This workshop was completed during my residency at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education (MGSE), University of Melbourne.
Located within the studioFive SPACE, I worked collaboratively with Dr Kathryn Coleman and artist in residence Jordan Wells as part of an intensive Undergraduate Breadth subject at MGSE. This program brought together learners from multi-disciplinary backgrounds to practice in, through and with the arts (art, music, and drama) for ways into exploring and expressing cultural identity as, for and by youth. Our community of artist-students were disparate in their social, cultural and economic statuses, as well as their access to higher education facilities, visual art studio spaces and practices.
Artist-students initially worked independently on autobiographical zines with Jordan Wells before consulting with each other to produce and display a community quilt, representative of each member of their new community. This involved student-artists engaging in collaborative practice – expressions and sharing their social, cultural and political identities to develop relationships and work communally.
The following lesson plan covers the production and display of the community quilt, through the lens of the Victorian curriculum. This distinction is important, as students engage with art as both as artist and audience, maker and responder.
This workshop design and resulting work has been published in Global Consciousness through the Arts: A Passport for Students
and Teachers Edition 2. (2020) by Richards, A. & Willis, S. Details can be found in my Library
Being with stories
To introduce and engage our student-artists with collaborative practice, explaining how through sharing, collaboration and building relationships with others art can be a social and communal activity.
Offer the student-artists the time, space and opportunity to express and share their social, cultural and political identities within a site, not regularly accessible to all of them.
Materials and Resources:
Square card, acetate or felt
Box of textiles
Embroidery thread and needles
This workshop could run as a single class or be split over a series of lessons - the making time being divided into an ideation and planning phase, testing of materials and final production - allowing the adaption to curriculums. The following is a proposed breakdown for time and will vary depending on class size and time available.
5 Minutes - Slide Presentation
15 Minutes - Discussion between partners
60 Minutes - Making Patches
15 Minutes - Putting Quilt Together
10 Minutes - A class discussion of emergences and new ideas
Notes for Consideration:
The importance of movement
Student-artists moved in the physical SPACE throughout this workshop, replicating the same movement of thought students were experiencing through the production of their work. By reflecting the liminality of thought we encouraged in the workshop through simultaneous physical movement, we could move the students forward in their thinking.
It is encouraged that teachers endeavour to replicate this movement in their own classrooms, particularly between the initial discussion, making, and presentation of the quilt.
Representation and inclusion of artists
The representation of diverse voices is of the utmost importance in the contemporary classroom. Students must learn and interact with the cultures, arts, and ways of seeing of various peoples, preparing them for life in a globalised society. The artists included within this workshop were selected for their relevance to the theme and the country where the workshop was performed. The included artists should be used as inspiration for future applications and be adapted to the cultural histories, past and emerging, of the lands and communities of your students.
Respond & Interpret
Student-artists began this workshop examining the history of textiles and craft production as a collaborative practice for storytelling. Initially discussing the role of textiles in the development of early cross-cultural understanding (through the Silk Road and global textile trade ships), student-artists then looked at the prevalence of storytelling through textiles in Australia's own histories.
Australian examples discussed include the Rajah Quilt from the HMS Rajah and the past and continuing history of possum fur cloaks in Victorian Indigenous communities, through the works of contemporary Yorta Yorta, Mutti and Boon Wurrong artist Lee Darroch.
The works of Faith Ringgold were also analysed, for their significance to contemporary textile arts and relevance to representing a story of lived experience.
In addition, student-artists had to interpret the works of their peers. Asked to share the zine-stories that they produced with Jordan Wells, students spoke with the partner opposite them. The student-artists were able to interpret the work of their partner, asking questions about symbolism and importance, attempting to understand their partner's story. Simultaneously, this allowed students sharing their story to refine their self-definition and represent their cultural identities within our new community.
Visual Arts Practices
In this workshop, student-artists became patch makers. Provided with the choice of a square of card, acetate or felt, student-artists could use any mixture of materials including textiles, collage, embroidery, and paints. They were asked to design a patch square to represent their partner, their identity, their culture, and their interests. Student-artists were encouraged to look beyond literal representations of their partner and their interests, instead of using symbolism though material chosen and overall design to represent them.
Although initially confronting for student-artists, exploration and experimentation with textile art techniques and materials were quickly undertaken. Processes and materials used varied widely across the student-artists, some turning to collage representations, others embroidery of maps and symbols, while some chose even less literal portrayals of their partners, designing colour and fabric swatch mood boards.
Present and Perform:
After the making period, our community came together to discuss the presentation of the final work. After laying out the patch squares in front of them, student-artists were asked to consider what the quilt should look like. Prompted with layout ideas such as grouping colours and common themes, student-artists considered the number of patches produced, how this would impact both the length and the width, the focal message of the quilt and order they wanted a viewer to look at each patch.
Once an opinion was formed by the group squares were grouped and the community quilt grew. Some of these initial decisions were later questioned and changes were made, the students considering how the collective story of the whole quilt was as important as the story of each patch.
Once final decisions were made, patch squares were joined together using paperclips in the hole punched corners. This again was a communal activity as students laced their stories together, symbolic of their own stories interweaving that day.