This story was collected as a part of the 2020 Collecting Initiative
Making Lemonade from Covid Lemons with Textile Art
By Pamela Palma
When Covid hit in March of 2020, I was full throttle into organizing a community project, a monumental textile mural to honor Julia Tuttle, the Mother of Miami, for the 125th anniversary of her founding of the City of Miami. The mural was designed as a crochet project of her, billboard size, and was a project of PLY-Miami Fiber Art Collective. Then came the lockdown, the quarantine, the Big Pause, and my interest in the project waned. I am not so much a crochet artist, it was too big, and the community partnerships I had forged were also on pause. The future was certainly uncertain. Even the present was uncertain.
When I launched PLY-Miami in 2015, I set our mission statement as “Making the world a nicer place, one thread at a time.” I feel it is so important for art to benefit others. During the Big Pause, I shifted the focus away from Julia Tuttle to smaller, more immediate group projects. I provided purposeful, creative outlets for the membership. Art has a way of keeping us focused and positive, even during a pandemic.
Nests, the first Covid project, came to mind in early spring of 2020. Pelican Harbor Seabird Station was in need of nests for rescued baby birds and small mammals in their care. Knitting and crocheting nests are simple, fun, and quick projects to do at home. For added incentive, I awarded 3 prizes (my own tiny tapestry woven artworks) – 1 for the most unusual, 1 for the most beautiful, and 1 for whoever made the most nests. We sent in over 100 nests!
Next, we embraced the artsy mask making trend using our creativity to embrace Covid. Then, in September, Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away. As we mourned her loss, we also celebrated her remarkable life with jabots, some crocheted and some vintage, from our own textile collections. We wore our jabots in honor of RBG to the polls in November and at our monthly zoom meetings.
Julia Tuttle continued to call to me throughout 2020. Miami is the only city in the US founded by a woman yet she receives scant recognition for her incredible accomplishments. She founded a city in 1896 and could not even vote for its passage, being a woman. That takes determination. I really wanted this mural project to come to fruition. I brainstormed with my members and we reinvented our project.
We reduced the size by nearly half. It is now fiber-inclusive rather than only crochet. My vision has become a vibrant, multi layered, textural fiber art collage. Components are being knitted, quilted, and crocheted by PLY-Miami members, with green leaves and orange flowers for the City of Miami colors. I am creating Julia’s face with embroidery thread.
The reinvented Mother of Miami is surrounded by the verdant tropical jungle of old Miami. She is wearing an orange floral dress with a lacy white jabot. A white orange blossom is pinned to her bodice as she beckons, “Come Henry, bring us your railroad.”
HistoryMiami Museum has generously partnered with PLY-Miami throughout this process since 2020. The museum will house the mural in its Folklife Gallery as it is being completed and assembled. The public is invited to participate in making components. Details TBA.
Julia Tuttle: The Mother of Miami will be unveiled at the Museum’s opening reception of It’s a Miami Thing on July 28, 2021, marking the 125th anniversary of the founding of our city by Julia Tuttle.
Pamela Palma is an artist/designer who works primarily with textiles. She is the founding director of PLY-Miami Fiber Art Collective. See her work at www.pamelapalmadesigns.com and on Facebook and Instagram.