Examples of Academic Writing

Abstract of Why Women Under 45 Quilt Pilot Project:

In the field of Material Culture, this pilot study aims to answer the question of why we quilt by

investigating the impact patchwork quilting has on the lives of eager young women and in turn,

theorizing on their motivations for this form of women’s leisure at statistically younger ages. A

qualitative approach is used to study this phenomenon through Constructivist narrative inquiry

by interviewing two college-educated, married, stay-at-home mothers under the age of 45 in

Northern Utah, as well as my own experiences in the same demographic. Methods include close

examination of the influences and life events that brought participants to quilting at earlier ages,

the average American quilter is 63, and also what today’s younger quilters perceive as the

benefits of quilting, despite the busyness of establishing budding careers, tireless child-rearing,

increases in fabric prices and the accumulation of personal quilts already made. This study

revealed the mother’s sewing in the subject’s childhood plays a strong role in determining future

sewing interests. Onset of quilting as a feminine hobby usually occurs as a result of marriage as a

major life event, in order to decorate the new marital home in a unique way from others. These

women do not need a mentor and prefer to join the Do-It-Yourself movement, but will turn to the

Internet first over local quilt stores or groups for help. Once fully invested in quilting as a hobby,

quilting becomes an identity, a social connection, and the mental release valve needed in rearing

a young family. Surprisingly, supportive husbands also play an important role in quilting in

formative years of contemporary, traditional marital relationships.

Excerpts from a grant writing practice:

A non-traditional and unexpected museum exhibit of the famous quiltmaker Tula Pink

stands to become a disruptor of sorts by highlighting an incredibly influential twenty-first

century American artist who still hand draws all of her designs before scanning them into

computers, creates vibrant and luscious quilts, and has marketed herself as a brand with over

140,000 followers on Instagram, nicknamed #tulatroops. A grand installation style exhibit would

include her designer Bernina sewing machines and steel notions, woven jacquard ribbons, quilts

made from her animal fabrics and original framed drawings into the white cube for the first time.

By combining fan studies with her commercial and artistic success, Pink can be seen as a

member of today’s studio craft movement.

     Because of some key factors of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries,

quiltmaking has become a focal point for millions of women and a small collection of men, the

study of which can tell us much about our contemporary society thanks to advancements in tool

and machine technology, the Internet, and a change in the aesthetic of quilt fabric. A handful of

integral graphic designers and painters took the opportunity to use these advancements and made

the move to designing quilt fabric and patterns that revolutionized the commercial industry. As a

result, we have unrecognized yet significant artists who if they had come up in the traditional

Arts & Crafts ranks would be better known for studio crafts. Unfortunately their commercial

success and industry choice has negated their recognition in this arena.

     There is a growing history of the American quilt’s departure from its traditional identity.

Quilts have usually fit into the Arts & Crafts framework in subversive or alternative ways,

looking for both different mediums and alternate meanings in an historical context. After

Rauschenberg’s Bed (1955), Auther argues “the pieced quilt continued to serve as a point of

departure and inspiration for artists questioning the historical conventions, definitions, and

material limits of art” (Kiracofe, 2014, p. 110). She continues that today, “new contexts for the

rediscovery of quilts have emerged, including revived interest in the history of craft traditions

and an embrace of popular and participatory forms of creative expression” (p. 116). Museum

exhibitions must evolve to fit this participatory form of artist who is more personally open to her

fan base through social media and less inhibited in her design and display than quilts we saw

fifty years ago. An installation retrospective exhibit of one of the pillars of twenty-first century

fabric and quilt design would step the conversation further by displaying these new contexts and

forms of creative expression within studio craft.

      Most accepted in a traditional museum exhibit is some form of O’Doherty’s (1976)

“white cube as a disembodied eye” aesthetic in gallery design (Barker, 1999, p. 28). O’Doherty’s

exhibition style, made popular in the twentieth century and still used very much today, also

enforces galleries as “the ideal state – as pure and absolute space seemingly conceived solely for

the undisturbed presentation of art, unadulterated by the intrusion of human beings” (Barker, p.

28). One could imagine hanging Pink’s framed drawings on vast white walls could add credence

to her commercial art, but that would be missing the point of today’s Arts & Craftspeople, as

well as the diversity of Pink’s objects. Showing artists like Pink to today’s museum visitors

requires the opposite of the formal exclusiveness of museums where canonization or neutrality of

spaces feels less emotional and unattainable to the public. Showing Pink’s art in an overflowing

and colorfully crowded way instead strikes against traditional gallery design to democratize

museum culture.

Excerpts from a paper on the artist's intent:

     Quilts can be viewed aesthetically, formally and technically, but without also taking the artist’s

intention into account, the clearest interpretation of that object cannot occur. For this reason, many

readers will flip to the author’s photo on the back of the dust jacket before beginning a new book, or look for a date next to each quilt in a museum before appreciating it fully. Even excusing a rude remark is easier when we understand what difficulties are going on in the speaker’s life at that time. Viewers want context to contribute to their interpretation. “We want to understand the author, even if that will lead to rejecting his or her point of view” (Hick, pg. 65). Understanding the artist/maker/author does not mean we will agree with her, but we cannot fully form our opinion of the goodness or badness or even the point of a quilt until we have insight into the artist’s intention. “The goal of interpretation is to seek the most probably correct understanding of the work in question” (Hick, pg. 64). We have to assume “the author wants us to understand her meaning” (Hick, pg. 64) and search for it. If the artist didn’t want to be understood, why title a piece at all?

      Romanticism supports the theory that the creator reserves the right to say what the quilt is for.

(Hick, pg. 53). “A quilt is both an image and a constructed, pliable physical object” (Kalina, pg. 149),

and understanding where the artist intends that image to go, based on her experiences and place in time, allows us to decide if that intent was accomplished, how well it was accomplished aesthetically, and how we feel about her statement. These interpretations can change based on the time period of the viewer, and the background knowledge the viewer holds, but the artist’s intent rarely changes.

      For many artists, sharing their “creative process reconstructed” (Feagin, pg. 234) is a vital part of

their artistic communication. Public readings or Instagram process photos exist because artists want to convey their processes and what it means in their individual works. Understanding the “mental life of artists” (Feagin, pg. 234) elevates the work beyond materials to meaning. Wollheim writes, “The creative process includes the many background beliefs, conventions, and modes of artistic production against which the artist forms his intentions” (Feagin, pg. 241). Without considering that creative process to some degree, the “products of deliberate human activity” (Feagin, pg. 224) lack correct interpretation. To see into “the artist’s intention [as] a series of psychological states or events in his mind” (Feagin, pg. 224) is the craving for human connection that art survives to fill.

Reading response on 19th Century quiltmaking:

     The second half of the nineteenth century was a transformative time for the quilt.

For the first significant time in American history, the humble handmade quilt became a

sharp tool for social justice, not just a necessity or creative expression. Quilts became a

symbol of the conflicts between men and women, and the issues that affected them.

Quilts were elevated from the domestic bedcovering, to the female expression of grief for

men lost in war, as well as her rejection of men’s drinking habits. When times got tough,

women turned to patchwork to express their sorrows, indignations, and to claim equal

rights. And during this era, women found that turning to each other in these emotions,

using quilting as the vehicle, gave them a national power previously untapped.

     From raising money through quilt fundraisers for the Temperance Movement, to

auctions to support their churches, and donating quilts during the Civil War, quilts gave

women economic power to enact real change in their daily lives. Women donated

“staggering” amounts of quilts and comforts during the Civil War to support a large

Union Army the government had small means to supply on its own (Gunn, pg. 82). This

“cult of domesticity” (Hedges, pg. 88) strengthened women to stand up for themselves in

a male dominated society and put down drunkenness, leaving a framework to later fight

for suffrage. The solidarity achieved in this “national movement, brilliantly organized,

that worked skillfully and effectively for a variety of causes important to women’s lives”

(Gunn, pg. 82) irrevocably propelled the strength of the female voice in America.

Excerpts from a paper on the Migrant Quilt Project:

     When these items are found on the trail and taken, we “interrupt the forces of decay”

(Soto, 2018, p. 471). These items can be left behind to lighten loads, to adapt to the heat, or to

blend in, mainly with the utilitarian goal to survive safe passage into a new country. To the

migrant, this is generally the end of use for that object.

The scarf used along the top of the quilt could have been used as the traditional women’s

belt around her skirt back home, or as a migrant, to carry a small child tired of walking.

“Crossers learn how to make do with the limited tool kit at their disposal, including adapting

their body techniques and ways of being to adjust to material and technological constraints (De

Leon, 2013, p. 10). The apparent good condition of this piece in the quilt suggests it was

discarded along the trail out of necessity from the heat or to camouflage. Either way, it is

symbolic of the shedding of traditional Mayan culture in an effort to secure a modern way of life

and a perceived better future for agrarian Guatemalan families.

     Anthropological items found along the migrant trail take on a “political dynamic as it

involved the witnessing of aspects of a hidden social process—that of undocumented migration

but also migrant suffering and death en route - through the lens of its ruined traces, observed by

nonmigrants” (Soto, 2018, p. 462). These objects transfer from dirty off casting during a

difficult journey, to a record of human suffering for natives of the land they were attempting to

enter. “Nonmigrants are drawn to the otherwise quotidian yet decaying belongings left behind in

the border wilderness” (Soto, 2018, p. 463).

     Because “clothes both are material presences and they encode other material and

immaterial presences,” they are a strong foundation for telling the deceased migrant’s story

(Stallybrass, 1999, p. 38). In making a memory of the migrants who died during this year, many

symbols of the Guatemalan people were used by the quiltmakers in Tucson Sector 2016-17. For

the privileged Americans who used them in the quilt, they could have been a bright fabric among

all of the denim, a nod to Guatemalan migrants, or a regurgitation of Guatemalan textiles in

familiar tourist items. Because of tourism and commerce, it is recognizable by an outsider as

being Guatemalan or Central American. The worry dolls are a direct reference to the concern the

quiltmakers have with the daily worries Guatemalans experience in feeding and housing their

families.

     In the end, the makers wrote, “We purposely left the quilt’s edges frayed, as most found

fabric is dirty and worn” (migrantquiltproject.org). Soiled, frayed edges mean an unfinished

story that is over worn, much like the migrant’s story, as well as our own country’s story of what

this all means for us as a nation of individuals.

References

Auther, E. (2014). A Brief History of Quilts in Contemporary Art. From Uncoventional & Unexpected,        R. Kiracofe, Ed. NY: STC Craft.

Barker, E. (Ed.) (1999). Contemporary Cultures of Display. New Haven: Yale University Press.

De Leon, J. (2013, July 31). Undocumented migration, use wear, and the materiality of habitual

     suffering in the Sonoran Desert. Journal of Material Culture, 0(0), pp. 1-25.

Feagin, S. & Maynard, P. (1997). Aesthetics. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Gunn, V. (1994). Quilts for Union Soldiers in the Civil War. Quiltmaking in America, Laurel Horton, Ed. Nashville, TN: Rutledge Hill Press, pp. 81-95.

Hedges, E. et al (1987). Hearts and Hands. San Francisco, CA: The Quilt Digest Press. 

Hick, D.H. (2017). Introducing Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art (2nd ed.). New York, NY:

     Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

Kalina, R. (2003, October). Gee’s Bend Modern. Art in America, 104-149.

O’Doherty, B. (1976). Inside the white cube: notes on gallery space, part I. Artforum, 14(7), 24-30.

Soto, G. (?). Object Afterlives and the Burden of History: Between “Trash” and “Heritage” in the

     Steps of Migrants. American Anthropologist, 120(3), pp. 460-473.

Stallybrass, P. (1999). Worn Worlds: Clothes, Mourning, and the Life of Things. Cultural Memory and        the Construction of Identity, eds. Ben-Amos, D. & Weissberg, L. Detroit, MI: Wayne State

     University Press.