Quilting is a democratic art. Quilts are part of the history of different communities and economic classes and they’ve been made for all kinds of reasons. That’s why there are so many different kinds of quilts and different messages in them. Quilts are part of our history. They tell our story.
So I guess I thought it was a perfect medium for addressing my deepest concerns about the state of democracy itself. Over the past couple of months my worries have moved passed the horrifying Capitol riot on January 6 (more about that in my last blog post) and have settled on the alarming number of voter suppression laws moving through state capitols around the United States. These laws are clear echoes of the Jim Crow laws that prevented many black Americans from voting in the decades before the civil rights movement.
So, these “Democracy Quilts,” which I’m now calling them, are increasingly becoming a metaphor for work that is never done: democracy must be preserved, improved, and remade with every generation. For me, the American project has been about expanding who can participate in the democratic process, not restricting it.
I’ve moved on to the part of my process with these pieces where I am destroying and unraveling. Originally, I wanted to prove a point about how democracy was coming undone in America and so many parts of the world (Myanmar, Russia, Hong Kong… the list goes on). However, with this smaller piece, which is now finished, I found myself thinking about patching up, mending, fortifying, and the unfinished nature of this experiment. A good metaphor for evolving civic life.
Ripping into even this small quilt was harder than I though, both practically and emotionally. It IS difficult to destroy something you’ve made and put your heart into.
But I liked the results.
I used the scraps from trimming off the edges of the quilt sandwich to add strips hanging down from the bottom and included bunches of thread, strips of batting, and a piece of black and gray fringe. The binding is left unfinished and hanging down.
Next, I need to do the same to my other, bigger quilt.
That will be part three of this process, so stay tuned!