Quilting meets critical theory

Edge of Body Shop panel

Edge of the Body Shop panel showing raw edge binding with beading.

I have spent a happy summer getting to know the work of Walter Benjamin on the impact of technology on art.  I started to read Benjamin properly and thoroughly and in a sustained way because of my work on my EdD at Bristol and the unit on visual inquiry.  Simple start but it knocked me sideways.

I will no doubt come back to this theme as it has quietly and not so quietly obsessed me for weeks. But one of the things that I love about Benjamin is the way he understood the implications of new technology in a way that can be applied to technologies that did not exist when he wrote.  He didn’t predict them, but he could see where things were going and their logical developments.  So I think he would have been fascinated and delighted with iPhones for example.

There is one tiny little bit in his best-known essay, ‘Art in the Art of (its) Mechanical Reproduction’ which he wrote in the 1930s, where he comments on the impact on the artist of seeing his/her work in close-up.  He was absolutely right.  When I see my work in close-up I see something quite new and different.  It takes on sculptural qualities.  I made it, but it is strange to me.  I was totally delighted the first time I took a close-up picture of it.  I could see every stitch and every fibre of many stitches.  It must have been looking down the microscope for the first time and seeing microscopic organisms.  It changed my relationship with my work, and made me a viewer as well as a maker.  Really fascinating.  And Benjamin saw that coming.

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Introduction to my blog

It feels a bit odd starting a blog.  I’m not sure that I have that much to say to the world, but I have been asked by friends and colleagues to start a blog to let people know what I am doing with my quilts.  So here goes.  I have finished my major piece on the Body Shop, and I will find a photo of it, although I only have dodgy snaps.  I am now starting work on a quilt about Laura Ashley and making some portraits, which is a big new departure for me.  I will put up pictures of those as I go along.

Final panel of the Body Shop quilt 2009-2010

This is the final panel of my Body Shop quilt and it seemed faintly appropriate to start with it.  It was made to fit the gap created by putting all the other panels together and I was amazed that it would lie flat.  Assembling the quilt called for some ingenuity and it is enormous and very heavy so I have deliberately made it so that it will come to pieces.  I might let the panels go separately, but at the moment I couldn’t bear to split it up.