It was a big pleasure to launch the Stitching the Wars quilts and book at the newly-opened Buxton Art Gallery and Museum. The first new artworks to be seen in the new-look gallery. The two quilts have been handmade in collaboration with hundreds of older people, with Lois directing the work. (Tom Jones a longstanding project participant, looked at the quilts, nodded and said, “Looking nice.”)
Catherine Serjeant (Blythe House Hospice) Dr Nadine Muller and Brian Oven, participant
Phil worked on collaborative poems during the project that distill many people’s experience of the two world wars, and the brief peace between the conflicts. But the poems also explore an understanding that gradually came to light during the project: there were two kinds of wars being fought in these lives, one a military war, the other a war against poverty.
Brian Oven, a regular participant to Stitching the Wars
A group of participants came to the gallery, some of whom were kind enough to read the poems aloud. The power of these reading resonated through the whole event.
Derbyshire Museums Manager Ros Westwood introduced the project, Lois talked us through the two quilts in detail and Phil gave a little overview of the project:
The two quilts here have been team-stitched with over 400 older people involved, telling fragments of their stories about the effects of two world wars on life in Derbyshire. They talk about gentleness of rural life, but also hardship and the need to change.
“Sharing of life experience and the task of recording it as writing and art brings deep satisfaction – and the stories are extraordinary. A man who had witnessed Hiroshima just after the bomb. The Sheffield bombings through the eyes of a young boy. Bridling a horse for ploughing, a tradition of many generations…
“These two quilts contain many voices, they are work shared by many hands. Some people bravely faced up to fears and disabilities in the process of making them. Annie, a visually-impaired women, knitted for the first time in years, without sight she used only muscle memory. Dorothy, who has lost the use of one hand, carefully embroidered with the assistance of Olga holding an embroidery frame. And with encouragement Geoff took up needle and thread for the first time in his life.
“One of the biggest hurdles to overcome was the fear of memory itself, because many people who contributed to the quilt have dementia. The pleasure that people got from sharing their memories in a safe environment, was a delight.
“Stitching the Wars speaks about a particular time, but also speaks beyond it’s own time, because it is at heart the story of how life feels. We are all stitches in this story of Britain – sometimes it’s a joyful, colourful tapestry. Sometimes the colours are darker and stitches are needed to heal a wound. We talk together, we work together and sometimes we help each other to heal.”
Artist Lois Blackburn and poet Philip Davenport, with Fresh Air and Poverty quilt
A Stitching the Wars quilt will be on view at Buxton Art Gallery and Museum until September 2017, the other quilt will be on tour around Derbyshire. The Book Stitching the Wars will be available to purchase through the museum shop.
We are thrilled to share we have just had confirmation that the two Stitching the Wars quilts will be going on to form part of the National collection at The Quilters’ Guild in October. http://www.quiltmuseum.org.uk/collections/