Capturing quilt stories for the Known & Unknown exhibition
Thank you for participating in the Known & Unknown exhibition held in conjunction with Quilters Take Manhattan 2020. Team Quit Alliance is so excited for this show of stunning quilts, and even more excited for the opportunity to curate a quilt show focused on what we care most about: the stories behind the quilts.
We’re also committed to sharing these quilts and their stories as widely as possible, including with quilt lovers who won’t be able to see the quilts in person. We want to take our audience on a “behind the seams” tour and learn more about each quilt–the story of the quilt’s ‘why’ and ‘how’, or the completely unknown ‘who’ and ‘where’. We’re doing this by creating a Go Tell It at the Quilt Show! video for each quilt in the show, and featuring high-resolution photographs of each quilt.
Here’s where you come in: we’re asking you to film one of these three minute videos about your quilts, and share photographs for our digital exhibition. We’ll collect these from you remotely, and get them uploaded online for viewers.
Creating a Go Tell It video is simple, and we’re happy to help if you have any questions. Here’s what you’ll need:
The quilt and a good space
Ideally, we want the quilt with you as you tell its story. If you can’t access it (ie. if it’s currently traveling), we can include a high resolution photo in the video so viewers can see it as you talk.
If possible, hang the quilt so it’s entirely visible on a quilt stand or other display. If it’s very large, it’s okay to fill the background with the quilt and stand in front of it. Holding the quilt, or having assistants hold it, isn’t ideal, as it means the quilt is usually in motion and difficult to see. Here are two well-lit examples of large quilts filling the frame, or with neutral backgrounds:
Film your video in a bright spot with good lighting so that the quilt is visible. If you have lights for photographing quilts, now is a great time to use them. If you have access to a bright outdoor area, that could work as well–just make sure that trees or buildings aren’t casting a shadow on you or your quilt.
Try to capture the best sound you can. We want to be able to hear the story of your quilt loud and clear! Film a test video first to see how it looks and sounds to you.
A camera and (maybe) a helper
You can film a Go Tell It with any device that has a camera. If you have a newer smart phone with a great camera, or a digital video camera, that’s best. If not, the camera on your laptop or a webcam also works.
If you’re filming yourself, set your camera (or phone) on something sturdy so the video doesn’t shake and bounce. A tripod? A bookshelf? All great. Even better: ask a friend with a steady hand to help! Bonus points if they rest the phone or camera on something sturdy. The camera should not move for the duration of the video (no panning shots or zooming in while filming, please).
Important: if you’re using a phone to film your video, rotate your phone so it’s horizontal (landscape), not vertical.
The quilt story
Start your video with: “My name is ________ and I’m telling this quilt story for the Known & Unknown exhibition.”. Or, “My name is __________ and this is a story about this quilt, _______________ which is featured in the Known & Unknown exhibition”. What’s important is that we get your name and ideally, the exhibit’s name. If that seems like a mouthful, consider making a cue-card you can tape next to the camera so you can read it while filming.
Then, start talking! We’d love it if you’d share whatever you consider to be the story of this quilt. If you’re the maker, you might talk about inspiration, technique, background of a historical moment that relates to the quilt, and the way the quilt’s story is visible (or invisible) on its surface. If you’re a collector, you might share what you know, and how you know it, about the quilt’s life: provenance, maker, materials, region, age, and what drew you to the quilt. Keep in mind the exhibit theme, but you don’t have to limit it to just what you know vs. what you don’t.
It’s ok to make some notes ahead of time to gather your thoughts. We ask that if possible, you don’t read from notes in your final video. Some people rehearse their stories ahead of time. Some don’t. Whatever you want to say is fair game to include… the sky’s the limit! Well, three minutes is the limit, so you’ll want to keep an eye on the video timer. If you go a little longer, that’s ok.
Here are a few Go Tell It! videos that you might take a look at before beginning:
Why we love it: This video was filmed in Houston, shortly after it won Best In Show–it captures that energy!
What could improve: The camera moves several times (should stay stationery), the quilt and the speaker is cut-off at times, and sound is not great
Why we love it: This video has the quilt filling the frame, is well-lit so we can see the teller and the quilt, and has great sound.
What could improve: The quilt is a little crooked, but otherwise, not too bad!
Why we love it: It shows that Go Tell It! videos can be filmed anywhere!
What could improve: For exhibition videos, pick a neutral, blank background with the quilt hanging or pinned to the wall. Only the “teller” should be in the frame.
One hi-resolution photograph of the entire quilt front
One hi-resolution photograph of the entire quilt back
Three (or more) detail photographs, especially any areas mentioned during your Go Tell It! video or the quilt’s label, if it has one
Thank you again for sharing your quilt(s) with us, and for all your work helping to put together this digital component of the exhibit. We’re thrilled to bring quilt stories to the forefront of this exhibition, and couldn’t do any of it without your generosity and patience!