Something to Think About

Ruangrupa: Parallels to Quiltland

First this:

And then this:

I have blocked out the quilter’s name

Ruangrupa is an Indonesian Collective that “turns social experiences into art,” as Samantha Subramanian noted in a recent article in the New York Times. The name comes from two Indonesian words: ruang, which means room, and rupa, which means form, “so the group’s mashed name prizes not product but process: the physical space in which people collaborate, things take shape and art is made” (italics are mine). As I was reading about these artists, I couldn’t help but finding all kinds of parallels to Quiltland, where we all live. Here’s some tidbits from the article, and then I’ll tie it all together (stay with me, now):

“Instead of collaborating to make art, ruangrupa propagates the art of collaboration. It’s a collective that teaches collectivity.” One school of thought says that “visual arts” can be “spectacles degraded by capitalism” but ruangrupa is devoted to the collaborative process and its “chief order of business is to offer a ruang: a place for artists to meet each other, try things and fail and ignore for a while the demands and dogmas of the world outside.”

The author described visiting the ruangrupa complex in Jakarta, and noted that there was a feeling of “slow ferment — the feeling that, as people floated through one another’s orbits, they were being creatively galvanized, working all the time toward new art and new ideas. Not grand projects necessarily…but small, rich narratives with great frequency.”

Although the paragraphs above probably need to be translated out of Artist-Speak, generally they describe ruangrupa as a place where people meet and share and create new art because of that sharing. It also reminds us that “before capitalism’s fierce individualism interfered, people worked in small, sustainable collectives not only to create art but also to grow crops or put up buildings. Large families, farms and guilds were all collectives: a village was a collective of collectives” (Subramanian). (Guilds!)

So the second image, that of a Star of Hope block, with the person who put the fabric choices together proclaiming “Designed by Me!”

Actually, no.

It started with an Ohio Star shape from Nancy Cabot, Brackman 1631b. The next derivation was 1631c and has ten different names.

Brackman 1631d, the one shown above (and from Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns, as well as Blockbase Plus software) has this heritage:

from Blockbase Software

I chose the name Star of Hope, and you can see it’s from the 1920s to the 1940s. So what’s the connection between ruangrupa and Quiltland? A single thread: collaboration, creating by working through a collective of hundreds of women, some here now, some alive in the 1940s and some stitching in the 1800s. They are our ruangrupa, and we honor them and our quilting heritage when we call the blocks by their correct names, not claiming them for our own. Every artist borrows from one another, however, it’s probably good practice to acknowledge the inspiration.

And the series of photos at the top? Aren’t workshops, quilt meetings and retreats another form of ruangrupa? Don’t we, when in small groups or in our guilds, “[work] all the time toward new art and new ideas. Not grand projects necessarily…but small, rich narratives with great frequency”? Having taught guild workshops, I always brought a few extra bits of fabric to trade, and then I noticed quilters trading across the class, too. We’ve learned to work in a collective, to create small, rich stories and we do it often. It’s the best part of this quilting world, I believe.

pattern from here

I had another small, rich narrative happen this week.

I was making these happy blocks because of another task this week: listening to the January 6th Commission Hearings and not only because this storming of the capital was on my birthday (!). America is a collective, and we’ve worked hard in groups to collaborate, those early Founding Fathers setting up our Constitution and our way of life. We let a lot of that ideal slip away from us, claiming that we alone can do it (like claiming an Ohio Star Block as your own design). But lately, with Volodymyr Zelenskyy reminding us of what democracy and courage looks like, we seem to have woken out of a deep sleep. I decided that watching the J6 Hearings was something I could do to decide for myself, to learn and listen.

Those nine-patches of blue, with sunny yellow centers, kept me grounded through the hard parts, the tense videos, the growing realization that our American collective had been ruptured. I thrive in my quilt collective, and want to thrive in my nation, too. I hope we can come together and rebuild, put together “small, rich [stories]” while we “try things and fail and ignore for a while the demands and dogmas of the world outside.”

Take a breath…and quilt ~

Notes on this post:

I wrote another time about America being a collective, borrowing words from Walt Whitman, in my post about my quilt, I Hear America Singing.

Nine-patch has to be one of my all-time favorite blocks. I’m also quite fond of this one, another traditional block from our quilt heritage.

First Monday Sewday · Quilt Bee

9-Patches and Churn Dashes • First Monday

PinkyOrangeQuilt1

So what if you were trying to think of the basic blocks for beginning quilters?  What would you choose?  So far in our First Monday Sew-Day series, we’ve done four-patches and square-in-square and half-square triangles and flying geese and a few others (Log Cabin was last month), so I thought I’d take a look at another basic: nine-patch blocks. Above is a version of this block, colored a little differently than what we usually see.

June 2020 FirstMonday Sew-Day Illus

For the handout for the nine-patch/churn dash blocks, click to download a PDF file:

Bee Happy Quilt_Feb_1
You think I might have caught that wonky churn dash.

I recently made some churn dash blocks for the #dungeonofcute quilt I’m making, and yes, I did fix the problem in the upper left.  For this beginning class handout, however, I chose to make the churn dash blocks more like nine-patches, rather than the adjusted proportions, seen above.

Aug2018_Gridsters

Here’s another variation of proportions: large corner squares, and smaller centers.

Frivols6_PracticeMakesPerfect5
Frivols #6, Practice Makes Perfect

This is one of those Frivols quilts that I did in 2018, which frankly seems like it was about a century ago.  All churn dashes, cozied up to each other.

kucera_mcm

This quilt is the result of a bee; Linda asked us for small churn dashes, with skinny sides and big, fat centers, in these colors.  It’s a really fun way to work with churn dashes.

carla_mcm
Carla Block Jan

While I’ve never done a large quilt with churn dashes, more bee-mates at the time asked for them, in two more different styles.  The blending of value and color in the bottom really makes it interesting.

MCM_Timberlake1

Here were my two blocks that I made for Carla T, and the finished quilt, with giant churn dashes interspersed in among the smaller ones.

IMG_3238
from OpEdgeArt

Here’s a nine-patch “quilt” done by an artist I follow.  He works in paint.  He told me his mother was a quilter and I can see her influence.

Quilt Frolic_front

And here’s Quilt Frolic, a series of nine-patches, set in a an off-set white block, with tons of Amy Butler large-scale prints.

All our Handouts and topics can be found in the tab at the top of my blog: Projects for 2020/First Monday Sew-days.  More quilts can be seen below, in a gallery.

Happy sewing!

tiny-nine-patches
Baby Quilts Nine Patch
I’ve made a lot of baby quilts using nine-patch variations.
Mom Churn Dash
My mother helped make these nine-patch variation (shoo-fly) blocks nearly 85 years ago.
Amish Double Nine Patch
Mini Quilt: Amish double Nine-Patch
Nine Patch green
Carla Churn Dash
Carla’s quilt, from here