Windrush. Fading away with memories that will be lost. It’s a history we should record. This is a blog of how my pieces are building.
The series so far:
1) Rachel – Most Racist Was In White Church 2) Marcia – Validation 3) The Background’s Too Strong, it Needs to be Whiter 4) Jeff Brown – You Try To Do Your Best 5) George Saunders.
Jeff Brown’s quilt stands as a testament to resilience, perseverance, and the intricate layers of human experience. Through meticulous transcription from a poignant video featuring local Windrush community members, the words “You Try To Do Your Best” emerge as a powerful mantra, encapsulating Jeff’s ethos and the ethos of many who have journeyed alongside him.
Born from the vibrant tapestry of Jamaican heritage, Jeff’s story is one of migration and adaptation. Arriving in the UK on the eve of Jamaican Independence aged 16, his life became a tapestry interwoven with the threads of cultural fusion and personal discovery. His mother’s work on the buses echoes the silent struggles and triumphs of countless immigrants striving to carve out a better future for their families. He had to face awful racism and inequalities, but he managed to cope and become an established member of Leamington life.
The quilt depicts Jeff with his clothes fading into the background while his face and hands remain in stark focus. It’s a deliberate choice, a visual metaphor for the passage of time and the transient nature of memories, and the gradual assimilation of culture.
At the heart of the composition lies a table laden with symbols of Jeff’s journey. A relic from the 1970’s when he ran a small disco. sits alongside bus tickets which are a reminder of his mother’s job and the rhythm of everyday life. The Jamaican flag proudly unfurls, a beacon of identity and heritage. Postcards of The Pump Rooms are there to illustrate memories of a time when a weekly bath had to be taken in the Pump Rooms, while the terraces of houses emitting smoke speaks of a misunderstanding he had when he first saw them, that smoking chimneys were not in fact factories but houses which needed fires for warmth.
I hope to honour Jeff Brown and the other countless individuals like him who have left an indelible mark on the fabric of our communities. Through these Windrush quilts, I’m celebrating not only the triumphs but also the trials that shape all of us, stitching together our shared humanity.
How the quilt built.
12th November 2023
It’s taken a month to finally get to work on this one but I’m on the home straight now. I’ve just begun the stitching in the background. Then I’ll stand back and alter the colours here and there and correct any errors. I think the thread colour I’ve chosen for the background – a deep gold – isn’t strong enough to knock back the text, so I’ll probably add a glaze of colour to do that instead, but that will be a decision I’ll make when finishing up and the binding etc is complete.
A few people have commented on the strange way the clothing on these 3 models has been stitched and painted, but the effect is one of fading away. True I could have made it stronger and probably more pleasing by painting in the normal way, but it’s important to me that it illustrates my message of local stories being lost if we don’t record them in some way.
Jeff Brown – You Try To Do Your Best.
12th October 2023
Jeff Brown. Stitched and painted.
9th October 2023
I’ve stopped the painting of Jeff and am going to start again as I’m not happy with the way the stitching is too tight and is wrinkling the fabric. I tried free hand zig zag for the eyebrows which was a mistake. So, off to buy more fabric and an embroidery hoop to keep things flat when I stitch.
6th October 2023
Today I started work on Jeff Brown, who came to the UK as a teenager and saw a lot of change in that time.