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Family Histories in Fabrics and Books - Challenge „What Remains“

When the topic was first announced, I was completely at a loss and even considered opting out of this one. Morbid thoughts came to my head, either of fish skeletons or of over-plasticized oceans. And I didn’t want to turn those into a textile piece from my hands.

But then I realized a well-suited object was already living in my house that could be used for this challenge. In fact, I had already taken the first steps. My husband’s family has an heriloom family bible with an inscription dating back to 1772, which was the only item they could carry with them when the family was expelled from Austria for being Protestant, seeking refuge in what is now the northern part of Bavaria, Frankonia, a mostly Protestant area. Here is the frontispiece of the Bible, the inscription is in the upper lefthand corner.

Just for size comparison, here you can see my foot right next to the book itself.

From this incscription, and a letter that is also included in the Bible, I had already had some custom ordered fabric printed, with the intention to make a quilt for my husband eventually.

When my mother gave me all of her patchwork fabrics recently, as she is down-sizing, and one particular fabric in that collection turned out to be the kitchen curtains we’d had in the 1970s, a bright and vivid combination of pink and orange – getting back into fashion now, it’s called ‘vintage color combination’ – I figured a joining of these two very different fabrics would be a good starting point.

I started off with some of Kathleen Loomis’ fine line piecing in the old curtain, the lines made up from the custom printed fabrics from the Bible, and a few bits of fabric with my son’s handwriting on it.

And then, the other way around, some fine lines of that orange in the Bible inscription fabric, to be set into the fine-line-pieced orange as a circle.

For the quilting pattern I wanted to use text that would bring a bit of a positive direction into the eyes of the beholding viewers and had considered using some lines from a Shakespeare Sonnet, or a contemporary poet frequently quoted these days. But copyright hesitations with regard to the contemporary poet stopped me from using her lines, and Shakespeare is one of my favorites, yes, but somehow I felt that after several centuries of quoting him in abundance he had received a good amount of attention, which meant I could and should use other words. So I came up with a pseudo-poem myself, put it all into a text without spaces or line breaks, printed it onto a piece of paper and then enlarged it to different sizes.

Choosing a bit of quilting thread, and the stitching could begin.

Can’t understand why I was stupid enough to use the copy paper as my means of text transfer, and not some transparent paper, which I have used before… But I did, and then was mad at myself for having to rip it out tediously after the first rounds of quilting had been done. (The transparent paper would have been so much easier, but my stock is running low, I just should go ahead and get some more to stop being frugal about it.)

In a brain-storming session with my friend Barbara Lange we had come up with the idea of highlighting the subsequent words by rotating through the differently arranged orientations of the text, consequently, as a viewer you must now put together the message by looking more closely.

 Here is an image of the finished quilt:

"Cherish, Embrace, Sing", 24"x32", 2024.

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