Thursday, August 10, 2006

A Craft Show with a Difference

This afternoon I went to the Craft and Quilt Show, which is on for four days. The range and quality of crafts on display is amazing, and the quilt exhibition is probably the best I have seen in Canberra. Stunningly beautiful quilts, including a display of 50 quilts from Japan. The designs, colours, fabrics and the workmanship is breathtaking. Below is just one of those quilts. Posted by Picasa

However, it is an exhibition of quilts in another building that I will remember long after I've forgotten what I saw at the main show. These quilts were all made by The Partners of Veterans Association of Australia Inc.

Each quilt told a story - and each story was provided in written form beside the quilt. Many of them told a Life Story, in photographs, letters and other keepsakes, all worked into a precious quilt. They told stories of meetings, courtship and romance, the loneliness of being a serviceman's wife and the happiness of their return from war, of marriages and children, the struggle to establish homes, build careers and raise families.

As most of these quilts were made by partners of Vietnam Veterans, they also told of the mental, physical and emotional trauma suffered by these brave men, which became their lifetime legacy, and also that of their partners and children. Many of these men didn't choose or want to go to Vietnam; they were conscripted and sent anyway. Sent to one of the most 'unpopular' wars in history, and on their return home were neglected and ignored by politicians and defence forces - the very people who sent them off to fight this dirty war, and abused, blamed and vilified by the general public. Not until 15 years after the war ended were these men recognised as being War Veterans and granted the same entitlements as those who served in the two World Wars, and some of the pain, hurt and humiliation at their treatment began to lift.

I stood in silence and read those stories of courage, determination, shame, heartbreak, a measure of peace and finally some happiness.

I have never left a craft show in tears before - but I did today!

24 comments:

sharonb said...

Alice I went too - today and the quilt exhibit really touched me as well. There are some very poweerful stories told in these quilts.

Wendy A said...

My eyes are watering as I read that. What a beautiful idea. I bet they were very touching.

susan said...

Did you take any pictures of these story quilts? The Japanese one is exquisite! Wish I was there to go with you!

Alice said...

Susan - I didn't take any photos of these quilts. Perhaps I thought of it as an invasion of privacy, and I was so moved by their stories.

You know how much I love life stories, and these were very special indeed.

Connie and Rob said...

Just an absolutely beautiful quilt. I love everything about quilts. Even the talk of the old sewing cirlces... the conversations that must have taken place during those meetings were probably amazing.

Take care,
Connie

Sigrun said...

A wonderful quilt! Butsuch a lot of work to make one! I have no patience for this work.

Sigrun

Kerri said...

I too have tears in my eyes after reading this post Alice. Very moving.
My hubby was one of those Vietnam Vets. It was the politions who lost that war for us. Some very sad memories for a lot of vets associated with that unpopular war. Is war ever popular?
I'd dearly love to have been there with you to see those quilts. What a wonderful tribute.
I'm always amazed at how much work goes into a quilt. The old fashioned quilting circles must've been such fun. I'm sure they still are in this day and age.
That Japanese quilt is exquisite.

Zoey said...

Just like, Kerri, I would love to have seen this.

My husband is also a Vietnam vet.

I am sure it was a very moving exhibit.

Sharon K said...

The quilt is beautiful and what talen and ability they have to produce such a work of art. Yes they do tell a story.........

Sonia said...

Love your new photo, Alice. You look beautiful!

Lu said...

Like Kerri and Zoey,I too, would have loved to have seen this..
My husband did 2 tours of Nam, lucky I guess..it was a very confusing war and I thought it was too political!!!!A whole different time and as mentioned,a military man had no choice...one could not say I do not want to go!
It must be a moving tribute..thanx for posting!

Val said...

I'm sorry I missed this fair when it was on in Melbourne a few weeks ago. But thanks, Alice, for giving some background to the quilts, which didn't come out in the brochure or website.

Reflection Through The Seasons said...

What an interesting and emotional posting Alice. I can well imagine the effect this had upon you.
Its quite incredible isn’t it how the partners of these brave men expressed the sorrow and finally the joy in their hearts by creating these exquisite quilts. Each little stitch tells its own story. Marion

Tanya said...

The quilt show is not coming to Townsville this year. The closest place is Brisbane. Am not happy!!!

Nicole said...

Everytime I see a quilt like this I am reminded of 'Gone with the Wind' when the ladies are waiting for the men to return in anxst and they are hand stitching... I forget what happened but I remember how their hands were kept busy as they waited... I wonder how many quilts were made by wives waiting for their husbands during times of war? Thanks for the lovely post Alice. xox

Lee-ann said...

Alice this post of yours is very much a quilt in itself and I am sure if it was made up with squares and colours we would all be sitting here with tears in our eyes for what we would then see.

Your story is one that should always be told and never forgotten.

My sister phoned me just last year very upset as her best friend came home one day last winter to find her husband had taken his own life and it was because he could no longer stand seeing the things he had in his head all these years, it just became too much for him.

My little sister and I were talking about it a couple of days ago..........and now I read your blog thank you.

Motherkitty said...

Exquisite!

jellyhead said...

aw, Alice - you are a sweetie. Those stories and quilts must have been amazing to see.

miss*R said...

most quilts tell stories - but these ones you describe sound like the whole heart & soul was put into them. they sound like definate memory quilts and probably helped the women to sift through the emotions of the war.
thanks again for visiting my blog - the tree in the photo is actually a madarin. It has been in for 6 years and this year is a bumper crop. the madarins are sweet & juicy! if they were bananas, I would now be a millionaire!

slap me happy said...

so much work must have went into that tapestry, sad about the state of this world and all of the innocent men who have lost their lives in them.

DellaB said...

Thank you for sharing the beautiful quilts with us Alice, and the clouds and the sunsets, spectacular...

I was in NZ when the boys came back from Vietnam, to hear the stories they told. In NZ they only sent volunteers; I always thought of the boys 'back home' and how terrible it must have been to go on conscription, and then to be treated so badly when they returned.

Today I cannot help thinking, "what has happened to Lest We Forget?"

Seeing Anew said...

Alice, I can appreciate your fascination with these quilts, because I know how you like life stories, however they are told -- whether in words, photos, or quilts. What a beautiful quilt in your photo.

Kati said...

Sigh. Such a poignant post to read as the wars get more and more brutal in the Middle East and elsewhere....yours tears reminded me of the heart hurt I felt the first time I saw the Vietnam war memorial in Washington D.C.. I think it's brilliant that it's such a black underground construction, reminding one very much of the unpopularity of the war and how it divided sons against fathers in the US.I'm a Canadian, so I've met some draft-dodgers who came to Canada.

Kali said...

What a moving experience you had, Alice. I would really love to see this exhibition.