Sunday, April 9, 2017

Story Quilt

The thing about quilting projects is that they can be used to teach a wide variety of subjects from Math to Art History and American history.  I grew up in the heart Amish country, Pennsylvania where the quilting tradition runs deep. Here in the south, it seems logical to talk about Freedom Quilts and the role they played in the Underground Railroad, with quilt squares that acted as a secret code to tell slaves follow the geese, the North Star, and pointed out safe houses. Slaves made quilts from flour sacks and used clothes to keep warm, and some times they sold enough quilts to buy freedom. I also taught about quilter Harriet Powers, a Georgian, a freed slave and self-taught artist whose quilt is in the Smithsonian.
We watched videos of the Gee's Bend Quilters and discussed the social and family history aspects of quilting traditions. We talked about how many of these celebrated women artists had the same name (Pettway) because they were descendants of slaves of Mark Pettway.  Pettway bought the plantation from original settler, Joseph Gee, for whom Gee's Bend, Alabama is named.

And since it was Black History Month, and we were on a roll, celebrating quilts by African Americans, we looked at the story quilts of Faith Ringgold, and the impact she had on the New York Art scene in the 1960's and 70's. Ringgold fought for the rights of black artists and women artists who were (and still are) under-represented in major museums and galleries. Her story quilts illustrate aspects of her life as a young girl in New York.

For the art production aspect of this lesson, each student came up with a story from their own life and illustrated it on fabric using fabric markers, liquid watercolor and puffy paint. Oh, did I neglect to mention that language arts was also part of the lesson? Students shared the stories with the class, and we used each block to make a class quilt, creating swatches of patterned fabric to use as boarders-Faith Ringgold style.

For more ideas on quilting projects, see what I've done in the past:

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