Material Memories – A Quilting Journey’s End

 WOW what a day!

A spectacular turn out for a truly exceptional project; part of Sense’s, Arts & Wellbeing programme, which supports deafblind people at all stages of their involvement in the arts and cultural sector.

 For twelve weeks people with sensory impairments over the age of 50 worked together at the museum to design a patchwork quilt of memories. The quilters shared their stories and used fabrics, embellishments, print media, paints, and personal objects to mark the twists and turns of their lives.

 7 Makers, 2 Volunteers, 12 weeks, buckets of inspiration, admirable determination,  much creative spirit, lots of fabric, tea and glue can produce the most amazing results. Friends, family, sponsors, press and fellow makers all gathered at Islington Museum to celebrate the launch of the Material Memories Quilt, on display at Islington Museum until 14th June 2015.   Here are some of the highlights…

Material Memories
The finished Material memories Quilt. All 390cm of it!!

Material Memories Launch
Reverse side of the Material Memories Quilt adorning the Islington Museum’s glass fronted entrance.
Material Memories Alex McEwan
The Sense logo painstakingly collaged from donated fabrics by one of our makers, takes pride of place as the quilts central panel.

The quilt is the result of weekly workshops with a different topic each week. In addition to the textured and visual panels made by the makers the quilt also speaks! Embedded in the quilt are two sound boards, which when activated by touching small swatches of conductive fabric link to six sound-files telling excerpts of the making journey in the voices of the individuals who made the quilt.

Material Memories Alex McEwan
The proud maker of the, very bling, much admired,Chip Buttie panel which proved a nostalgic talking point between some and a cultural education for others.

The Material Memories makers were on hand to answer questions about their work and experiences on the project.

 Kara Jarrold from Sense, who oversaw the project, said:

 “Quiltmaking often spans generations and friendships and every time a quilt is passed on, so too are the thoughts and feelings of each maker. With ‘Material Memories’ we wanted to bring people, whose voices are not usually heard, together and provide an accessible way for them to tell their story creatively.”

Material Memories Alex McEwan
Fielding endless questions, explaining techniques and discussing future projects.
Material Memories Alex McEwan
Sharing ideas for future projects. There is a lot to learn from this project and much more work to be done.

Raji, who was born deaf and has tunnel vision as a result of Usher syndrome, added:

 “When you’re deafblind you don’t have access to information and taking part in social activities is quite difficult. It’s so refreshing to be able to meet like-minded people, share our memories and create something beautiful that tells our story to the world.”

Material Memories Alex McEwan
An exhibition goer listens to one of the sound memories  housed inside one of the quilts many pockets.
Material Memories Alex McEwan
The Sense Makers – an amazing group. It has been a fantastic quilting journey.

The celebratory air took hold. Guests were treated to an emotive poetry reading in Arabic, accompanied songs in Farsi, English and Arabic, a reading from Alice Walker’s The Colour Purple, some truly beautifully hand engraved leather armour and several speeches. There was lots to interact with for the steady stream of visitors who braved the awful weather.

Fareshteh, one of the makers, said:

 “As a blind person I use touch quite a lot to connect with the world – I love using my fingers, it’s so comforting. Everyone has a story to tell and this project allows me to say it in my own language, weaving it into the community’s.”

Material Memories
Treated to a song.

Islington Council Head of Library and Heritage Services, Rosemary Doyle said:

 “I am very pleased that we have been able to work with Sense on this fascinating project – it provides an interesting insight into the lives of people living with sensory impairments. ‘Material Memories’ was designed for people over 50, who are at risk of becoming isolated. So as well as being a fun project, the 12-week course was also a chance for people with hearing or sight loss to meet new friends and learn new textile skills.

 “It is a unique work of art and we’re very proud to have it on display at the museum!”

It only remains to say enormous THANK YOUs to all who contributed and supported this project. Thank you Islington Museum for being brilliant hosts and so accommodating. Thank you to our lovely volunteers Susan and Polly for all your support and energy. Thank you to our guest artists Nicole Line, Emilie Giles and Dr Janet van der Linden. Thank you Sense for funding the project and for making a difference to those living with sensory impairment. Lastly thank you to the makers who have been constant in their commitment, enthusiasm and energy to the project. It has been a privilege. 

‘Material Memories’ is on at the Islington Museum (Beneath Finsbury Library) on 245 St John Street London EC1V 4NB, from 15 May 2015 – 15 June 2015. Admission is free.

Author: Alex McEwan

Alex is an artist who specialises in inclusive and accessible community arts projects, such as Sense's TEXTtile and Quilt Tales.

One thought on “Material Memories – A Quilting Journey’s End”

  1. What a day indeed; such a lovely end to such a wonderful project!

    Thanks to everyone who came and made it happen and BIG THANKS to Alex McEwan, blogger-and-quilter-artist-extraordinaire for getting it all together!

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