March’s exhibition at Omnibus is Deborah Manson’s ‘A Labour of Love’. Inspired by her daughters’ personalities, Deborah Manson creates intricate and colourful heritage quilts.
What inspired you to start creating quilts?
I make paper collages with painted and found paper, selecting and placing colour and shapes together to create abstract compositions. I experimented with the process of placing and stitching hand dyed cloth together in a similar way to my collages.
Through my research I discovered the quilts and quilt makers of the Gee’s Bend, Alabama. Their quilts are layered with personal and social history which inspired me to make the ‘Eva’ and ‘Islay’ quilts.
How did you choose the materials?
I like to work with natural fabrics such as organic linen which I hand dyed in colours which I felt reflected elements of each of my daughter’s personalities. I also included pieces of their favourite outgrown clothing. Each piece of clothing holds personal meaning and my daughters were involved in the selection of the clothes that were to be included. I also included some second hand fabrics, such as the green silk which backs the ‘Eva’ quilt.
How involved were your daughters in the process?
They were very involved, right from the beginning stages. I see the quilts as a mother daughter collaboration. They made large scale paintings and collages with abstract shapes which they felt represented their very individual characters. I based the designs of the quilts loosely on their work. They had a lot of fun doing huge wall collages from cut out paper and dying the yellow fabrics with Weld. They were also involved in the quilting. There are parts in each quilt which they dyed, appliqued and quilted.
What was your initial goal when you started this project? Has that changed as the process has evolved?
I suppose my initial goal was to make sustainable textiles. I started this project coming from a printed textiles background and wanting to develop that. Through my research into historical British and American quilts, emotional sustainability and materials the project changed to become something much more personal.
What have you learnt during this experience?
It’s made me much much more aware of the connections between people’s stories and materiality; leading me to conclude that people and objects and in the case of this research, handmade quilts are inextricably connected through life histories, stories of hand making, cultural practices, memories and emotional bonds and that these important connections can help makers and designers to reassess the value of the things we make.
What projects will you be working on next?
I am researching materials at the moment and have been experimenting further with natural dye. I have set up a dye and print workshop in a local school where I am currently an artist in residence. This research will lead into some new design work and a new collection of handmade textile pieces, possibly including more quilts.