights and opportunities. IWDA is international, feminist and independent. It stands up for women and girls by tackling issues of power, money and security by partnering with others in the Asia Pacific region to advance women’s human rights. Visit: https://www.iwda.org.au
This project is part of a series of socially-engaged art projects that are part of my practice-led PhD research into ‘Craftivism and the Political Moment’. This is a research project that looks to investigate the impact of using craft and socially engaged art as strategies for activism and advocacy. For more information about my research please get in touch with me via email (details below).
Participation in this project is entirely voluntary. Participants of this project will be required to consent to the image of their face and the image of the textile portrait created of them to be used and shared publicly by Tal Fitzpatrick and IWDA.
For more information please contact: Tal Fitzpatrick – firstname.lastname@example.org or Marta Jasinska at IWDA – email@example.com
Press Release – 9 November 2015
With (another) new Prime Minister in office and a federal election less than 12 months away now seems like as good a time as any to reach out and tell our political leaders what’s important to us. Artist Tal Fitzpatrick has come up with a unique way to get our messages across to the prime minister instead of barraging him with letters, emails and tweets…
As part of HillsceneLIVE pop-up art festival in Monbulk VIC (30/10/2015) textile artist and craftivist (craft/activist) Tal Fitzpatrick, along with the help of 23 festival goers and over 80 online contributors, turned a pile of second-hand ties and suit swatches into a special gift for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – a quilted wall hanging adorned with 121 hand-stitched messages to the prime minister, each beginning with the words PM Please.
“For me this socially engaged art project is not simply an attempt to reach out to the PM in order to have our voices heard or to make demands– it is an expression of hope and reciprocity. People have big ideas about Australia’s future and they want to work with our political leaders in order achieve positive change.” – said Ms.Fitzpatrick
Over the three weeks this project took to complete Tal, with the help of HillsceneLIVE festival goers, hand-stitched every single message she received without making any exceptions, changes or omissions. Then she pieced these messages together with her appliqué quilted portrait of the Malcolm Turnbull to make a quilted hanging (2.08mX1.66m).
“The act of giving a gift made by hand is a sincere gesture of generosity. I hope that upon receiving this quilt Malcolm Turnbull is moved and takes the time to reflect on and consider all the messages stitched onto it.” – said Ms.Fitzpatrick
Now that the quilt is finished Tal is trying to find the best way to give this gift to the prime minister on behalf of everyone who took part in this socially engaged art project. Can you help get this quilt to Malcolm Turnbull by writing or sharing a story about this project?
About: Tal Fitzpatrick is a Melbourne based artist and a 2nd year PhD candidate at the Victorian College for the Arts, Melbourne University. Tal works in the mediums of textile art and socially engaged art.
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.
As promised, here is my full PhD Confirmation speech which I presented at VCA on April the 16th, 2015. If you read it I would love to hear your thoughts, so please don’t be shy!
Full presentation with slides: Confirmation-speech-TF
Here is an outline of what I covered in this 40min presentation: Once again thanks to everyone who was there, and for those who wanted to come but couldn’t be there. I am really excited by the fact that other people are interested in my research.
My panel meeting with my supervisors and assessors is on Wednesday so wish me luck!
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
Following on from my residency at Emerald Community House (ECH) and in the lead up to this years annual PAVE festival I have begun stage two of the ‘Stories of Resilience in Cloth Art’ project – a workshop series where I invite locals to make their own cloth-artwork that tells a story about resilience and what it means to them.
As I’ve mentioned previously ECH is an innovative neighbourhood centre that is highly conscious of the fact that they are in a disaster-at-risk area of the Victorian Dandenong ranges. ECH takes proactive action through their programming to build local community resilience, for example: they run an award winning program that entails making attending a bushfire safety training workshop mandatory for all parents who place their children with the ECH childcare servie. When I first met with Mary and Non (ECH coordinators) they identified that there is a gap in the programing which they wanted to address. They wanted to develop a creative program that targeted younger women who are new to the area and women who don’t have children (and therefore are not involved with ECH through its childcare services) and engaged them around the subject of resilience and disaster preparedness. So, it was around this mandate that I designed my ECH residency and workshop project which I am also using as a case study for my PhD research into how art cloth-art and the strategies of craftivism can enact agency.
The idea is that each of us will create our own cloth wall hanging to be exhibited during the PAVE festival in the Emerald Community Hall which we are working out of, which everyone will then take home and keep at the end of the exhibition. Bruce Esplin, former Emergency Services Commissioner of Victoria and a friend and mentor of mine has kindly agreed to be at the opening of the exhibition and to say a few words about art and resilience based on his own experience as a photographer and a sculpture. Three local ladies (and one of their dogs, below) have signed on to be part of the project, and over the past couple of weeks we have been meeting on Thursdays to talk about ideas and start sewing. Already I have had a really interesting conversations and positive responses from this engagement.
When I asked the ladies (who I won’t identify by name) what resilience means to them and why they chose to live in Emerald as both were relatively new to the area (by rural standards at least – where you have to be second generation to consider yourself a ‘true local’) they all responded with comments about the importance of the landscape and the natural environment. This led to a conversation about the risks posed by the natural environment in their area and we spoke about those and what experiences each lady had with disasters and what plans they had in place in preparation for potential future disasters. Each women will be working to depicting images of the natural environment into their cloth hangings and in her own way working to symbolise in cloth her relationship to the local community.
Alongside the importance of the natural world the women identified that their personal relationships and history are another critical factor for thier own resilience and well-being. Each woman will be in her own way incorporating figures into the landscapes of their hangings. Using old clothes and fabric given to them from their loved ones the women have started to constuct a picture of how they will represent their stories. We talked about how it is possible in this medium of cloth to tell a very personal story in a way that they feel safe having on public display because it is possible to tell it in such a subtle way, using signs that fully reveal their secrets only to the artist. For example, the artist might incorporate a piece of cloth that was once a dress that belonged to their grandmother and which they associate with a particular time, place and memory. In this way the artist will be able to read the work in a way that tells a very different story to what others might see. The hangings will therefore tell many stories – as each person who views them interprets them and projects their own thoughts, experiences and emotions onto the work.
The conversation then shifted to a focus on art making and craft practices. In our conversations we identified that having the time to make art is a luxury that many can not afford, and that many more do not allow themselves. The women identified a sense that this is somehow because taking the time to do something fun and creative feels selfish. This feeling of guilt for taking the time to do something for themselves is a feeling I’m sure many women experience – as women we are still expected by society and in turn we expect ourselves to focus on others, to be caretakers to be busy and selfless. Furthermore, the creative work women do is continues to be undervalued – seen as craft not art. Particularly when it comes to working in textiles. This is something that came up during my residency and during these workshops, it is something they I will continue to ponder and to research. Finally, we spoke about how the project had opened up time for them to reflect, think and make plans for the future and how valuable this is to them. This too is something I want to understand more clearly. I’ve asked everyone to keep a note of how they experience this project as it unfolds and to write a bit of a reflection about the journey at the end of the project – I’m looking forward to reading them.
In closing, I feel that the fact that the three participants fit exactly into the target audience ECH identified is a testimony to the fact the project was designed and marketed successfully. However, In saying that it would have been nice to have more people involved and the fact the workshops are being held during the day on a Thursday has been indentified as a barrier to some who would have otherwise liked to participate. I’m considering delivering a one day master-class in order to engage more women in these conversations and hopefully get a few more involved in the making of cloth hangings for the PAVE festival.
Oh p.s. there was a little story about the project in the local newspaper:
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 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: