The @covid19quilt project is a global craft project instigated by artists @katejustknits and @talfitzpatrick to share Covid-19 experiences of isolation, community and care. Launched on the 5th of April 2020, this project will continue to grow until this global pandemic is declared over and restrictions enforcing social distancing and self-isolation are lifted.
Already (as of May 2020), the @covid19quilt account has over 3k followers and has received over 313 contributions by artists and makers from 26 countries, including: Australia, United Kingdom, United States, New Zealand, Germany, Canada, Brazil, Ecuador, Spain, Greece, Austria, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Japan, China, Croatia, France, Georgia, Netherlands, Malaysia, Denmark, Switzerland, Vietnam, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.
The contributions to the @covid19quilt reflect a beautiful engagement with textile processes that address the diverse range of issues people around the world are facing. Using cross stitch, knitting, quilting, embroidery and hand sewing, contributors to this project - through their work - address many themes and ideas. These include: privilege and power in relation to Covid-19, self-nurturing and imagination as tools of resilience, the role of craft in renewing our sense of tangible material connection, the issue of Covid-19 motivated racism, the reality that the challenges that people living with mental health or trauma face are further compounded by isolation; and the importance of myth and imagination to our survival.
The @covid19quilt builds on the previous work of Melbourne based artists Dr. Kate Just and Dr. Tal Fitzpatrick, who both specialise in delivering participatory/socially-engaged textile projects that engage with complex social and political issues, while also empowering individuals and building community through a combination of hand-making and digital engagement.
To be a part of this project, artists and makers are invited to contribute a square image of a textile piece they created alongside a text share the stories behind these works and how they relate to their experience during Covid-19. This is done by sending this information as a direct message to the @covid19quilt account on instagram. The @Covid19quilt takes form as these contributions are collected and shared via the @covid19quilt Instagram account. The accruing squares of the Instagram feed become the quilt.
Inclusion and accessibility are a central values of this project and in reflection of this the call-out for contributions to this project has already been translated into several languages including: Auslan, Spanish, Portuguese, Malay, Japanese Italian, Greek, German, Chinese, Norwegian and French. Furthermore, if someone hears about the project and wants to participate but doesn’t have an Instagram account, people are welcome to submit on their behalf.
Other than the digital quilt itself, one of the key outcomes of this project will be the publication of a book that will feature images of the individual and collective squares of the quilt, the maker’s own statements about their work and experience of Covid-19, and reflective critical essays by at least four writers who are experts in the field of art, craft, and society/social change. The book is expected to act as a time capsule of Covid-19 and be a testament to the power of craft and community to record diverse experiences of the pandemic.
At this moment in history, people all around the world are confined to their homes; and many are living alone. Our work lives, relationships, health, sense of safety and connection to friends, family and community are significantly impacted. We are learning to see touching (others, objects in the world) as a danger to our health and the health of others. For many, this is creating a sense of loss and grief.
In the face of the oppressive reality of Covid-19, this project recognises that creative expression can provide individuals with an important avenue for empowerment and emancipation; Asserting that we can reclaim our connection to each other by continuing to make things with our hands and by sharing stories that highlight our shared humanity.
Already, the strong response to this project demonstrates that online spaces such as Instagram have become vital sites for connection and community building. Providing a lifeline for individuals who are in unsafe situations, are completely alone or have a history of trauma.