This is a fabric postcard that I received from Harriet Shortt who works at Bristol Business School at UWE. Harriet is the only other academic quilter I know. We had a very happy time just before Christmas looking together at the magnificent quilt that she made about the process of doing her PhD research. I think that she intends to talk about the quilt at SCOS, the Standing Conference on Organizational Symbolism (www.scos.org), later this year, so I won’t write about it here, except to say that it was great to know that a paper I gave at SCOS last year (at the conference brilliantly organised by Beatriz Acevedo and Sam Warren) had inspired Harriet ‘to thread a needle’, and to see such a huge and brilliant piece of work which had so much to say about the process of doing a huge and fascinating piece of work like Harriet’s ethnography of a hairdressing salon.
But, it was such a delight on a dark, wet January morning to get Harriet’s beautiful piece through the post. I thought it was a brilliant idea. Small, fairly quick to produce but packed with meaning, and very personal. A lovely counterpoint to getting a dashed off email. The time to make the piece. Stitch it to the postcard (which you have had to get up and buy). Write the message by hand. Find the address. Find a stamp. Get up and post the piece. All the time thinking about the recipient. What an interesting way into thinking about feminist theories of gift-giving. Time to blow the dust off Kristeva and Cixous. Time to think about a feminist ethics of debt, obligation, reciprocity, and possibly love. Time to think about the meaning of small pieces, things made by hand and holdable in the hand. Just a delight. And, of course, it had a lovely message. It makes me want to start a collaborative project, ideally to be showcased at SCOS. It makes me want to get more people involved. It make me want to run a workshop. It makes me want to start a reading group on gift theory… This, I think, is what collaborative generative research ought to be about.