The goal of the project was to use visual storytelling practices to highlight a story we thought needed to be told in a place we knew very well. While we were inclined to find a story within the city of Orlando, I wasn’t too familiar with the city to find an impactful story. Instinctively, I found myself researching stories from my hometown of Bradenton, Florida, a place I was more comfortable with.
It wasn’t long before I came up with the idea to focus my project around the Humane Society of Manatee county. Every year, they rescue hundreds of animals from the streets and do their best to find them good homes. In December of 2014, my family adopted our dog, Reno, from the Humane Society after he and his siblings were found in a recycling bin. Ever since then, I couldn’t imagine life without Reno and I thought it would be good to shed some light on the everyday good deeds of the Humane Society.
When deciding how I wanted to portray this story, I was interested in exploring material rhetorics. Material rhetoric is a form of rhetorical text that can be not only seen but can also be experienced physically. Such examples of material rhetoric include tactiles , memorials, and visual pieces, like posters. During one class period Dr. Sonia Arellano came in and talked to us about her material rhetoric work with her migrant quilt project, in which she, and a group of volunteers, created a quilt dedicated to the lost lives of migrants who died while crossing the border from Central America into North America. I was extremely interested in this topic through her presentation. I have always enjoyed physically creating things from scratch and the fact that I could do something like that for this project was a dream come true.
I chose to complete this project through material means due to my interest and history with sewing. I was taught by my mother to sew in the early years of my high school experience. With the knowledge of how to sew and hem clothes, I began making costumes for dolls and myself. While I had these basic skills, I had always been fascinated with the quilting work done by my mother and grandmother, so much so, that I wanted to give quilting a try.
The idea to specifically create a quillow came from my mom. When my brother and I were young, she made both of us a quillow. A quillow is essentially a quilt that can fold into a pillow. When wanting to get into the art of quilting, it was recommended that I start with this type of quilt because it wasn’t too complex and it incorporated the basics of quilting. So, as Reno is a part of our family, I thought it would be nice to make him a quillow, just as my mom made mine.
Throughout the construction process, I first drafted what each side of the quillow would look like. Because there are two sides to any blanket, I decided to have one side dedicated to Reno and the other side dedicated to the Manatee County Humane Society. For Reno’s side, as seen in the picture to the left, I decided to keep it simple with one layer of fabric overlayed at the corners with a variety of his outgrown bandanas. The bandanas incorporated a personal connection to my dog that I wanted to be evident in the final product. On the reverse side, as seen in the picture to the right, I decided to have a simple one layer fabric because this side was going to have a pocket for the quilt to fold into. I wanted the pocket to stand out as the most important part of this side. The pocket was designed to have nine patches, five of which were to be recycling symbols, as to represent my dog, who was found in a recycling bin. The other four patches were to be quotes from articles detailing the work by the humane society.
The quillow was completed through a series of sewing techniques. I only used a sewing machine when connecting the two fabric layers and cotton sheet together. Everything else from the patches, to the sewing of the pocket to the quilt, to sewing on the bandanas were hand sown in my on-campus dorm here at UCF. I had about three weeks from introduction of this project to the final submission. I spent some class time drafting, cutting out the fabrics, and hand sewing, but a majority of the construction was during my evenings. Within this time, it took me about a week to finish the quilt in its entirety.
The overall outcome of the project was something I am extremely proud of. The sewing process went smoothly. On the left, you can see the final result of Reno’s side of the quillow. I decided on the red, white, and black paw print design due to the fact that he is a dog and I wanted this side of the quillow to be vibrant, busy, and bright. I ended up taking two of his bandanas and cut them into smaller triangles to fit on the corners of the quilt. Contrastingly, on the other side of the quillow, as seen on the image to the right, I decided to choose a grey minimal fabric to let the pocket stand out more. I also chose a bluish green color palette for this side as a contrast to the other side of the quillow. Each side tells a different story and the colors signify the change.
Overall, I am incredibly proud of the outcome of this project and even got recognized by the Manatee County Humane Society. Throughout this project, I got to learn about material rhetorics, expand my sewing skills, and use my rhetorical skills to create something truly remarkable. Writing and rhetoric is all around us, in the crafts that we do every single day. It may not be obvious and it might be taken for granted. But if we take our time to understand our actions and our reasoning for doing the things that we do, we can develop a new sense of appreciation for our everyday activities.