Thursday, July 15, 2010

Restorative Justice

In the US one in 31 adults is under some form of correctional control and one in a hundred adults is in gaol.

In a article in a recent issue of american craft (June/July 2010), Meribah Knight describes a visit to the Jefferson City Correctional Center, a maximum-security state prison where male inmates can volunteer for a number of activities, including quiltmaking, as a way of giving back something to society. The quilts are given away or auctioned for charity and last year raised $7,000.
"Now, they say, quilting quiets their minds and helps rectify their pasts" (p57) and JCCC has the lowest rate of misconduct and violence when compared to other facilities of the same or lesser security around the state (p60).

Meribah Knight, 'Breaking Patterns: Prisoners Piece Together Their Lives One Quilt Block at a Time', in american craft (June/July 2010) 57-60

Judy McDermott taught pottery to inmates at Long Bay Gaol, Malabar (a suburb of Sydney). Her quilt series, 'The Big House' first exhibited in 1999, explores her experience of travelling from her home north of Sydney to the gaol.

Judy McDermott, Go To Gaol (diptych) 1995-1998
#2 110x75cm, #1 100x60cm
(Photograph A Payne)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Quilts and Prisons

Two days ago my brother sent me the catalogue for the current exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Quilts 1700-2010, Hidden Histories, Untold Stories. One of the essays by Sue Pritchard (the curator) is entitled "Creativity and Confinement" and makes a link between Australia's early history as a penal colony and ongoing habilitation work in prisons.
Our 'Rajah Quilt' has been loaned to the V&A by the National Gallery of Australia for the exhibition and acts as a historical counterpoint to a contemporary quilt made by prisioners at Wandsworth Prison (but search as I may I can only find a partial image of the Wandsworth quilt on the internet, only examples of some of the individual hexagons which make up the quilt are shown in the catalogue, not the whole quilt).
The Wandsworth quilt has come about through Fine Cell Work, a group who teaches needlework to both female and male prisoners.
But it is not the inclusion of the Rajah Quilt that was the inspiration for this blog, it was the individual hexagons shown in the catalogue--each one stitched by the prisoner in their cell and is a personal response to their experience of prison (one made by a prisoner who had been in the military lists recent conflicts--Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, N Ireland, Afganistan--together with the stitched inscription: "a new home for heros, heresay evidence convicts anyone, serve your country, do your time").
Judy McDermott taught pottery at Long Bay Gaol (dates to come)--she had oringinally been a potter and came to quiltmaking later in her life. Some of the pottery made at Long Bay found it's way into her quilts (the wattle flowers in 'Watttle in a Bottle', for example) but it was her own experience of working in a prison which became the inspiration for the Big House series.
In 1995, Judy was artist-in-residence at the Gunnery Studios and took the opportunity to develop her 'Big House: Go To Gaol' series which was exhibited at the Object Galleries, Sydney in 1999...Transition and re-location, her journey from her home set on the edge of bushland to work at the gaol. She spoke out and her experience lends authenticity to the telling.

Image: Judy McDermott Big House: Bed of Roses Crown of Thorns (1995-97) 125x160cm (photographer A Payne)

The final quote (in italics) comes from my essay in the catalogue to her exhibition, Speaking For Themselves at the Manly Art Gallery & Museum, January 2008

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Big House

I am starting this new blog to document thoughts, facts and ideas about the 'Big House: Go To Goal series by quiltmaker Judy McDermott. In 1995 Judy was artist-in-residence at the Gunnery Studios, Woolloomooloo when she took time to explore her experience of travelling from her home set on the edge of the bush to her work at Long Bay Gaol Sydney.
The quilt series which resulted from this residency was first shown at the Object Galleries, Sydney in 1999 and later that year at the Fibre Design Gallery in Goulburn NSW.
I have set up this blog in conjunction with as part of my project: 'From the Block to the Blog and Back Again'.
All this started from a comment by Deleuze and Guattari in 'A Thousand Plateaus' comparing the structure of a quilt with their theory of 'smooth space' and since I am interested in he processes of quiltmaking but know little about D & G's theories and this project is my first experience of blogging--I have set out to explore similarities and differences between all three.
I have work by two other contemporary quiltmakers, Pamela Fitzsimons and Emma Rowden with blogs specific ('Lost in time' and 'Reconfiguring the wall') to the details of their work.