I have finished the ‘virtual’ patchworking and am working on fabric now – thanks to the lovely technicians at Staffordshire University who printed my file onto a quite substantial cotton.
The patches are all colour coded – so one purple is for the Tactile Academia stuff, blue for the Writing in Creative practice workshops, black for publications, grey for publications in the works, white for very early publication plans, green for teaching activities, red for administrative/uni stuff, orange for important outside influences and yellow for ‘old’ stuff, i.e. my PhD and things before that. And I am really pleased with how this turned out.
However, to add a bit more interest, I have decided that before I attempt the actual quilting, I am going to add some (very basic) embroidery, picking out the odd word or illustration. The way I choose these colours are based on the content – so really it is another layer of colour coding. I started with the content relating to the Tactile Academia booklets, mainly because there I already had colours picked out: blue for The Fishscale of Academicness, red for The Winning Hand of Independence, yellow for The Button Connection, cream for The Dress-up Doll of Formality (and all sorts of ways of playing with written genre), dark green for The Butterfly Challenge and light green for The Land- and Seascape of Academic Practice. Actually this last one I thought was very complex and deserved two colours really, so I used the light green for the islands as well as anything connected to object-based learning and introduced a pink for the ‘shallow’ waters – and anything connected with the ‘off-loading’ practices of craft (the pink inspired by the Pairings Project, which really should have been more magenta, but I decided to stick with the colours liberated from my grandmothers sewing box rather than buying new ones). You can find a very light blue representing The Underwater Iceberg (a book in preparation), and orange representing my work on blogging (inspired by the colours of the blog on that which is now defunct).
Since then I have also added dark blue for the work with collage and reflective bookmaking, purple for the overall tactile academia ideas, a light brown for genre that is not written and olive for experiential learning (although I don’t seem to have a picture of that – oops!). I will post soon about the actual quilting of it…
And, just as with the whole process of putting this together, this work has allowed me time to reflect and analyse my work. I have been able to see how the things I do interconnect with each other – and how long I have already been on this journey of ‘Tactile Academia’ without knowing it. This has been particularly useful as I have also been in the process of putting together the portfolio for the accreditation to Senior Fellow of the HEA . Taking the time to work on the quilt has allowed me to see a lot of things more clearly – and it has given me an example with which I can visually and conceptually explain what I do in a learning and teaching context.
As you know I have been thinking about visual ways of representing experiences in patchwork/quilt form for some time. And this had developed quite nicely to what I call the ‘Post-it stage’ (other sticky notes are available) until the idea of the fabric printer moved it into another dimension of possibility. but it still felt a bit vague, and I was thinking that I would like to test this out in a smaller, contained way.
And lo and behold, an opportunity presented itself! I was asked to present a session at an internal conference hosted by our school of education – and ideally something that would give an overview of what I am trying to do with my students. And if I could put together a poster, too…
So having to do a poster anyway, I thought, why not come up with a patchwork design to put on the poster – and then if there is time I could run that through the fabric printer and see how it comes out.
My first idea was inspired by an artistic quilt – so something much more about one large image rather than regularly shaped bits that are joined together. I also liked the idea of using a frame in some way. Sarah has done a poster with a large ornate gold frame in it, which I really like, and I was thinking of nicking that idea and using it to show Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle, which in a way is framing almost everything that I do – it sort of provides a really good model of how I approach both teaching and learning. So I was thinking of having a gold frame and on each of the four sides have a little label with one of the four stages Kolb refers to. As the actual image I thought I would use the idea of the Land- and Seascape of Creative Practice, but extend it so that it includes the Underwater Iceberg and the Fishscale of Academicness. A bit complicated, but in my head that still makes sense.
And while I still like the idea, I was wondering whether it might be a bit inappropriate because it is very much linked to art and design and takes studio-practice as a starting point. Really what I wanted to do was to come up with a poster/quilt that would prompt me to talk about the actual activities I do with my students (some of them still in development), rather than a lot of theoretical background that might not apply anyway. So maybe square pieces added together to make a larger square image after all?
Sitting down again with another large sheet of paper and another stack of post-its I was thinking of how much overlap there would be between the quilt I am planning about the development of my work and teaching philosophy and this one. In a way I wanted this one to be more ‘hands-on’, really focus on analogies and activities I actually use in my teaching, rather than give evidence of inspirations and conference presentations. But I also wanted to include some quotations that might be important.
I took key illustrations from the little tactile academia book(let)s and things I draw on my whiteboard in class as starting points and after some playing around I realised that it might be nice to have a checkerboard effect – with images as one colour and words as the other. After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing I came up with a size and order I liked.
Now it was just a matter of filling it up. I say ‘just’, but of course this took actually quite some time. It is interesting, but it is at this stage, that I might abandon a project. In a way by now it is worked out – and I have a very clear idea in my head of what it would look like if it was actually finished. Of course in that case it would never really be shareable, so it is a good thing to have somebody waiting for a file they can print as a poster and a deadline to boot.
A period of designing began. I started with the images I already had – from the booklets and teaching prep, etc. – but invariably they were all somehow wrong in size or format, so I ended up redrawing most of them. I had some photographs I wanted to include, too. Putting them together just didn’t look as nice as the pink and green post-its, so I decided to treat them so they would all be black and white (well mostly), and so that they were more likely white on black than the other way around, because I wanted to emphasise the checkerboard effect.
Now all I had to do was populate the in-between spaces. I knew I wanted this to be text based, some squares giving my names for the activities (or books), some of them quotations that underline the importance and relevance of experiential learning (and in extension teaching) and some more informal ideas and activities I use in my teaching. For these three I used different typefaces, but tried to keep the font size equivalent. I also decided on a background colour, going for the colour of this website to make it tie in (and because I didn’t want it just white and couldn’t think of anything better).
And my mini quilt was done! Yippee!
For the poster I did frame it in Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle, but in a plain frame. And I added a little bit about the idea of Tactile Academia to the bottom, plus the address to this blog if people want to check out the bibliography especially. (I could have included that on the poster, but would have had to make the type really tiny. Plus, isn’t it a good thing to give all those lovely people a reason to check out this blog?)
With it being the Easter break I don’t have access to the fabric printer just yet, but will keep you posted on how this turns out!