At the start of 2018 I was involved in a radio programme for BBC Radio 4 called Moving Pictures by Cathy FitzGerald. This programme partnered with Google Arts & Culture to present ultra high definition pictures of works of art that can be examined online alongside the broadcast radio programme. The work of art for my programme was the Ann West Coverlet, a masterpiece coverlet from the V&A Museum, appliqued in breathtaking detail depicting biblical scenes as the centre of the work – but even more fascinating to me – around the outside she also creates scenes of characters from her life.
Hidden within the pictures are tantalising ‘clues’ about her life. From the details of fashion to the wistful embroidered entreaty to ‘Remember Me’. All of this detail, to the level of each stitch, can be zoomed into using the new technology of Google Arts & Culture. Being involved in the programme set me to thinking about how quilts survive and how they share and convey their origins through the clues hidden in their unique hand of the maker.
Quilt historians rely on clues from the age, patterns and dyes of fabrics, from clues in the clothing or the pictures depicted in applique, in the text of the piece. It led me to consider what clues my quilts would leave? In a world of ever greater democratisation of technology and internationalisation of inspiration – what will link our quilts to us and here? I wanted to make something completely personal, that depicted my family life, at this time.
Ann West is a common name and genealogical research has so far failed to be able to pin down a definitive maker, but the unique style of her making has lead other works to be ‘attributed’ to her too. Most notably a piece of work that was sold privately at an auction in New York in 2013. This piece shares the same figures but was made on a soft boiled wool grey background and was characterised by a pale blue and red colour scheme. It is a more light hearted piece, I like romantically to imagine that it was made earlier in her life, perhaps as a younger woman excited by the social possibilities of the winter fair it depicts, and I loved the colour scheme. I decided to make my own interpretation of this coverlet, depicting pictures from my own life.
The crisp colour scheme of the original was rich with possibilities and I raided my stash for colours of the same hue. I hunted for a boiled wool fabric to form the background and settled on this dense gorgeous tactile fabric.
I decided to base the quilt around my favourite personal photographs, my favourite tree on my usual dog walk, my hens and dogs, my kids favourite dens, our range stove – all the things that we love.
I decided that the modern equivalent of Ann West’s pictures was the Instagram frame, that square with the little red ‘like’ heart is the window into the world of our lives in 2018. I love that our phones can hold this little portal of memories and warm comfort. My kids love this quilt – it’s their childhood world in fabric form, a true heirloom.
I hand quilted the background in a cross hatch pattern in a navy thread for contrast. In the blocks I outlined the main block pieces in dark grey quilting thread.
We’re real home birds, we love our little nest and we’re lucky to have stunning scenery around our house, we love where we live. I decided that this quote was the perfect one for the label on the back.
I couldn’t resist adding my own ‘Remember Me’ embroidered message for future quilt historians in one of the outer flags of the border.