Monday, October 8, 2012

The Triangle Fire Memorial Quilt Comes Together,
Will Debut at Eldridge Street Synagogue

After many days spent arranging, rearranging, crawling around on my living room rug, backing up and squinting and rearranging again, I am more than pleased--a little astonished comes closer--to report  that the quilt is almost finished. There's no place in my apartment big enough to hang it, but I did get some shots with it clipped to the curtains in my living room window. The window is five feet wide and the quilt is ten feet long by seven feet high, so you can see the problem. But until I can get it onto a very long curtain rod and borrow a wall from some very good friend, this is a rough idea of what parts of the quilt look like now.

I had a really good meeting last week with people from the Eldridge Street Synagogue---they are excited about the quilt and eager to see the completed thing in real life. We agreed that the synagogue was an appropriate place for the quilt to debut: Eldridge Street will display it for a week in mid March, and they plan a number of events around it. It will go up on Sunday, March 10, and be on display through the following Sunday.  It's a strong, varied, vibrant piece, the work of many talented hands. I'm grateful to everyone who contributed a block, and I hope you can make it to the unveiling of our quilt. I'll post further details as they take shape. I am planning, as of now, to sew a sleeve across the top of the quilt to carry the long curtain rod, in sections so that support brackets can be mounted--in addition, I think a rod across the bottom will lend weight and clarity to the images. But I am wide open to suggestions. Congratulations, all--this is something remarkable that we have made.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Another Fabulous Block 

The Triangle Fire Memorial Quilt is Coming Together

John Sloan on the fire

Every day I live with the blocks that have come in, I stare at these haunting images as I move them, shift them, rearrange them in the process of assembling the quilt. I have a file on them, each one bears a matching identifying tag---but the truth is, I know them all by heart.  As I spread them out on my living room rug, step back, squint, move back in, it's almost as though they tell me where they need to go. Blocks like these alternate with lists of the victims' names, lyrics of historic union songs, comments on labor history from sometimes unexpected sources.  The form of this quilt is very much dictated by its function: since its purpose is to recognize, honor, educate, and exhort, it is essential that all the blocks be easily readable; it follows that the quilt has a horizontal layout, which will leave all the blocks accessible (even to short people like me) and will also facilitate hanging and display. Design questions like To Sash or Not To Sash are answered by the blocks themselves. (The answer to the Question has turned out to be: sometimes yes, sometimes no.)  In the next month or so, the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition will be launching an international competition to select a design for the permanent memorial. There will be press coverage, and we hope that the quilt will be a powerful part of all that. I am so moved by the vision and craft that has gone into these blocks, and grateful for the effort of many artists. So stay tuned--I may even figure out how to blend text and image before this whole thing is over.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Triangle Fire Memorial Quilt Blog is back---after a difficult Spring, with my mother in hospice for the last two months of her life, and all the aftershocks of that.  The work on this quilt has been a real solace for me.  And look at the variety and richness of the blocks coming in! These are only a few---we've got documents, advertisements, posters, music. We are hoping to have a finished quilt by the end of August: the institutions that have expressed interest in displaying it set their schedules far in advance. We are also hoping that this may be the first of a series of quilts--there's no shortage of images and associations. And now that I've learned how to post a photo in the blog, I may even figure out how to control text placement--stranger things have happened.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Image Sources

The ceremonies commemorating the 101st anniversary of the fire were yesterday. The weather was mild and almost benevolent; in the breeze the 146 hand-made shirtwaists, each one with a sash bearing the name and age of a victim and mounted on tall bamboo poles, moved like ghostly sails in the street. At the end of the ceremony, a fire truck runs its ladder up against the building where the fire occurred, but only as far as a ladder could go in 1911---and that is to the 6th floor, while the fire raged on the 8th, 9th, and 10th floors. The visual reality of that awful gap between rescue and death is almost unbearable. Then volunteers read aloud the name and age of each victim, and place a white carnation on the sidewalk. I met and talked with several family members of victims, some of whom have photos of their lost relatives. With the commemoration over, I will focus on the archives of the coalition as well. I hope that within a few weeks I will be able to offer a number of portraits for use in the quilt. Many of the photos exist only in 101-year-old newspaper clippings--at the moment, they enlarge into blurred, pointillist images, which may work very well for us. I'd like to have as many of the victims represented as we can, but I also believe the quilt needs to speak to the present as well. If you would like to do one of these haunting young faces as your square, let me know and I will try to send out the best images I can reproduce.

Eager to start!

All afternoon my mind has been reeling with block design ideas! I'm happy to be given an opportunity to take part in a project that speaks to my interests in woman's rights and fair labor practices. Quilting is such a tactile and sensory art media. It lends its self to be appropriately suited as a memorial to the woman lost in the Triangle Factory fire. Please keep me up to date on the schedule. Also is the block 14x14 inch finished? Pauline

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Triangle Fire Open Museum

There's an exhibit on the Triangle Fire at the NYU Open House Gallery, 528 La Guardia Place (between W. 3rd St. and Bleecker), throughout the coming weekend. Hours are: Thurs., 2-7 pm; Friday, 12-5 pm; Sat/Sun:1-4 pm. The show includes articles, documents, and other material from the coalition's Open Archive, and will be a great source of ideas and images for our quilt project. The reception/benefit is tomorrow (March 23) from 4:30-7:00, with light refreshments, wine, and entertainment. The benefit is part of our campaign for the building of a permanent memorial; since we are a coalition of artists, writers, teachers, union folk, historians, descendants of victims, and students, the requested donation is $20.00, at the door. Everyone is welcome to this---it would be a terrific way to catch the flavor of the coalition and to get a broader perspective on our purpose.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Getting the quilt off the ground, so to speak

This is the opening post of what I hope will become a space rich with shared ideas, resources, and reactions. The Triangle Fire Memorial Quilt will take off from the fire itself, honoring the mostly young, immigrant victims, but also celebrating the history of working people in America--especially women and especially in the needle trades. Within that tapestry are threads of unions, courage, strikes, songs, art, and even moments of joy and victory. There are so many ways this quilt can take shape. I see the project at the intersection of ethics and aesthetics, about both the collaborative process and the product itself. There are so many different ways to create a square for the quilt--- what I see when this project keeps me up at night are mostly representational, images drawn from photographs, posters and other graphics, sheet music, relevant text and symbols. There are fabulous online resources for images; I've listed some essential ones here, but I'm sure you will have your own sources as well.
Kheel Collection at Cornell University they have an exhibit on the fire up now, as well as other digitized collections. casts a wider net.

The Library of Congress--a fabulous resource. (National Child Labor Committee, early 20th century)
Once you're on the LOC site, you'll find endless paths to explore.
Most of what you'll will be long out of copyright, but you should check with the institution about rights and access and attribution.
I know this a lot of information to absorb--it gives you an idea how rich and varied this quilt will be. Quilters and other artists (did I mention that painting a square would be wonderful?) can email me a snail-mail address and I will send out a 14 x 14" muslin square as a base---but feel free to use whatever fabric you want to. I know everyone is busy and harried, and this will take time---but I also know from personal experience that deadlines can be immensely inspirational; I'll think of something reasonable and let you know.