Pieces of fabric stitched together rarely evoke any sort of emotional response beyond "I remember grandma" or "Hey, that looks warm." But quilter Hollis Chatelain, a subject of the documentary Stitched, uses textiles and threads to convey messages of social justice and responsibility in the hopes of eliciting emotion from her quilts' viewers. "Hopeful World," an image of Desmond Tutu beckoning to children from around the world, she says in this clip from the film, jerks tears from her spectators.
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But the film also showcases the freakish enormity of the quilting world (a world spanning some 21 million devotees) which has its own superstars and underdogs (one award-less quilter describes the festival as the Academy Awards of the quilting world and goes on to say she has practiced her acceptance speech many times in the trailer for the film).
Chatelain, with her painted quilts, is the middle link in a chain of controversial quilters profiled in the film, which centers around the 2010 International Quilt Festival at the George R. Brown Convention Center last fall. Chatelain's mentor, Caryl Bryer Fallert, is credited with winning the first major award with a machine-made quilt, while her protege, Randall Cook, presented quilts bearing the images of male nudes to the festival.
The film will be shown at the Museum of Fine Arts on June 1 preceding a panel discussion with the Houston-based filmmakers: director Jenalia Moreno and producer Nancy Sarnoff (both Houston Chronicle reporters) and cinematographer Tom Gandy. The next day, a screening will be followed by a Q&A session focused on quilting. Panelists for that one will include Bob Ruggiero, (a frequent contributor to the Houston Press) public relations director for Quilts, Inc., which coordinates the International Quilt Festival, and Libby Lehman, a renowned quilter, instructor, and author.
Stitched: The Film will be shown with panel discussions on June 1 and June 2 at Museum of Fine Arts Houston. For more information, call 713-639-7300.