Nevay is an artist/designer based in Dundee who graduated with a First Class Honours Degree in Textile Design from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in 2010. A printer, her work is concerned mostly with observation of organic mark making and natural destrcutive processes which inspire her own induced and emulative textiles/pieces.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Memory and Memorial Quilt: V&A Brief

I have great affection for 'Memory and Memorial' as I believe it to mark the point where I began to understand my real motivations as a designer and having gone far with this project - I was given the opportunity to liase with and develop workshops based on my project with the V&A Friday Late events team in conjunction with the Quilts installment. Lack of funding meant that I was unable to hold the official event in London but nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

My project statement was this:

Memory and Memorial Quilt: Making Memories as they Happen.

"I’m happy to admit that this quilt has become much more than a project to me as I have developed it further. At the outset, I cited the therapeutic nature of quilting to be the most interesting idea in relation to the craft; the creation of something as celebration or indeed as a mode of escapism from the day to day. The acts of stitching, embroidering, appliquéing, (regarded by many nowadays as lost skills), all collated in a visual interpretation of ones life in order to process the causes and effects of what was taking place around them, evoked in me a curiosity in how this could be related to myself today.
Putting the quilt in context of the bed I find it is a place to quietly reflect upon the day gone by and to contemplate what is yet to come. This in mind, I began to look upon the quilt as a diary in format – a vessel in which to store/vent thought, worry and opinion in a safe, intimate setting. I kept a dream diary in conjunction with my own personal diary to construct a personal landscape for my quilt between the seemingly nonsensical visuals in my dreams and the thoughts I consciously expressed in my everyday diary.

Extracts from diaries Mood Board

Prototype for Final Quilt design

Through doing this I found that the self imposed limits upon what we feel we can share about ourselves can sometimes betray our want to communicate and reach out to others for support, relief and to ultimately create a connection. Through my research no diary I had come across (including my own) had been written with the intention of never being read by another; some are self-conscious; some controversial; some informative but ultimately all very aware of one day being critiqued. Research into the ways (and indeed why) people express themselves through diaries, led me to ‘PostSecret’, (‘an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard’). This method of ‘telling’ secrets, I found interesting as it allows the bearer to vent without feeling exposed; there is an element of control and a line as to how far the invitation into confidence extends.
I proposed then, to create a quilt that presented a visual language personal to me but did not permit others to impose upon my ‘hidden histories and untold stories’, allowing me to map out and process my thoughts to a degree that I found comfortable. I began by manipulating paintings I had done in response to dreams with particular resonance and layering these with extracts from my diary. While attractive, these samples lacked the ability to determine distance from certain elements of myself I did not want to put ‘on show’ and overall fell flat in my expectations for an active ongoing project. An element of censorship was needed; a format allowing me to hide or share the changing/recurrent themes I wished to express.
Looking again to the idea of ‘PostSecret’, I became interested in how to meet with my own secrets in relation to my quilt; literally pouring myself into the making of it. Experimenting with pockets, folds and unexpected hiding places led me to the final idea involving envelopes; ready made pockets able to hold, conceal or trap forever an idea, thought, worry or secret. Constructing the quilt from paper and envelopes seemed most pertinent upon considering my theme – paper is immediate and easy to manipulate. The idea of the more I ‘told’ my quilt, (and therefore the achievement of better psychological relief), resulting in a more padded, comfortable piece was also an appealing and rewarding notion.
Taking this idea further it seemed apt then, to design a quilt that was the correct design to protect or indeed divulge secrets amongst a group, could be shared.
Conducting three different experimental workshops, (all completely voluntary), allowed me to compile my ‘final’ quilt. The first two were silent; one inviting random students at Duncan of Jordanstone to open envelopes marked ‘Top Secret’ which were ‘posted’ around the college on benches, billboards and doors with the intention of highlighting curiosity in relation to personal boundaries. The other entailed asking my classmates to choose from an array of empty envelopes and allow the chosen envelope to travel with them over the course of a few days; the idea being to collect parts of their day inside the envelope - a visual diary of sorts. The third was a live workshop extending invitation to all members of the college, bidding them to share their secrets openly through the mediums of an A5 brown envelope, a standard black marker pen and various sized lettering stencils. This uniform mode of communication was chosen to highlight the fact that we are all affected by life, that we all feel vulnerable at some time or other, just that the circumstances and how we react vary. All of the information gathered from these workshops compiled with my own personal reactions to the stimulus resulted in a regimented flow of envelopes, (all marked by the owners but all ultimately anonymous), broken by tailing threads and jagged stitching. Red zips and buttons were added to some of the envelopes to signify varying levels of unwanted attention beyond the outer skin of the envelope. Those left unsealed are an invitation to others likeminded, allowing the contents to be explored and added to as seen fit. Sealed envelopes are to remain that way, the true secret to be hidden forever.

The most satisfying part of this project was finding a true therapeutic outlet in the construction of my own quilt, and to hear others who participated echo these thoughts. The quilt I have made is not the most beautiful of things but I feel it is a successful mode of communication and vessel for modern self expression."

A rather consuming project - but an enjoyable one at that. Furthermore, I was able to attend the Private View of the Quilts opening, accompanying competition winner of our class brief, and close friend Kirsty Fenton whose final design became part of the official collection on show. Here is a link to an article comprised of Kirsty and I's experience of the event, editted by Louise Valentine for the Craft Research blog:

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