Better late than never, right? So this short story was inspired by the narrative quilts of Harriet Powers, the prompt for The Kick-About No.68. I wasn’t able to complete the story by the original submission deadline and have been working away on it since. Thematically, it takes the idea of patchworks to express composite identities and their complexities and the idea of individuals and their emotional lives comprising contrary shades and textures.
In common with the quilts of Harriet Powers, our previous Kick-About was inspired by works of art comprising fragments and scraps, brought together to impressive and thought-provoking effect. While Powers’ quilts are smaller, simpler things, they are no less arresting, more so for their scarcity and testament to the act of making as an act of living.
“Plans to hook a rug, in response to Harriet Powers breathtaking quilts, soon shifted to questioning what ideas might be important enough to labour over an unfamiliar technique. Using the week’s radio as source material, with some pretty depressing news throughout, a naive form of expression developed from making quick responses, producing what could be considered ‘stage one’ of a process promoting that which affects our daily lives. Perhaps stage two might be continue making daily responses, and exploring different artistic techniques for each image. Thanks for a thought provoking KA.”
“I originally planned to rely solely on the images of the patchwork of childhood blankets and pillowcases, but sadly they are long gone. However, much like a patchwork, I decided to chop up various elements into a sort of hodgepodge – some from other sewn blankets found at my home in Ireland. and then adding little drawn elements over the top.”
“I have recently taken photos around the Brisbane river where some bridges are being built. I’d like to paint a picture based on them so when this challenge came about I began creating a computer illustration. I was going to fill the illustration shapes with fabric textures like I did in a previous challenge. Then I got the challenge spirit and decided to design a quilt using some other Brisbane environs photos mirrored and repeated to create patterns in place of real fabric textures. I love looking into the patterns close up to see buildings or lizards or mangroves… The image is titled “dogman” – the person directing a crane’s movement from outside of the crane cabin. The colour palette changed dramatically over the design before I settled on colours sampled from the original construction photos. Fun challenge, thank you Charly.”
“I know these quilts, but I never examined them closely before. So little history about their making or their maker is available, but they speak loudly for themselves. I was immediately drawn to the symbols – “sun moon hand eye circle snake” – that would fit easily into a circular form. (The birds need their own story, which I had no time for this week.) I thought of Penny Rugs, made of felt circles, and put together a grouping of my own appliqued felt circles in the earthy colors of the quilts. I don’t have a large enough piece of fabric in any color at the moment to sew them on, but photographed them on three possibilities: white and black paper, and the wooden floor to represent the camel color. Each has its own feeling and I’m not sure yet what I would choose. With six words to work with, I meant to do a sestina, but only completed the first stanza. As so often occurs with my projects, to be continued…”
sun moon hand eye circle snake
we grow wings, awaiting the return of the sun as branches and leaves dance patterns over the moon– invisible roots weave themselves through our hands and become imprinted inside our eyes– alert to the gaps in the circle, we lie still, glittering like coiled snakes
“The wonderful thing about patchwork is the memories that it evokes. I have many pieces of patchwork I have made over the years and the different scraps of material I have used reminds me of so many old friends and places, and, of course, family. For example – a faded purple cotton square on a cushion always reminds me of a kind administrator friend who allowed me to go to a patchwork course during my usual working day and make up the time later. Then some recycled red check gingham takes me straight back to see my children happily playing in the summer, and a paisley pattern from a skirt gives me memories of a lovely holiday abroad. The list is endless but one of my favourites is the Japanese Boro cushion I made during lockdown. I can understand how Harriet Powers was transported from her situation and found solace in creating applique stories from her heritage with which we can still empathise today.”
“What with one thing or another, I struggled to get this finished – and likewise the Kick-About No.68 more generally – and this short story isn’t finished, if not from want of trying. I knew right away I wanted to write a new story when I saw the narrative quilts of Harriet Powers. I also worried about writing a short story on themes of slavery, so gave time to research and no small amount of hand-wringing about voice and characterisation. Add into the mix some disrupted work patterns, some mild sleep deprivation, and a house at sixes and sevens, and the conditions for getting this story over the line were a bit suboptimal (and there must be something in the ether, as a number of the usual KA-ers have felt similarly stymied or out of time!). Anyway, I wanted to share something at least, so here are the first few pages of something currently entitled Abigail’s Quilt; there are more pages than this, none of them good, as it turns out you can’t make a story ‘be finished’ when it’s ‘not finished’, but when it is complete, I’ll put it out there. Thematically, I was drawn to the idea of patchworks as being a way to talk about individuals cut from one background and stitched onto new ones and how the identity of someone is an ensemble of beliefs, a composite. Oh yeah, and there’s some lurking dread and strangeness too!”