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You Don't Protect What You Don't Love - 'A World To Save' textile artwork

Updated: Feb 22, 2023

'A World to Save' by Jennis Ardern with art by Community Lifestyle Support, Wongarra State School, Outdoor Art Room, and Shine Bright Festival Goers

This artwork was a labour of love; each appliqued circle you see is it's own world, drawn by someone who wanted to share their love for the natural world.

When you look at this artwork you might see a quilt, something warm and comforting on a cold night or when you are sick, maybe you focus on all the many different worlds and the amazing outcome when people come together to create, you could be drawn to the colours and pattern, the liveliness of the work. Seeing this artwork, you might be inquisitive and wonder about the process of development and construction of the work, or this artwork could be something you would give little thought without someone to draw your attention to it. If you had participated in the creation by adding your world to the work, you might feel a connection to both the world of your creation, the surrounding worlds, and the finished artwork.

Art evokes many responses within us, but my hope is that you can also feel connected; to those things you love about the world represented in this art, to the many participating artists who have hope that their world will be preserved, and and optimism for our world.

I found this quote after I began this project but it perfectly sums up the idea that truly committing to anything takes love, and more than that, it takes a knowledge or understanding of what it is we love, and why we love it. What does this thing we love really mean to us?

This artwork began with love in mind, it is love that drives the protective urge in us.

Children and adults from or visiting the Bundaberg region answered this question through art; what is something from you natural world that want protected or preserved? I attended several events in Bundaberg over a few weekends and I was able to invite people to use waterproof ink crayons to draw their ideas; animal, mineral, vegetable, there were no limits. People of all ages shared their thoughts here, in the 136 worlds that were sewn together to create this artwork.

It was fantastic to watch each artwork created. Some people were hesitant to participate at first, particularly adults, worried about having no ability to draw. When reassured everyone was welcome to draw with whatever ability they possessed, that there would be no judgement, that's when the magic started! I think everyone has creativity in them; your creativity may have been suppressed by the judgements of well meaning teachers or comments by well-meaning family or friends, or harsh self-criticism, or for other reasons, but very young children draw before they even know how to hold a crayon.

Here are a few close ups:

Turtles were a reoccurring theme, no doubt because Bundaberg is famous for it's nesting turtles and the closeness of Mon Repos Turtle Centre and their dedication to marine turtle, protection, education, and research. But as I talked with the participants I learnt from them what it was they loved and why, what connected them to this world, this planet of ours, and why it's preservation mattered.

Sometimes we might think that the environmental problems we face are so big that we can't possibly make much difference. But if we each do something to protect what we love about this world, our smaller efforts become part of a larger change for the better. By starting with what we love rather than what we fear, we are more likely to commit to the change we want to see.

Once all the artworks had been collected I ironed a patch of double-sided fusible adhesive which set the dye sticks, the circles were then cut out and ironed to the background fabric; a queen sheet, layered with wool wadding and backed by another queen sheet. I then hand-stitched all the circles which as you can imagine took a very long time for me to do. Quilting is certainly a labour of love, often a labour to create something warm and comforting for people they love, and I admire so many quilters for the works of art they create. In fact, I knew this artwork needed to be a textile work because of the history of quilting, the communities of women who would work together to create quilts, I wanted to share that concept of community and connection in this artwork.

But even though I stitched this work together in honour of the Bundaberg community and respect for the artworks gifted to this project, I don't know that the creation of this artwork would qualify me as a quilter. Although I might have looked like I knew what I was doing, and I was confident I could do it, I had never completed a quilt before. I learnt many things while I was joining it all together, I even bought the wrong fusible adhesive and it caused a lot of difficulty for me, I couldn't work out why it wasn't ironing on. But I worked it out, feeling proud of every last stitch, I added a border and the dowel that would allow it to hang and it was done.

There is such joy I feel in hearing from those who participated in the project with me exclaim over their art, to see the radiance in them as they view their work as part of the whole. Every time I couldn't help but reflect that joy, smiling so widely, because as I experienced the co-creation of this artwork, I got to know each of the individual participants and the people of Bundaberg better, and as I knew them more fully, I was able to better love and appreciate them.

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