Artists statement for the quilt
My work, emerging from my project One Year, develops the idea that there are aspects of prison life which are under-represented in the media. Some of these aspects are the therapeutic and self- improvement programmes which are offered to inmates to extend their skills bases thus enhancing their opportunities to find employment once they are released.
From inception to completion, any work goes through a process or several processes during which the work grows, modifies and aspects get rejected.
The same is true for human beings. We develop / are developed through experiences some of which we cannot control, like physical changes and growth.
What inspired the project?
My correspondence with a friend in prison inspired my research into UK prisons and prisoner identity and brought to light two aspects which influenced the idea to make a quilt.
There is a charity called Fine Cell Work which goes into prisons to teach sewing skills to those prisoners who want to learn. Once the quilt is made, it is put up for sale and the proceeds go to various prison-related charities. My aim is to auction the quilt once it is finished and to give the proceeds back to LandWorks which allowed me to take the images of the plant and produce on their site.
Prisoners in some prisons are offered the opportunity to learn gardening skills during their incarceration. In order to foster this, the Royal Horticultural Society, starting in 1983, awards the Windlesham Trophy annually to the best-kept prison garden in England and Wales. The RHS also invites prisons to participate in their flower shows.
In Dartington, Devon, the charity LandWorks, built a facility in a disused quarry to offer prisoners on day release opportunities to learn new skills.
I decided to use cyanotype printing because I wanted to extend my limited experience of it, and it would echo the quilt border which would be made with recycled denim. The denim and white cotton represent the uniform of jeans and T-shirts worn by prisoners on remand. The first woman to be recognized as a photographer was Anna Atkins who produced images of botanical specimens using cyanotype printing in the 19th Century. She was also the first person to publish a book with photographic illustrations.
The quilt comprises 35 identical squares representing the identical cells in which prisoners sleep and spend most of their time. Inside the squares are images of plants, flowers and other products made and grown in LW. The images echo the One Year concept in that they represent the full growth cycle from empty seedling trays, through the seasons to fully-grown pumpkins representing harvest.
It is hoped that viewers see that prisoners are individual human beings with a capacity to learn and grow. This is a positive angle, which is seldom if ever presented in the media, and we forget that nobody is perfect. People can see the quilt simply as a crafted object, they can see the concept behind it or both.
I was only made aware of my own prejudices by taking on this research project based on a single voice speaking to me of experiences of which I knew nothing. I hope that this single voice will become a choir for improved understanding and stronger communities.
© Anna Goodchild
© Anna Goodchild
Detail of the trimming and the quilt stitching. © Anna Goodchild