I’ve been thinking a lot about the problem of normativity for a while. Part of this stems from my ongoing struggle with chronic illness (and the depression that followed in its wake). But more specifically I have been trying to find a way to make a quilt that responds to Indiana’s Senate Bill 568 (the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act) and North Carolina’s HB2 (the so-called Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act).
I kept going in circles trying to develop a design that spoke out against legislation aimed at discriminating against the LGBTQ community, everything I came up with simply felt too blunt, to simply scratch the surface and actually say far less than whatever words I might write. Ultimately, I just wasn’t finding the thread that connected these pieces of legislation, and so many others like them.
But after thinking and write for about a year now, I believe I’ve finally put the pieces together, figured out what I wanted to say. While the backlash of discrimination against the LGBTQ community is indeed deeply troubling, there is a larger current within our society, and indeed much of our law, that supports these bills: the reassertion of normativity.
So much of American culture is based upon outdated paradigms of what is normal when it comes to the most intimate aspects of our lives: how we identify ourselves, the ways we form families, and the very notion of a home. Indeed, far too many governmental, social, and religious programs adamantly assert that the traditional nuclear family (mother, father, children) is utterly essential. As such, the millions of families and homes that do not fit that paradigm are not only seen as abnormal, but begin to be seen as dangerous, as threats to the social fabric.
Thus, I arrived at this quilt: In Praise of Non-Traditional Homes:
Based on a traditional house block, in reorienting the color relationships (in effect putting the roof below the house) a radically new formal element is created, one that is wholly abstract. Yet at the same time, each house (now in two tones) remains, but now they do not simply sit isolated from each other, but are necessarily interconnected as each individual house in inherently connected to the ones above and below.
In short, this quilt is an homage to the community of non-traditional homes and families, whether they include same-sex parents, single-parents, interracial families, adoptive families, multigenerational households, or any of the myriad other family structures.
As this quilt is fundamentally about family, identity, and community, it feels like it would be made more powerful if I again returned to working with my quilting community. I would call this an intermediate block, nothing too technical, but a bit of precision will come in handy.
It is just rectangles and squares, with a couple of HSTs, but the blocks do have to come together somewhat precisely. And as colors need to match up across blocks I will need to send fabric along with the piecing instructions. I don’t generally like working that way; I prefer to give my collaborators as much room for interpretations as possible. But, I will be opening up space for some individual choices when I develop the quilting, for you to dedicate (in a way) to a non-traditional family/home that is close to your heart, to share their story.
To make this quilt I am going to need 36 of the house blocks (each block finishes to 13” high by 14” wide). I’ll be piecing the top row of partial blocks. And unlike some of my community quilts, you all are welcome to make more than one, especially if there is more than one family you want to honor (perhaps even yours). All the details will come via email and snail mail once things get rolling, but I’d like to get Robot (my longarm) going on this one in early February, so hopefully that gives everyone who wants to take part plenty of time to piece.
So, that’s it. I’m really excited about this quilt, especially since so many of my recent quilts have dealt with darker themes. It feels good to take a break from the tragic to celebrate something, even if the conceptual impetus was, well, dark.
Fingers crossed that you all will be as excited as I am about this one. If you want to take part and make a block (or two or three) please leave me a comment on the old TKS Facebook page…
And, as always, much love to you all, my quilting community…