Recently I have been coming across a lot of quilting related stuff. Maybe this is due to my making a (rather conceptually planned) quilt myself (as readers of this blog will know), which made me pay more attention to this, or maybe this is a genuine trend that has finally reached my conscious mind. For me quilting was all around for the last couple of months.
One of the things I find most fascinating about quilters (although really this is way before the quilting stage, so maybe I should better say ‘patchworkers’) is the ‘stash’. That mysterious assemblage of pieces of fabric that you compile while working on projects, carefully saved for the as-yet-unformed projects of the future. Stashes can give their owners a lot of joy, they are full of inspiration and potentially also memories. They can give you a great excuse to buy something gorgeous that is not for a current project, but sometimes you come across something just too good not to get, because you will sure be able to use it in the future for something. Your stash gives you an excuse for completely aspirational purchases – and dreams. (The most recent pieces in my stash were brought home from a trip to Japan, all small bits of vintage kimonos; they are gorgeous, but also very much unlike anything I usually work with – who knows what they will end up in?)
I have a number of ‘stashes’ when it comes to crafting materials (although most of them are not actually in stashes, but in boxes, or better they aspire to be in boxes and one day I will surely get round to organising them a bit better so that they actually are in boxes rather than occupying all sorts of surfaces in my flat, including – I am ashamed to say – the floor), some stashes relate to bookmaking and printing, some to sewing and knitting, some to painting. Some have been accumulated for the sole purpose of running workshops, these include a bit of everything even some random materials.
But of course there are also more metaphorical stashes you can find at work, even if you are not working as a quilter. A colleague of mine recently mentioned that she had started a file documenting her achievements so that she wouldn’t forget about them when it comes to putting together submissions for the next Research Excellent Framework (if you’re in UK Higher Education you will know what this means, if you are not consider yourself lucky). What she is doing is building her stash. When I started thinking about my Learning and Teaching quilt, there were always some patches that represented what I had done, and some that represented ideas to pursue in future. I have recently had to put together a CV and was reminded of how much that is like laying out the pieces of material in a more traditional patchwork stash, thinking about here is what I have, these things go together, these might clash too much, these are too much alike to include all of them.
There is some satisfaction in knowing that it might feel like business as usual most days, but that actually the outcome of these oh-so-ordinary days could be likened to a piece of fabric that one day will help me tell a story by putting a lot of them together. And I find it so much easier of thinking of what I do as little patches of fabric than of lines in the bullet point list of a CV. The great thing about thinking about your career this way is that you can also see what is missing – where do you need a link? where do you need something more colourful and bold? So it becomes a tool for planning, nt just a tool for looking back.
I wonder whether this would be a good way to encourage students to think about postgraduate study?