Art & Design by Neroli Henderson

AQC ’10’ theme challenge (reason for being slack at blogging #3)

Every year the AQC (Australasian Quilt Convention – it’s kind of like Australia’s answer to Houston, though having never been lucky enough to get there I’m assuming) has a call for entries to a themed exhibition. This year to help celebrate their 10th year of the convention the theme was ’10’. Art quilters from all over the world were invited to submit a 125cm x 125cm entry based on this theme.

My first thought was to make a picture quilt with as many ’10’ things happening in it as I could think of – all set within a beach scene. Ten-tacles sticking out of the water, a submarine with ‘10,000 leagues under the sea’ written on it, a life guard calling out ‘at-ten-tion’ on his loudspeaker, Bo Derek sunning herself on the beach, a game of 10 pin bowls going on, a surfer hanging 10 – well you get the idea.
I drew it up and it looked ok but I had another idea that wouldn’t let me feel like this sketch was the ‘one’. My other idea was a polar opposite and quite a sad quilt to make. In 2011 good friends of mine had the horrible experience of going through a still birth at full term. Their son, whom I have no doubt would have been the most beautiful boy ever was ‘born sleeping’. The hospital staff took a print of both his feet and hands and I had already stitched these out with gold embroidery thread onto silk for them as a memento. The idea of doing a ’10 little fingers’ themed quilt was born.
Embroidered hand and footprints taken from the hands and feet of Marcus Connor who was ‘born sleeping’ on 2/1/11. Marcus and these prints inspired my design submission for the AQC ‘Ten’ themed challenge.
After talking to my friend Denise about if she was willing to let me memorialise her experience through an art quilt that if chosen was going to be quite public I found out that if you totalled her pregnancies over the years there had been 10 in total. Her first born, Paige, now aged 12, 5 miscarriages, 3 IVF implantations and then Marcus who was still born. Obviously this was the quilt to make.
Denise was lovely enough to critique me on my poem and image concept and helped me adjust it until it aligned with how she feels about her loss. She even came over very late on the night before the quilt was due to help me spray baste the batting and turned up early again the next morning to give her ok to the border. In general I was very lucky to have something so intensely meaningful as the theme for my quilt and such a good friend to aid me in making it the best it could be. I believe if art is personal to you then you’re going to do a better job at creating it.
My submission was somehow successful and the ‘I+V+III+1’ (Stillbirth) quilt will premier at the AQC in Melbourne this April the 10th in the Exhibition Building, Carlton. It will then be on tour over the next year around Australia and New Zealand and hopefully some other countries as well.
I can’t show you the actual quilt until after the premier, but here’s the poem from the inscription free machine stitched across the front.

Ten little fingers and ten little toes
Was all we wanted for you, you know
A baby perfect in it’s entirety
Was all we wanted for you to be
Quite a lot it may have seemed
Though you were everything we dreamed
Then you were born and failed to wake
And each of our three hearts did break
Your life we’ll never get to know
We wish we could have watched you grow
Until next time,
Neroli x

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