I was delighted to be invited to give a talk about my quilts to the Severn Valley Quilters in their particularly fine hall in Thornbury, just outside Bristol. They were a lovely bunch who clearly love a laugh as much as they love their quilts and they were very friendly and made me feel very welcome. They listened very patiently as I wittered on for over an hour. I did offer to stop after 50 minutes but they were too polite to accept the offer.
I am always interested in the questions I get asked on these occasions. I am often asked, as most quilters and embroiderers are, how long it takes to make a piece and what sort of machine I use (a Bernina, an old Bernina). I am also frequently asked where I get the bits on my quilts (usually www.artchixstudio.com – beware the postage, and more or less anywhere I see them either cheap or interesting). But each group has different concerns. I was asked about sourcing beads (try the link to Anita’s beads in the link column) last night, but a significant number of them commented on my imagination. They thought I had lovely handwriting and a lot of imagination.
I was struck by this because we don’t often think about imagination in academic research. There is, in fact, something suspect about it. Is imagination the same thing as making it up? That would clearly be wrong. I am very interested in the whole area of fictionalising research, either to protect the identity of the research participants, or as a way of amalgamating a lot of different experiences and case examples into one coherent narrative, but this sort of admission causes horror in many academic circles. How can we trust her? How do we know she isn’t just fabricating her findings and so on. I agree with a lot of the unease, but I think that it also deepens academic work if we have the sensitivity and imagination, in fact, to enter into our respondents or participants’ worlds.
And, I think that a lot of research starts with ‘I wonder what if…’ which is a kind of imagination as well. I have always thought that my strength was in seeing connections and patterns in and between things, but perhaps it is in having imagination as well. So, the lovely Severn Valley Quilters certainly gave me something to think about.