Quilts, A Mother’s Day Card & Visual and Material Languages of Emotion

This is now the third year that papier.com, a highly aesthetic online stationery company selling greetings cards decorated with hand-drawn designs, has sold the above Mother’s Day card. Featuring a colourful image by designer Small Adventure, it boasts a patchwork quilt, and a message which reads ‘Thank you for making me, me! Happy Mother’s Day!’ Amongst myriad images of celebratory flowers, champagne, cake, and chocolate that characterise cards for Mothering Sunday, this card has always stood out to me for the more complex visual language that it employs. Not only does it assume that the viewer will read this wiggly mass of patterns as a quilt, but secondarily, it assumes that the viewer will identify the quilt as an emotionally loaded object. Yet it’s repeated appearance on the site suggests that it must be selling well, and therefore that customers are making exactly this connection.

I guess this shouldn’t really be surprising, given that quilts have long served to express the emotions and identities of those who made, owned and used them. Often made collectively, with contributions from family members or other social groupings, the very fragmentary materiality of the quilt can suggest its communal making and function. These scraps were often sourced from disparate sources, with their recombination bringing multiple narratives and multiple histories together in a newly resonant object. Finally, quilts were often made to commemorate emotionally resonant moments, such as marriages, and other familially significant moments, an association that the current card draws upon.

From it’s stitch-like lettering, and play on feminised models of making (making domestic objects/making humanity through childbirth and rearing), the card therefore explicitly references associations between hand-making and other forms of affective labour, employing the complex  visual and material languages of the quilt and its associations, in order to convey the sentiments of the sender. I wonder if they’ll have it on the site again next year? My guess is yes.

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