The People’s Quilting Bee

A Virtual Lecture Series

Stories have always been told at quilting bees: stories of legacy, of resistance, and of community care. This autumn we invite you to join Dr. Sharbreon Plummer and Dr. Jess Bailey as they re-imagine the quilting bee, creating an online space in which to learn about the rich and diverse histories of patchwork in North America while perhaps making your own quilt. Across six lectures featuring a range of writers, researchers, and quilters, you will learn why and how artists in this tradition are so connected to quilt histories. Guests will share their knowledge and experience of topics that are integral to how we understand quilting in the past and in our present such as through a deeper consideration of materials, diaspora, indigenous knowledge, and queering quilt legacies. Participants will leave with a renewed understanding of both the diversity and vitality of quilt histories in passing down artistic traditions. While we hope you will join us for the full duration of the class, you are also welcome to sign up for individual lectures on topics that interest you. 

Quilters make in order to know. This virtual quilt history lecturer series would not be complete without an opportunity to both discuss the stories we hear and make more quilts. While enrollment in the People’s Quilting Bee lectures series is unlimited, Dr. Sharbreon Plummer will be guiding an intimate group through the processes of making a quilt while exploring our relationship to materials, storytelling and communal creativity. She will facilitate discussions that blend the heart, mind and hands, showcasing how quilts are a tool for self discovery and archive the beauty of our humanity.

Enroll for all 6 sessions or any individual sessions of your choice.

The Series

Why Learn Quilt History?
with Dr. Jess Bailey and Dr. Sharbreon Plummer

Join Dr. Sharbreon Plummer and Dr. Jess Bailey as they discuss the role of history and story telling in our lives as quilters. Why do quilters have an affinity for the past? And why is it so important to learn the diverse legacies of quilt history? What tools do we have as quilters and as historians of visual and material culture to stand in relationship with the historical depth of quilt work? Learn about Dr. Plummer and Dr. Bailey’s favorite historical quilts and how we can re-think the larger stories we have been told through the power of quilt history. 

September 6th, 2023

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Honoring the Foundation on Which We Stand
with Jenn Steverson

Jenn Steverson’s work centers African Diaspora communities, and she looks to textiles to tell her things that were not preserved in written archives. She moves between material culture and written records to gain a fuller, richer picture of Black communities. These techniques are valuable because she is often forced to read against the grain of primary sources that are tainted by prejudice and dismissive of African Diaspora cultural practices.

In this lecture Jenn will speak about her artistic foundation which is African American craft traditions. She will review archival research techniques that she uses when working on a quilt or quilt inspired textile installation. She will focus in particular on cross referencing and the importance of citation when an artist is inspired by a specific artist, creative community, or region.

September 27th, 2023

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Stitching Love and Loss: A Gee’s Bend Quilt
with Lisa Gail Collins

In 1942 Missouri Pettway, newly suffering the loss of her husband, pieced together a quilt out of his old, worn work clothes. Nearly six decades later her daughter Arlonzia Pettway, approaching eighty at the time and a seasoned quiltmaker herself, readily recalled this cover made by her grieving mother within the small African American farming community of Gee’s Bend, Alabama. Centering this quilt made in mourning and the memory of its making, I ask with reverence: How might a closely crafted material object–a pieced together quilt–serve the work of grieving a loved one as well as illuminate the perseverance and creativity of the quilters in this rural Black Belt community?

October 18th, 2023

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Honoring Our Ancestors
with Susan Hudson

Ya a’ tey, (Hello) Susan Hudson yii niish yii (I am Susan Hudson) Kee Yaà áanii nish lii’ (I am born of the Towering House People Clan) Deshchii’ Nii ii’ ee baa’ shish chiin’ (I am born for the Apache People Clan) Taabaa ii’ ee’ daa’ shi chei (My maternal Grandfather is from the Water Edge People Clan) Naaki’ Din na ii’ ee daa’ shi Naah lii’ (My paternal Grandfather is from the Apache People Clan) I live in Tooh Haltsooi (Sheep Springs, NM) on the Navajo Reservation. To ensure that our Ancestor’s stories are never forgotten, I have made a mark on the Native Quilting world, and to open the doors for those that will come after me. To show that it has taken generations of Native quilters to help me become the artist that I am. The honoring of our ancestors, those that lived, cried, shed blood, and died so we are able to be here and to tell their stories.

November 8th, 2023

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Quilts, Queerness, and Community
with Grace Rother and Sunny A Smith

How does quilting chart relationships between the past, present, and future? How does it preserve or make visible histories that traditional modes of historical authority have overlooked or marginalized? Drawing upon the spirit and history of the quilting bee as a site of expression, resistance, inquiry and community, multidisciplinary trans* nonbinary artist Sunny A. Smith presents examples of socially-engaged quilting while unraveling how quilts have been tethered to a problematic Americana aesthetic that can reinforce unspoken racial, class, and other hierarchies.

What does it mean to queer quilt history and how might we begin to engage with queer patchwork traditions? How have quilts been used as records of identity in the past? Drawing on local quilt archives, broader queer history, and their own relationship with the craft, quilter Grace Rother pulls a thread of connection between the current climate of queer resilience and the handwork of the past. In this lecture Grace will share how they approach the recovery of queer community within the quilting past. Join them in digging through the quilting legacies on record to find seeds of queerness and marvel at the power in creating something both soft and sturdy to tell your story.

November 29th, 2023

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Quilting New Futures with the Past
with Dr. Sharbreon Plummer and Dr. Jess Bailey

In our culminating lecture and discussion, Dr. Sharbreon Plummer and Dr. Jess Bailey explore how quilt makers can work in relationship with the past and offer advice for starting your own journey of quilt research. What do we want to do with the past, old stories, and deep historical legacies as quilters? How do we begin traditions if we don’t come from a quilting family and how do we continue them amongst blood and chosen kin? We will highlight examples of thoughtful research and collaboration from our own journeys and explore tools and tips for researchers of all levels. Reflecting and gathering together wisdom from our group of speakers across The People’s Quilting Bee, we will also have a quilt show and tell. Bring yourself and the quilt you have worked on while attending the lecture series. 

December 20th, 2023

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Quilting Circle

Join our online quilting bee for the duration of the lecture series, gathering across 6 making sessions with Dr. Sharbreon Plummer. Using our workbook and kit, learn to make a quilt as you’re immersed in the history of this storied and community rich practice. The group will cover topics such as personal narrative through quilting, mindful practices and visual storytelling.

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Intro: Why Learn Quilt History? – September 6th, 2023

Honoring the Foundation on Which We Stand – September 27th, 2023

Stitching Love and Loss: A Gee’s Bend Quilt – October 18th, 2023

Honoring our Ancestors – November 8th, 2023

Quilts, Queerness, and Community – November 29th, 2023

Closing: Quilting New Futures with the Past – December 20th, 2023

All lectures are from 2 pm – 3:30pm Eastern Time

Zoom, a link will be send to participants the day before each lecture

All Tatter lectures are considered community programming and therefore ticket prices are donation-based. The suggested donation for each of these lectures is $25. Donations start at $15 for each lecture and $90 for the whole series.

*All sessions will be recorded. Following the live session, a link to each recording will be emailed to all those who register. Each link is live for 24 hours only.

We have two scholarships available for the lecture series. To be considered for the scholarship please email [email protected] with some information about yourself, your creative practice, and why you would like to participate.

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