Friday, May 22, 2015

Blogger's Quilt Festival - Spring 2015

Hopefully I'm going to just get my entry in to the Blogger's Quilt Festival in on time!

I promised more details about my recent blue ribbon winner (yes, I'm still excited about it!), so here it is.

For Blogger's Quilt Festival viewers and anyone else new to my blog, I made this quilt for a competition, the Dorothy Collard Challenge. This is an annual competition with a theme and attracts entries from Auckland Quilt Guild's amazing artists. It's the first time I've entered so you can understand why I'm so excited!

The theme this year was My impression of a book by a New Zealand author. I chose to portray Patricia Grace's book "Tu".

I've lived in New Zealand for 20 years now, originally from Scotland via many different places - but that's another story. When I first read a short story by Patricia Grace, I felt like I was hearing the Maori voice for the first time. I loved her writing. This particular book, "Tu", is about three brothers joining the Maori Battalion during World War II and going to Italy but unfortunately only one brother returns. Uncle Tu, the surviving brother, has his war story dragged out of him by nieces and nephews. At least that's what it appears to be about...

What struck me about this book was why all these young men joined up in the first place to fight for a country they knew nothing about. A sense of duty to Britain? That seems unlikely. Was it looking for adventure? Or was it that they felt unsettled in the increasingly European (Pakeha) urban life that was becoming the norm. I think it was a bit of both of those last two. And so they set off to war, terrible things happened and some good things. They were away so long that they ended up integrating into Italian life, learning to speak Italian, drink wine and experience a different way of life. Some fell in love and brought their Italian brides back to New Zealand. Others may have left some slightly darker children back in Italy. Eventually, those that survived came back home. But they had changed and where they used to struggle to fit into Pakeha society, now they didn't fit in to the Maori community either.

I wanted to show that cultural struggle in my quilt. I started by researching the battle at Monte Cassino where a lot of young Maori men lost their lives. The Allies bombed the Abbey of Monte Cassino, believing that the German forces were occupying the monastery. They found out afterwards that there were no Germans, only monks. It was a terrible tragedy and shouldn't have happened. It struck me that this was a offense to culture and a good start for my quilt.

Here is the base layer of the quilt with the ruin of the Abbey.

The insignia of the 28th Maori Battalion had to feature on this quilt too. The original insignia has two fern fronds making the wreath but a later insignia for the Maori Battalion Association is a more stylised fern. I used this as my basis for my stamp, carved out of 6 regular erasers.

I wanted one good stamp in the corner and then faint ones dotted over the quilt, like they're floating away to signify the erosion of the Maori culture.

I meant to take a photo of each stage but I got a bit carried away at this point. In the photo above I've also added the charred trees (made out of paper, organza and Lutradur) either side of the road leading up to the monastery and started the stencil of a man doing a haka (Maori war dance). I took this photo below which is actually the 28th Maori Battalion in Egypt (, used legally!), and used software to change it to black and white.

I just think that image of the man is so powerful that I can almost hear him shouting!

The quilting is fern fronds and then a wreath at the bottom - to echo the insignia or is it a wreath? You decide!

And here it is again with its ribbon.  Thank you for reading this far and I hope you are inspired to search out Patricia Grace's books.