Part II of my community posts is about how you can foster your community with your own group activity, in this case a traveling quilt. This past year, I had the amazing pleasure to work with Melanie, Valerie, Melissa, Jen, and Sarah in a traveling quilt group. I knew all these wonderful people before we formed this group and knew that we had similarities and an interest in modern quilting. I think its important to work with a group of people you know and and have common things like style, fabric choice and techniques.
Traveling Quilt Concept
How the traveling quilt group worked….well, we each created a starter kit that described a theme and what we wanted to receive. This kit included:
- A journal that described the theme, color palette, styles or techniques you wanted. Each person was to add their thoughts around what they created to the journal as it travelled.
- A “starter” which could be a block or a row in the theme and colors that you chose, so that the person can have an example to work with.
- Some additional fabric to work with, though folks could add their own as they created their work.
- Some included a small gift but it was not mandatory.
Each person (as there were six of us) had two months to add to the quilt. We knew life would get in the way so timings were flexible. Note though, communication was important and if you were late you needed to let folks know where you were up to and how late were you going to be.
Let me take you through a year in our traveling quilt experience (also check out #travelingstitches2018 for more progress shops by others in the group)
So before we talk about my theme and project let me give you a little bit of an introduction to me, which I seldom share.
Many of you know I grew up in New Zealand, but I really have not shared my experiences of growing up. My parents were very young when I was born (Mum 18, Dad about to turn 21). They were just starting out, and their first house was in South Auckland, Papatoetoe. I loved growing up in Papatoetoe, and appreciated the education I got, the friends that I made and the opportunities extended to me (Schools: Papatoetoe South Primary, Kedgley Intermediate and Aorere College). What I didn’t realize, until I moved away from New Zealand, is what an amazing multi-cultural experience I was exposed too growing up here. To me this was just the community I belonged to and was welcomed into, it was Whānau. Exposure to the arts of each of the cultures – Maori, Samoan, Raratongan, Tongan, and Fijian has definitely influenced my design and quilting styles.
So what was my theme for my traveling project – was on Maori design. My goal choosing this theme was to share a little bit of my home with everyone and introduce them to a new language, culture and design aesthetic. Aspects that needed to be incorporated in their designs: geometry, black+white+splash of red, no improvisation.
My starter blocks were of a triangular design 60″ long representing a Tukutuku panel from a wharenui (Meeting house) and a design inspired by a Moko (tattoo).
After a year, you get back all your blocks. I was so impressed, everyone did an amazing job. I laid out all the blocks and worked on the final design for the top. This process was extremely emotional but helped me work through a lot of feelings around the Christchurch terrorist attack, that had occurred 3 days previously.
Melissa’s theme “Ode to the Rhombus”, was inspired by Josef Albers Ode to the Square and his interaction of color. She chose an amazing color palette mostly greens with some dark blues. It was such a fun project, I immediately had a plan and inspiredly our bathroom fan.
With the blocks, I explored the impact on how colors interact with each other and enjoyed the discoveries along the way.
Melanie’s concept was about interpretation. She provided everyone with the same instructions, but how you interpreted them was really up to you. At the time of reading the instructions, I was feeling like exploring maximalism within minimalism. Yes, my blocks are the ones where the white strips appear very wide (chunky). By using just black and white you could really see how interpretation played such a large role. At this point, Melanie, Melissa and I had contributed blocks.
Jen’s project was one of the most challenging for me. She wanted us to investigate who we are and design blocks thinking about your soul and expression…..and using a yellow only palette!! As I thought about this over a course of a couple of weeks, two ideas emerged. One, that I wear my heart on my sleeve (I could never play poker). This idea was represented by having the seams visible (middle bottom block).
The second idea started with the fact I am a true introvert, most people just don’t realize it. The window block on the right, has the window frame (white) disappearing into the background….and that is so me in a group setting, especially with people I don’t know or a large group. More importantly, while making this block, I realized that I do like being in the background.
Strips in navy, white and pops of yellow was Valerie’s theme. I played with a log cabin them and deconstructed it in a few different ways to come up with these blocks.
Choosing the navy as the negative space, I thought was important to the overall balance of the blocks that had come before me (Valerie, Jen, Melanie, and Melissa). Here is what all the blocks looked like when I passed it off to Sarah – the lucky last to add to Valerie’s quilt.
Lastly, I got to add to Sarah’s quilt. Her theme was outdoor open spaces in the west and she talked about how inspired she was by Utah, Arizona etc. As I had just spent a week at the National Parks in Utah, I did not have problems coming up with inspiration.
The cairns block on the left is appliquéd and inspired by Leon Polk Smith’s work. The mountain block (right), I really wanted to added layers to the foreground to represent the soil or the modified vegetation. I thought this tied in Sarah’s job as an archeologist.
Fostering community with Group projects
This was such a fun activity and I can highly recommend it, but choose your participants carefully. Other ideas for group projects:
- Choose a theme, and color palette, and just have folks send blocks to you instead of making it a traveling quilt or round robin like activity.
- Organize a group to explore concepts with each other fostering feedback etc.; Quilt Design a Day for example (more on this later)
- Charity quilts – making charity quilts for a common cause always pull people together.
- Sew-ins or quilting bees or retreats with friends or guild members (more to come on this as well)
- Instagram events like quilt alongs, or daily practice activities (#100days)
Also, don’t forget fostering your community does not always have to be sewing related. Try setting up just social events with your quilting community:
- A potluck lunch or dinner.
- Picnic at a local park with family included.
- Visit an exhibit together at a museum, quilt show or state fair.
- Movie night, this maybe at a local outdoor event, or rent “How to make an American Quilt” (still with a quilt theme).
- Met at a local bar, restaurant or cafe.
- Try other art activities together like pottery or art+wine.
These are just some ideas I have tried. What have you all tried to do as a group to foster your quilty community?
Community Introduction – Part I