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Quilting with memories
Jessica Pope’s ‘Folklore’ on display at Jepson Center

"Folklore" is on view at the Jepson Center through Oct. 27.

IF YOU pass by the Jepson Center’s east side, you’ll notice a unique project in the windows.

That’s “Folklore” by Jessica Pope, the installation created specifically for those windows. Pope is the winning artist for Boxed In/Break Out, the annual call for entries put out by Telfair staff to spotlight original art.

The idea for “Folklore” began in 2016, when Pope found a collection of 500 Kodachrome slides.

Found at an estate sale for just $15, the slides followed a family on their journeys, big or small, from 1948 to 1954.

“I think they were a local family,” muses Pope. “It seems like they probably traveled north a lot, like there was a lot of traveling. I had more traveling slides than anything, so they were obviously well-off. A lot of them were pictures of husbands and wives, intimate pictures that I felt were just sweet. I felt like I ended up transposing my family’s memories onto certain aspects of it.”

That universal relatability was appealing to Pope, and she began thinking of how to best display the slides. She got her favorites developed but wasn’t sure what to do with them next.

“I like geometric shapes, so it felt familiar to me to make quilts. That felt like a natural thing that family would have collected,” says Pope. “I was trying to figure out, what’s the best way to present them? And it just had the perfect little center.”

Pope’s SCAD education came in handy while creating the quilts.

“I tried to figure out how to make it dimensional,” says Pope. “I had to do the little windows, and that’s all SCAD box-making class. That all came back into my head and I was like, ‘Oh, I can make these little stripes and score them and make it happen.’”

The end result is six large-scale paper quilts, all focused around the slides, that look completely different depending on the time of day.

“I really wanted to be able to put them in the windows because, at that point, I was more thinking that light from the sun to illuminate them,” recalls Pope. “But in the end, I had to backlight them, just because the slides are meant to be backlit. The quilts have a different life at night that I didn’t really expect, either. You can’t really see all the little pieces, you just see the pattern, which I thought was cool in the end. It was a nice surprise.”

While Pope graduated from SCAD, this was her first art exhibition ever. As owner of Buck + Doe, an accessory store with vintage and handmade goods, she typically just creates for product development. This installation was a departure from how she normally works, and the effort paid off.

Pope put so much work into the quilts on an extremely limited amount of time—she had only eight weeks to create all six pieces and spent two weeks just cutting.

“Once I got the process down from the first one, I felt like it just flowed,” she says. “I’d get off work and go out there and work, put on a couple movies and start going. I’m a very schedule-oriented person anyway, so for me, it was like, ‘You’re going to sit down for thirty minutes and do this many.’”

Pope has hopes for the quilts to travel around and inspire others.

“I’m probably never going to be in possession of these quilts again,” says Pope. “I hope they travel around. They should go to different places; I think quilting museums would be cool too.”

More than that, though, Pope hopes that projects like hers mark a shift in our culture. The pieces are so nostalgic of earlier times, like a vacation photo viewing party, that just don’t happen anymore.

“I think people are going to want to do things with their hands again,” says Pope. “Especially the younger generation—I think there’s going to be a switch back because they’ll want to remember that kind of stuff, too. They’re going to want to participate in it.”

Pope yearns for that connectivity that our increasingly tech-driven lives have phased out.

“I think there’s something really nice about looking at old pictures of another person from another time and thinking about what that person’s life was like,” says Pope. “Looking at those slides, life is not like that anymore. People don’t feel the same way about tradition. If we saw that picture at the table, everyone would be on their phones or not even there. I think if we got back to a time where people connected with each other, the world would be a very different place.”