Quilt of Belonging
July 11, 2017 3:44 AM   Subscribe

The people of Canada come from many different backgrounds. Quilt of Belonging is a collaborative work of art whose mission is to recognize Canada’s diversity, celebrate our common humanity and promote harmony and compassion among people.

A richly hued portrait of the human family, Quilt of Belonging is a 120 foot (36 metres) long collaborative textile art project. Its 263 blocks portray the rich cultural legacies of all the First Peoples in Canada and every nation of the world at the dawn of the new Millennium.

Quilt of Belonging was begun in the fall of 1998 by artist Esther Bryan. In 1995 she went on a life-changing journey to Slovakia with her parents to find the family and home her father had left behind 43 years earlier. The dream of making this artwork was born as she recognized that everyone has a story to tell, each culture has a unique beauty and that the experiences and values of our past inform who we are today. In this textile mosaic, each person can experience a sense of belonging and find a place in the overall design – there is “A Place for All”. Together they record human history in textile, illustrating the beauty, complexity and sheer size of the human story.

This monumental artwork, Canada’s most comprehensive textile art project, is the work of volunteers from Victoria to Newfoundland to the Arctic Circle. From across Canada, participants were invited to contribute their talents and ideas, reflected through the prism of their cultural backgrounds. The range of materials is astonishing, from sealskin to African mud-cloth, from embroidered silk to gossamer wings of butterflies.Although it is large, and the logistics of moving and displaying it are a challenge, the quilt does go on tour.

You can view the quilt, block by block, online.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic (4 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
It's currently at the Cotton Factory in Hamilton, and then on to the Ex in Toronto.
posted by scruss at 6:35 AM on July 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

There's some really beautiful work in there. Nice digital interface, too. I wish there were a little more content about the contemporary activities of each cultural group, not just its history - especially where First Nations are concerned, but really for everyone - but at the same time, it's a pretty incredible resource for learning about and celebrating the strength of a nation's diversity and pluralism. Thanks!
posted by Miko at 8:21 AM on July 11, 2017

This reminds me of an old Family Matters episode where Mother Winslow has an old quilt with their entire family history going back to slave times and Laura mistakenly sells it for $50 and learns about the value of something that is priceless.

I am not trying to trivialize this history at all, cuz I honestly had never heard of quilting as a kind of history prior to that tv episode. Stuff like this is cool.
posted by Fizz at 9:15 AM on July 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

"I am not trying to trivialize this history at all, cuz I honestly had never heard of quilting as a kind of history prior to that tv episode."

Not at all, there's totally so much history in quilts and quilting. The kind of pieced-and-quilted thing we usually mean when we say "quilt" flowered in the New World and so expresses New World artistic ideas and sensibilities, and it's a uniquely female art form (for most of its history), and it's an art form that was available to poor women (indeed, next door to mandatory, since they had scraps and needed blankets). And there's so much information carried in the quilts -- what is the fabric made of? (Alaska has a gorgeous history of quilts of pelts! Or is it cotton, linen, wool, silk?) If it's woven, is it homemade or from a textile mill? What weave is used? How long are the fibers? Which way does the thread spin? (Z or S -- it can help identify the region the fabric or thread is from, or sometimes even if it's imported.) Is it embroidered decoratively? If so, which stitches are used? (tracing unusual embroidery stitches' spread is a powerful way to track cultural contacts) What dyes are used on the fabrics? What patterns? Are they printed or woven? Were they hand printed or machine printed? What forms the center, what forms the backing? How big are the fabric pieces? Are there visible seams or prints from prior uses (dresses, feed sacks)?

And all of THAT historical information is before we even get to the choices the quilters themselves made in pattern, color, design, embroidery, words, and other things that carry deliberate meaning!

I think most quilters (and other fiber artists) are just excited at all when quilting gets public recognition as an art form or as an important historical document, nobody minds if it's in a sitcom as long as it's getting done!

Really enjoying looking at the panels. It also reminds me of the Great Tapestry of Scotland, which, previously, although that was designed by a single designer (and also is not a tapestry but DETAILS and neither is Bayeux and technically correct is the best kind of correct).
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:31 PM on July 11, 2017

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