Quilt-making, as a communal tradition and setting for social interactions, has dissolved just like the moth-eaten seams of your great-grandma's patchwork masterpiece. But local fiber artist Eliza Fernand is helping to resuscitate the arduous, antiquated art form. Utilizing splashy neon fabrics and triangles of teal and gold lame, Fernand fashions quilts that would make just as much sense on a synth-pop album cover as they would folded delicately at the foot of a bed.
To illuminate the art of quilting, and the stories associated with it, Fernand has created a teepee-shaped quilted tent and is hitting the road.
"I'll be out doing Quilt Stories, which is an interactive performance where I am inside of the tent and visitors come in and they tell me stories about quilts. All the stories are spurred on by quilt memories, but they're all really different things," said Fernand. "So I encourage people to go on tangents, and I collect the stories with an audio recorder."
One of Fernand's favorite quilting stories she's heard thus far involves a quilting bee with Mormon women and their children in Salt Lake City.
"They would get together in a house and stretch a quilt out on a frame that was as big as the room," said Fernand. "And then all the mothers are around the outside of the quilt and ... all the children are underneath ... So the mother pokes the needle down through the quilt and the kid underneath pulls it down and the mother points to where she wants the needle to come back up and then the kid pokes it back up."
In addition to collecting stories, Fernand will also have an Amish-influenced white quilt for people to contribute stitches on during her journey from Palouse, Wash., through towns like Missoula, Mont.; Lincoln, Neb.; and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, up to Minneapolis, where she has a residency.
"It really materializes in a different way depending on where I am," said Fernand. "It could be in an art space or it could be outdoors in the public or it could be in a more traditional fiber-arts kind of space or it could be at a barbecue dance party."
Fernand raised money for her project through kickstarter.com, an online, community-based funding platform.
"I think that the coolest part of working through Kickstarter are the people who have been contacting me and who are interested in the project, and now I get to go meet them and be hosted by them," said Fernand.
Fernand will kick off her Quilt Stories tour in the Bricolage courtyard this First Thursday, June 2.