Advice To Your 15-Year-Old Self
-Choose To Challenge Banner, Coat & Quilt
In 2021, I started an international collaborative community textile project called the 'String Of Consciousness' to unite women and girls through stitch from International Women's Day to Mental Health Awareness Week with support from Arts Council England. Over 100 participants had already sent me clooties or ribbons from which I created a response piece. We now moved on to the second adventure of this clootie-inspired village project, which continued to encourage a sense of inclusivity, support and a satisfactory journey. We focused on Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 and our theme to share the unsaid wisdom of the soul.
As someone involved in collaborative community projects, I have seen how these initiatives can sometimes come to an abrupt end. They often start with excitement and support, but as resources get depleted and nothing is left to offer, people can feel a sense of disappointment and loss.
However, one thing that I always keep in mind is the mantra that 'no one is left behind.' It is essential to give everyone enough time and space to feel complete on their journey with me.
Here, I invited women and girls to reflect on their 16-year-old selves and think about what advice that girl could have given if she knew what she knows now. The responses were heartwarming, inspiring, and shared through video and stitched artwork.
Over 50 women created reflective, mindfully stitched squares of fabric scraps.
Co-curation commitment forces practitioners to respond to the group's ideas in a sometimes blind and courageous adventure. Initially, the individual creations were stitched together in a public 'wisdom generating banner' to allow all to see and be part of an exhibition programme, where it was shown in various places and sometimes with complementary works. However, the path of co-curation rarely runs smoothly, which underlines my belief that a challenged world is alert and open to change.
The banner was invited to be part of the Abundance Festival parade in 2021, but its size meant it could be a wind risk during carrying should the weather be problematic. The group offered a genius solution to make it into a coat. In this incarnation, it became the 'Coat of Kindness' and was paraded in front of thousands of people on the streets of Coventry and later in a women's conference with the charity Kairos.
Its third and final transformation saw it become a quilt by mounting it onto next door's old curtains. It was exhibited at the Festival of Quilts, Europe's most extensive patchwork and quilting event, in August 2023.
This art is permanently displayed at the Marlene Reid Centre, serving as a testament to the power of community and the importance of sharing our experiences with others. This project was a truly inspirational experience, reminding me of the incredible things that can be achieved when we come together with a shared purpose and a commitment to supporting one another
Sharing my thoughts to my younger self was scary...I didn't think I could do it...but I did, and I am so proud of myself. I am not dirty and never was.