Two Itinerant Quilters

2015 / collaboration with Joe Wright / performance, repaired clothing, patchwork quilt / photos: Joe Wright, Adam Milner, Lenka Clayton

 A hand-sewn patchwork quilt, created from fabric diamonds cut from the clothing of hundreds of passing strangers.

Over the course of a public event, or in a public space, diamond-shaped pieces for a patchwork quilt are collected from fabric voluntarily cut from the clothing of passers-by. The resulting holes are hand-repaired then and there with contrasting fabrics, creating a visible missing patch in each participants clothing. The collected diamonds are hand-sewn together using a traditional paper-piecing method into a traditional pattern known as the “Tumbling Block”.  The quilt grows as the piece is re-performed in various environments around the globe.

The quilt remains in one place; while its negative accompaniment continues to travel. Participants continue to wear their repaired clothes in their everyday lives, creating a secondary, "living" quilt.

Along with each fabric diamond, we collect the participant’s story of their life so far with the garment. These stories will become part of an interactive online narrative that may be navigated by clicking on individual fabric pieces (currently in development). Please click through the images below to read examples of stories.

 

In the 18th Century itinerant quilters used to travel from town to town in Wales (where Joanna Wright grew up) and Cornwall (where I grew up). They’d live with a family for long enough to create patchwork quilts for each bed using scraps of old clothing, feed-sacks and rags collected from the home.

Joanna Wright and I are both trained as artists and also as documentary filmmakers. Like many contemporary artists, we often travel from one project to the next residency; working with and representing found stories, objects and experiences of each new place. Two Itinerant Quilters investigates the common ground between these two professions, and between the traditions of contemporary fine art and traditional handcraft, while exploring the hidden, documentary nature of the everyday things that surround us.

The first iteration of Two Itinerant Quilters was partially funded by a Frank-Ratchye Fund for Art @ the Frontier grant, and performed during Open Engagement, a social practice conference held in 2015 in Pittsburgh, PA. Over three days we collected 127 diamonds cut from the clothing worn by conference attendees.

In March 2016 we set up our itinerant studio again at the True/False Documentary Festival in Missouri and collect 150 fabric diamonds from the clothing of documentary watchers. 

The Space: a collaboration between the BBC and Arts Council England has amber-lit a digital extension of the project, including a short Itinerant Quilting tour scheduled at the moment to take place in England and Wales in 2017.