WNC LEGACY: VISUAL ART Norma Bradley and The Earth Quilt Project 1986-2008
Quilts tell the stories of our lives through their shapes, colors and textures. They hold a history of their makers as well as the people who care for them. They become sacred treasures.
Gardens are about hope and the creation of sacred space. Both help us to go beyond the ordinary moments and to enter into a world of deeper meaning and beauty. They help us connect with a body of knowledge, with ourselves and with other people. When I am not working on an Earth Quilt Garden I am working on the creation of a fiber quilt. This body of work is about process, relationships and hope.
2005, Norma Bradley normabradley.com
The Earth Quilt Project took me across the States of NC, SC and beyond, for 22 years working in schools, group homes, hospital and public spaces. The idea emerged in response to a proposal to create a Nuclear Repository on one hundred and twelve thousand acres of land in three counties: Buncombe, Haywood and Madison. This was my personal response although, hundreds of people from our community helped to stop its development. Sixty Earth Quilt Gardens were collaboratively installed before I retired the project in 2008.
Each design was original and working in each community held it own uniqueness. For example the Eliada Home project in Asheville: The residents and I created two Earth Quilts. A more permanent one on the Eliada campus and another, a temporary quilt on the floor at the Civic Center during a craft show: Insight-Eye of the Soul on campus and Vessel of Hope at the Civic Center. I recall, for the Civic Center quilt, I asked the girls to think about what hope meant to them.
At its center they placed two figures that were holding hands out of natural materials. replace with ( Two figures holding hands, made of natural materials, were placed at its center)
The design for the on campus quilt Eye of the Soul came from research about the significance of the landmark’s iconic dairy barn as a stable structure. It was one of the first buildings on the century old campus, with a history of faith, hope, survival and friendship.
The Earth Quilt Project/Public Art
What continued to excite me was discovering the uniqueness of each new community I visited: its people, community focus, natural environment and architecture. My goal was to transform all of this information into a quilt pattern. I thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with each community to create a sense of place that was deeply personal: helping people to connect with their roots, everyday life and creative gifts. I was always thrilled to see how the process of creating an Earth Quilt brought the community together. In schools, the process was fully integrated into the school curriculum. At dedications we celebrated with music, dance and poetry.
Fiber “Art Quilts” I began to create quilts as I developed a deep respect for its history as a vehicle for personal expression. I enjoy the tactile qualities of cloth. I work intuitively, like the jazz musicians whom I greatly admire; I improvise, always searching for a sense of movement, harmony and balance. I am fascinated by the process of selecting, cutting, joining, applying layers, cutting into layers and creating surface design using the sewing machine as an instrument to create organic shapes and complex textures. Moving with the rhythm of my needle, stitches and images appear, giving a new voice to each piece.
What is an Earth Quilt? An Earth Quilt is a living garden. As the name implies, Earth Quilts don’t cover beds, they are beds of seasonal flowers, perennials, evergreens and rocks in newly inspired patterns. Each design is original and symbolically represents the community in which it was created. Wood, bricks and stones are the bones. They are the architectural elements that create the structure and pattern which remain evident throughout the seasons. Each Earth Quilt tells the story of the community through its colors, shapes, and textures.
What was the Earth Quilt Project ? The Earth Quilt Project was a collaborative, hands-on, experience in the creation of a site specific garden. Beginning with an idea, we worked together … and arrived at a sense of community. Members of each community were invited to participate in the design process, fabrication, installation and celebration. The idea is grounded in the belief that the “arts” can play a central role in healing, learning and building community. (Please read about the history of the project.)
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