Once long, long ago, there was a woman who made quilts. She took fabric that other people had designed and cut it up, using things that would have otherwise been thrown away. She chose the fabric because she liked the colours or the fabric was part of something that had some meaning for her. Sometimes she made fabric of her own, choosing dyes, making patterns, mixing those with other people’s fabric. She was sad sometimes because other people didn’t value her work, didn’t see the beauty she had seen.
People said -“Well it’s just bed cover. That’s not art, just something to sleep under.”
The woman shook her head sorrowfully. “As if something to put on your wall is more important than what you spread over your dreams!” she thought.
As time went on the woman got sick of people ignoring her quilts. She decided to stop making quilts and try to find another way to share her ideas with people. She went on a course to learn new things but the need to make quilts was still deep inside her. Soon she found herself making quilts from what she had around her once again. This time they were made from light and for a little while people enjoyed them. Other people used the light to make art but she always thought that hers were still quilts.
Eventually the woman’s course moved on and the stuff to make the quilts got lost along the way. She wrote thousands of words, made diagrams and videos but always felt she lost something when the quilting stopped.
The final year of the woman’s course arrived and she had to choose something to try to change, something that needed to be improved. She thought for a long time. There were so many things wrong or at least not quite right. Try as she might though she could think of nothing that working by herself she could do about any of them. What she needed was something that she could improve, something that involved the work of others but that was in her control. Her mind went back to her long abandoned quilts. To make them she’d taken stuff that other people had made that was only going to be thrown away and tried to show how it could be made beautiful and useful again. If only she could do something like that now she thought with a longing deep inside. That old ache to make things had never really gone away. She’d learned to ignore it but it still sat there deep in her heart.
And so the woman looked around her and on the walls of the rooms she worked in she saw the beauty in the images created with, for and by, the children she helped. “Such useful, beautiful things,” she thought “yet every few weeks they are torn down and thrown away! And not just here but all over the country, all over the world! I’m going to try to change that!”
The woman had her idea and she worked hard. She used everything she’d learned on her course, and from working with the children, and slowly she made a new thing from the old pictures.
People liked this new thing. They told each other, and the woman , how useful and beautiful it was and the woman smiled. She could see something that they couldn’t.
The new thing she’d made was a quilt.
Thanks to Andy Roberts and all the Jelly Artists
The story made sense of my choice of topic for my final year action research in a way that took me by surprise. By rediscovering my voice, or at least one of them, I felt energised and able to once more make progress. The feelings of being exhausted and overwhelmed by the task of defending and validating my research began to fade.
I needed to dig deeper, to draw out some of the learning from the reflection. I needed to do this gently though, I had no desire to rip apart my carefully crafted story. In my on-line research journal I started by exploring the
story of the making of the reflection.
So there it is – the story of the woman who made quilts. My authentic voice. In it I hear the echoes of Angela Carter and LeGuin, my heroines of old. It’s not great Art. It’s like the quilts, simple and effective, it will keep me warm on cold nights and protect my dreams.
(From Acting to Improve, see appendix 1 Winter on narratives)
Two things became clear to me from this:
• that my need to be creative is fundamental to me and
making the Classroom Displays blog goes some way
towards satisfying that need.
• the actions of making and improving the Classroom
Displays blog were moving me in the direction of my values as suggested as a criteria for judging success by McNiff (2002).