Submitted by: Dr. Kate Just and Dr. Tal Fitzpatrick
In April, Dr. Kate Just and Dr. Tal Fitzpatrick created the Covid 19 Quilt project. Since then, people all over the world have sent in images of the textile squares they created as reflections of their Covid experiences. These images are then added to the project’s Instagram page, @covid19quilt, to become a part of the virtual Covid-19 Quilt. Dr. Kate Just and Dr. Tal Fitzpatrick kindly shared more about the story behind their incredible project with us.
What was the inspiration behind starting the virtual global quilt project? Tell us a little about how it works.
The Covid-19 Quilt Project is a global craft project instigated by artists Kate Just (@katejustknits) and Tal Fitzpatrick (@talfitzpatrick). This project is designed to create a space where people can share their Covid-19 experiences of isolation, community and care. Launched on the 5th of April 2020, this project will continue to grow until this global pandemic is declared over and restrictions enforcing social distancing and self-isolation are lifted. To date, the project has received over 429 contributions by artists and makers from 26 countries around the globe.
To be a part of this project, artists and makers are invited to contribute a square image of a textile piece they created alongside a short bit of text sharing the stories behind these works and how they relate to their experience during Covid-19. The Covid-19 quilt takes form as these contributions are collected and shared via the @covid19quilt Instagram account. The accruing squares of the Instagram feed become the quilt.
How has the pandemic affected and influenced your own work?
The Covid-19 Quilt builds on the previous work of Melbourne based artists Dr. Kate Just and Dr. Tal Fitzpatrick, who both specialize in delivering participatory/socially-engaged textile projects that engage with complex social and political issues, while also empowering individuals and building community through a combination of hand-making and digital engagement.
This project was a natural progression of their previous projects such as Kate Just’s Feminist Fan (2015-2017) and The Furies (2015), as well as Tal Fitzpatrick’s #UDHRquilt Project (2017-2020).
What has the response to your project been like?
Already, the Covid-19 Quilt account has over 3k followers and has received over 429 contributions by artists and makers from 26 countries, including: Australia, United Kingdom, United States, New Zealand, Germany, Canada, Brazil, Ecuador, Spain, Greece, Austria, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Japan, China, Croatia, France, Georgia, Netherlands, Malaysia, Denmark, Switzerland, Vietnam, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates. The contributions to the @covid19quilt reflect a beautiful engagement with textile processes that address the diverse range of issues people around the world are facing. Using cross stitch, knitting, quilting, embroidery and hand sewing, contributors to this project – through their work – address many themes and ideas. These include: privilege and power in relation to Covid-19, self-nurturing and imagination as tools of resilience, the role of craft in renewing our sense of tangible material connection, the issue of Covid-19 motivated racism, the reality that the challenges that people living with mental health or trauma face are further compounded by isolation; and the importance of myth and imagination to our survival.
What message do you hope to share through the Covid19 quilt?
At a time when most of us are advised not to touch anyone or anything, and gathering in groups is no longer possible, we wanted to create a project that allows people to experience the sense of a joining a quilting bee or knitting circle. Working with our hands makes us feel calm, focussed and gives us a sense of purpose. We all need that right now. As the project has rolled out many participants have thanked us for creating a space where through craft they could reconnect with tangible material practice. The crafting of their squares has connected them to others in the quilt project, and the broader community viewing the project. Crafters know that repetitively puncturing cloth with a needle, or methodically looping stitches one after another gives us the capacity to release our frustrations and also regain a sense of cohesion. It also produces an object we can look at and say, I made that and feel proud. It gives us a sense of control and agency over one small thing, which is a lot right now. For many our interaction with screens right now is incessant and overwhelming and not very satisfying. Work that was once face to face is relegated to zoom, flattening our in person experiences. But in this project we are using the digital space to create a reminder that physical tangible experience is within our reach. By filling the feed with images of textile works, we are hoping to reconnect people to materials and craft as materials and methods for connecting to ourselves and others. The texts people submit are also really important in that they are sharing people’s experiences with each post. Holding it all in one place, @covid19quilt is a place people can visit every day to check what others are making, and find out how people are processing and responding to this crisis all around the world. It’s a time capsule of what is going on and the immediate connection to others through social media has been a very helpful and easy way to facilitate this.
To learn more about this project, visit @covid19quilt on Instagram