People’s responses to this polite enquiry will determine the outcome of a new project which aims to explore the personal histories of people and their clothes and to connect people from all over the world via the things they wear.
Two Itinerant Quilters is a new project created by artists Joanna Wright and Lenka Clayton, who will be in residence at Helston Museum in Cornwall on 11 and 12 August. The project takes its inspiration from the long-lost profession of the 18th century travelling quilters who would stay with families in order to create patchwork quilts from old clothing, rags and sacks found at each home.
Now Joanna Wright and Lenka Clayton have revived this vanished activity but with a new purpose and with an invitation for the public to become involved.
Two Itinerant Quilters is supported in part by The Space:www.thespace.org, Arts Council Wales: www.arts.wales and by the Studio for Creative Inquiry: studioforcreativeinquiry.org
On the August dates, Joanna and Lenka will set up a temporary tailor shop and invite passers-by to allow them to take their scissors to a piece of the clothing they are wearing that day. Once permission is granted (hopefully!) the artists will cut a diamond-shaped piece of fabric from the person’s clothing. When this is done, the garment will be immediately repaired by hand, with a contrasting piece of fabric sewn in place. The collected diamonds will be sewn together to create a quilt made of the clothes of all sorts of people from all sorts pf places, which will grow as the project tours the world.
As well as donating a piece of fabric, each participant contributes a story, remark or comment linked to the clothing, with the collection of stories growing online as the physical quilt expands. The aim is to connect people via those stories and their garments but also to create the possibility of people, sporting clothes with a very visible and distinctive contrasting patch, bumping into each other on the street.
Joanna Wright said, “Very little is known about the original itinerant quilters; recorded information about their work is scant and their stories have been largely lost to time. We are very interested in the value that people place on particular pieces of clothing and also the history, emotions and stories wrapped up in the fabric of the clothes people wear. Two Itinerant Quilters is all about finding a new way to tell stories and build connections between people. So far, over 300 people have taken part at two events in the USA and our quilt is beautiful and spreading! It will be fascinating to see the responses of the UK public and to find out whether they are more or less inclined than their US counterparts to meet us half way, as we approach them with scissors and needle and thread!”