Part 2 - One day ... 3 exhibitions
Our original intention on Friday 29th September was to go to Derby Museum to re-visit the Recovery Quilt, which can be seen in the Soldier's Gallery, due to my ongoing studies and an upcoming course essay.
The Recovery Quilt was made by more than 50 participants from groups including residents from the Hope and Resilience Hub, Radbourne Acute Mental Health Univ the Common Threads 'Make and Mend' group, Golds QUAD group and Royal Derby Hospital with the lead being taken by the Common Threads art organisation.
The quilt itself is made up of hand dyed vintage linens and threads which have been digitally printed or/and hand embroidered and sewn by the participants.
The original inspiration behind this project were the 'Crimea Quilts' made by 19th Century convalescent soldiers but it was worked in response to Mark Neville's (official war photographer) Battle Against Stigma project - this project aims to raise awareness of PTSD and in turn also references a history of conflict and recovery whilst telling the stories of the participants.
I have 3 differing personal interests in this quilt through firstly having a background in quilting but also having been diagnosed with PTSD and hence from an essay point of view this quilt will prove invaluable as I seek to explore how recycled or up-cycled textiles can be used to explore themes or metaphors surrounding chronic illness or become part of the story itself. Finally and perhaps most importantly I also consider this quilt not as a student but as the daughter of military veteran. The use of vintage linens which have been hand dyed before being hand stitched and over printed is really thought provoking in this quilt as I feel they pay homage to the original quilts of Crimea era and using original photographs of soldiers and nurses adds depth and poignancy.
The hand stitching on the quilt is a mixture of embroidery stitches of varying types and skill levels with some being of the appearance of slow stitch meditative projects or include personal words, stories and journeys. I particularly liked this set of scales which so accurately depict possible effects of PTSD and the processes of recovery - these words are mere examples and certainly there are many more symptoms associated with this illness in just the same way there are more stages of recovery but this simple diagrammatic style textile speaks volumes to the spectator.
Every section of this quilt tells its own unique story of the suffering caused by PTSD, its effects and the struggle of recovery which brings hope and serenity for the future. If you take the time and study the quilt, particularly taking into account the setting in which it is placed, you gain an understanding of what each participant has and is going through with each individually stitched piece now being a part of their individual journey towards recovery and their life story.
I do find this quilt incredibly thought provoking and evocative particularly as I understand the power of stitch and textiles and how art as a whole can help those with chronic physical or mental health conditions. This quilt if placed anywhere else in the museum may not have the same effect - by being surrounded by the military history it brings home in a direct and forthright narrative the impact of PTSD on our military veterans and their families. As a student I will study this quilt in more depth and consider how it may become part of my essay but as a daughter of an army captain I find it incredibly evocative and in many ways poignant as we stop to consider how those with PTSD have been treated in past generations and how often the care that you would also expect in the modern era is still desperately lacking for our veterans. However, the stories of recovery and the part this quilt pays in that recovery for the participants of this project give great hope for the future and if this quilt plays its part in removing the stigma behind PTSD then this is a desperately important piece of textile art and history.