Caren Garfen is a relative newcomer to the patchwork and quilting scene. She graduated from university in 2007 with a BA (Hons) First Class Applied Arts, and since then has been working as a textile artist. Prior to this, Caren created miniature stitched samplers for dolls’ houses sold to specialist collectors across the world.
Nevertheless, Caren’s newfound reputation led her to being commissioned to create a new art piece for the Victoria and Albert Museum’s exhibition Quilts 1700 to 2010. “I had not made a quilt before,” explains Caren, “but have produced a large variety of ‘domestic’ art pieces including an extraordinarily long tea towel, vertical blinds, a kitchen chair and a tea cosy.” Each of Caren’s pieces is a highly researched concept, relating to the theme of women’s roles in the 21st century. She uses various media including silkscreen printing and hand stitching.
‘How many times do I have to repeat myself’ is Caren’s quilt at the exhibition. It is based on women and work. The title represents the time taken in creating the piece, the repetitive nature of quilt making and echoes the sound of an often heard phrase usually uttered by women!
This quilt is multi-layered in concept and construction. Women were asked to contribute to the quilt in a similar way to the days when ladies would sit as a group and stitch a bedcover. However, in this case the “fluff” residue from the inside of domestic clothes driers has been collected and used as part of the concept. Small bits of fluff (a term not uncoincidentally used as a description of women by men) have been trapped within the layers of the quilt in the same way as some women are trapped into working due to financial pressure. The names of contributors have been sewn onto a long ‘care label’ giving them recognition – the recognition which was lacking for their foremothers stitching their quilts.
Caren’s advice to would-be quilt artists is to “have plenty of time and an abundance of patience”. And, she adds, “It will definitely be worthwhile when you have completed a one-off masterpiece which highlights all of your effort and skill!”
In the past three years Caren has been selected for many prestigious exhibitions including Art of the Stitch which is sponsored by The Embroiderers’ Guild in association with Coats Crafts. She has won major awards including New Designers One Year On and The Embroiderers’ Guild Scholarship.
To view more of Caren’s work visit her website.
If you would like to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum and see Caren Garfen’s quilt ‘How many times do I have to repeat myself’, click here for information on Quilts 1700 to 2010.