The idea for this series came about originally as an inquiry for the possibility of doing a mural on the front of the building at 5224 Greene, a building in which Ken Weinstein owns that is two doors down from my house. I had contacted Philly Office Retail and Ken was enthused, but it came to be that the building was undergoing some renovations and might need facade work in the future that would make it foolish to begin a mural project there. We had begun dreaming up ideas from that initial leap that while they got the backburner as far as that wall was concerned they got the frontburner in Ang and I’s collective enthusiasms. We started an inspiration file and so much of it was referencing quilts that turned out having ties to people who are part of this community’s history. Amish quilts. Mennonite quilts. African American quilts. The fact that you can look at some of these quilts and their designs and they seem so modern but also so old seems fitting for our neighborhood and city at this juncture. In so many cases they were made together as well which was what we were striving to do, collaborative work that was manual and in real time and not through computer derived design.
Angela and I’s decade plus friendship has been so vital to who we have become as artists and women. The constant line of mutual support has allowed us to follow through on so many of our visions. One of the things we’ve noticed in Germantown is that the community in general, but especially the community of women, is recognizably strong. The Germantown neighborhood has, just census numbers wise, way more women than men, and we thought that as well to be another omen pushing us in this direction. I remember in the first few months of living here during one of the warm days of early spring walking down Greene with my friend’s dog and her just walking up onto a porch where two women were sitting and laying down at their feet. Next thing I knew I was having a glass of wine with these women, talking about life, with Cedar the dog peacefully asleep in the late Sunday sun. If it sounds overly romantic it is because it totally was, and I considered it part of this feeling that I was where I was supposed to be.
I also early on made frequent visits to Gaffney’s Fabrics, a place where order and intention seems constant and I could mill about finding peace in watching women buy fabrics for curtains, dresses for daughter’s proms, or tablecloths for a backyard picnic. I pictured the fabrics as they left under people’s arms going back to houses and becoming things that bring people great joy. And then there’s Kathryn Pannepacker at Grumblethorpe. I had been a long time fan of Kathryn’s work before I even met her. Meeting her at the farmer’s market and making that connect, and hearing more about Kathryn’s projects like Nanablankets really inspired Angela and I to channel the positive force she’s been for us and heed the textile curiosity call.
Having this install at the Penn St. locale made sense to me cause it seemed halfway between those two physical and spiritual anchor points of Gaffney’s and Grumblethorpe. We worked on gathering some of our final contenders for quilt pattern favorites and set to watercoloring them together as a team. It was relaxing as well as interesting to take these more rigid patterns and make them more lucid and meandering, blending our hands at it.
I think ideally, I would hope that people would go to sit and talk and feel enveloped in the work. I want people to feel a solidarity through time and space . It’s up to you how existential you want to get with it. But at the core of Angela and I’s public installs is still this desire for people to share public space and have it recharge not diminish them. Philly Office Retail has put a lockbox on the electrical pole so that the community can access power for an event. i.e. A small performance, a string of lights for a poetry reading in the evening, etc. A coffee conversation after a big meal. A clothing swap. I’m riffing here. Nothing is organized yet. But please please please let’s utilize that lock box in creative ways. I also have taken to doing a walk-by litter pick-up that usually takes me about 3 minutes, and then I’m on my way. I’ll keep doing it. And I would love to develop some ideas for possibly a workshop for people of all ages to make Germantown centric quilt patterns. Our own “rooftops” designs or ones influenced by some of the repetitive iron fencing in Penn-Knox. We could even make quilt squares of sewn together trash. See where I’m going with this? The inspiration we pull from this project is continuous and always evolving, which is come to think of it traits inherent to a fearless and healthy community such as this one.