Title

Cloth and the Occupation of Acquisition, Accumulation, Exchange, Use, and Divestiture

Presenter Information

Virginia Dickie

Start Time

16-10-2002 12:00 AM

End Time

18-10-2002 12:00 AM

Abstract

Cloth has figured prominently in the commerce, daily life, and ceremonial functions of people throughout history. It is sold and traded; given as gifts; used for clothing, warmth, and decoration; accumulated as a form of wealth; and passed on as inheritance. An analysis of the uses and meanings of fabric in the contemporary occupation of quilt making in America reveals patterns similar to those identified in historical and ethnographic studies throughout the world. Cloth is a motivator for women to engage in quilt making and try new aesthetic possibilities. Quilters spend considerable time selecting fabric, which they accumulate, exchange through formal and informal processes, and add to its value through what they make, even as they destroy the original fabric, an action that many find distressing. Their feelings toward cloth, in terms of both aesthetic and economic value, are openly acknowledged and celebrated in the serious and humorous rhetoric of quilting social events and publications. An ethnography of contemporary quilt making in North Carolina provides the data upon which this paper is based. The study illustrates the manner in which objects are embedded in the acts and meanings of occupations - in this instance through the language and practices of women who quilt. Findings support the notion that old forms of social and individual interaction with materials emerge in contemporary quilt culture practices, for example, exchange of signature blocks among members of on- line quilting groups, accumulation of wealth in the form of the fabric "stash," carefully spelled-out rules for fabric swaps, gifts of self through quilts for charity and quilts for friends and family (each different in meaning), and acts of giving while keeping. As well, quilters have an aesthetic relationship with fabric, built upon sensory experiences and personal and shared values. This paper seeks to explicate some of the basic characteristics of an occupation.

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Oct 16th, 12:00 AM Oct 18th, 12:00 AM

Cloth and the Occupation of Acquisition, Accumulation, Exchange, Use, and Divestiture

Cloth has figured prominently in the commerce, daily life, and ceremonial functions of people throughout history. It is sold and traded; given as gifts; used for clothing, warmth, and decoration; accumulated as a form of wealth; and passed on as inheritance. An analysis of the uses and meanings of fabric in the contemporary occupation of quilt making in America reveals patterns similar to those identified in historical and ethnographic studies throughout the world. Cloth is a motivator for women to engage in quilt making and try new aesthetic possibilities. Quilters spend considerable time selecting fabric, which they accumulate, exchange through formal and informal processes, and add to its value through what they make, even as they destroy the original fabric, an action that many find distressing. Their feelings toward cloth, in terms of both aesthetic and economic value, are openly acknowledged and celebrated in the serious and humorous rhetoric of quilting social events and publications. An ethnography of contemporary quilt making in North Carolina provides the data upon which this paper is based. The study illustrates the manner in which objects are embedded in the acts and meanings of occupations - in this instance through the language and practices of women who quilt. Findings support the notion that old forms of social and individual interaction with materials emerge in contemporary quilt culture practices, for example, exchange of signature blocks among members of on- line quilting groups, accumulation of wealth in the form of the fabric "stash," carefully spelled-out rules for fabric swaps, gifts of self through quilts for charity and quilts for friends and family (each different in meaning), and acts of giving while keeping. As well, quilters have an aesthetic relationship with fabric, built upon sensory experiences and personal and shared values. This paper seeks to explicate some of the basic characteristics of an occupation.