House Home Place

House Home Place

House Home Place is a collection of wall and bed quilts that speak to the concept of home as a place between our roots and our future and the hold it has on our bones. 

While bed quilts are deeply rooted in the myth of the cosy cottage and a fictional simple past, the quilt of today is more than a traditional three-layered blanket.  Since quilts made a jump from bed to wall, it has become a cloth with many meanings that can either warm or unsettle the soul.

Norma uses this nostalgic connection between quilts and home to express the mood and muddle of our time.  She uses her wall quilts to develop ideas on home as a shifting notion. 

With a world in flux, our vision of home is turned on its head and home often remains an elusive dream between belonging and exclusion.  We like to think of home as a safe shield for family, memories, and rituals; but it can be a bad domestic dream and a lifelong search for shelter.  There is the house that never becomes a home – even if you are home.  And when people are under attack, home means temporary structures of displacement.  

The quilts on show focus on the idea of home in our time and place.  Since the disease and the office moved in,  home is no longer a private shelter.  It has become a makeshift workplace, a school, playground, social hub, media centre, and everything in between. With lines blurring between work and personal life, home has become a place of isolated confinement, interruption, chaos, loss, and longing. 

Visually, Norma’s quilts draw on the quilt language of two traditional quilt patterns – the Log Cabin, and the chequered Nine Patch block – for their compelling connection to home.  The chequered quilt pattern is a recurring motif in Norma’s work.  For her, it has always been a symbol of home or what is underfoot. 

The Log Cabin quilt pattern has roots in antiquity and was probably first used in wrapped Egyptian mummies.  The pattern acquired its familiar name when it reached North America with its tradition of building log houses. The name of the quilt Log Cabin pattern evokes the idea of building a log house.  Individual quilt blocks are built up with fabric strips around a centre square.  This centre square is usually a warm colour that evokes fire glowing in the hearth, while the surrounding fabric logs, in varying hues and values, create a design that is half-dark and half-light – alluding to the light and dark sides of a house. 

Quilts are historical documents.  Whether we use quilts as cosy wraps, or as objects to ornament a room, it always tells the story of a time, place, and life – with needle and thread. 

Home – holding our objects, rituals, and stories 

Home – holding our objects, rituals, and stories 
Norma Slabbert, 2022, 40 x 40 cm 
House is emptiness; home is filled with objects and rituals that hold our stories.  Our objects have history embedded in them. They carry memories of giving and receiving and of special people and moments. Nothing tells the story of home and shared moments like the daily tea ritual.  Through rituals come certainty, comfort, safety, pleasure, connection, and belonging. 

Seeded at home

Seeded at home
Norma Slabbert, 2022, 55 x 45 cm 
Spirituality is in the seeds we plant at home.  It is in our daily rituals and silent moments;  in our gardening and growing; and in our making and creating. It is in the sun and the sky; the moon and the stars; the wind and the water; and in the joy of our forest walks.  It is in all the things that silence us with a sense of awe and in a connection to something other than ourselves.  The seeds we plant at home grow a spirit of caring, compassion, appreciation, and a kinder self.

Home – more than a floor and four walls

Home – more than a floor and four walls (detail)
Norma Slabbert, 2022, 148 x 143 cm 
The structure we call home bears a great responsibility for who we become.  It is where our sense of self finds support and how the outside world sees and treats us. We all search for a safe and stable place to stand. But with a world in flux, people are on the move, and the idea of home is turned on its head. Home is no longer the stable and secure structure with a floor and four walls – when the rug is pulled from under our feet by war, economic needs, climate change, migration, and displacement. 


Norma Slabbert, 2022, 145 x 147 cm
We ask a house to hold our people and privacy – to create a safe and sheltered home.  But in the shelter of home, we live restlessly and at full speed: always on the go, in a rush, and multitasking, while juggling work, family, and social life. Even our down time at home is stolen by relentless circulation of social media.  That leaves us with little time to find the stillness in ourselves and to build meaningful family relationships and support systems. Are we creating a fragmented idea of home and family?

When house is home

When house is home
Norma Slabbert, 2022, 70 x 67 cm
House is structure; home is people, objects, stories, and memories. Our emotional and spiritual stories are rooted in the playground of home; it is where we create memories that last a lifetime. The objects, patterns, sounds, and tastes of our childhood homes stay with us always. And the scent of our childhood home is an archive for memory. When we feel nostalgic and homesick, it is often with a big belly hunger to the food and kitchens of our childhood. We never lose the homes and gardens of our past; they live on in our memories.

Home – a slow process of making

Home – a slow process of making
Norma Slabbert, 2022, 71 x 67 cm 
It takes a long time and a lot of work to make and create a home where we belong and feel safe and centred. It is like slowly stitching together a patchwork of ideas, values, and relationships.

Everybody comes from someplace

Everybody comes from someplace
Norma Slabbert, 2022, 15 x 135 cm 
We all come from someplace and we carry the imprint of that place with us, no matter where we go.  If we are lucky, we live somewhere for good; but more often, we live in a space between coming and going.  With our nomadic and transnational histories, we grow shallow roots by constant uprooting.  And as the soul struggles to catch up with the body in a new place, the outsider feeling can become the norm. 

Fantasy of home #4

Fantasy of home #1
Norma Slabbert, 2022, 39 x 20 x 10 cm
The cliché house-form of the rectangle wearing a triangle hat, is a motif that plays a vital role in our fantasies of home.  In miniature, the house has no real function, but we associate tiny objects with the security and comfort it brought us in childhood.  The miniature house offers the promise of an alternative life. We create it to bury ourselves to the exclusion of all else; a world that can be grasped, contained, and controlled.  A safe universe entirely at our command – to bring pleasure and emotional relief.

Home – where lives intersect

Home – where lives intersect
Norma Slabbert, 2022, 212 x 240 cm 
Home is the domestic playground where lives intersect in a familial dance of intimacy and separation.  It is where past and present come together to create a future and where we establish emotional and social roots that last a lifetime. Home is where ancestral voices, parents, children, siblings, family, friends, associates, and the online collective, connect and come together. And as we crisscross these connections and encounters in parallel but different journeys, we negotiate powerful influences that shape our thoughts, beliefs, and actions. We form and reform our self-identities as we learn to deal with, adapt, and accept contradictions and differences on ideas, life, and vision – at home. 

Our minds are always going home

Our minds are always going home (detail)
Norma Slabbert, 2022, 158 x 148 cm 
The idea of home always carries a notion of return. Our childhood home has the power to shape and evoke memories that last a lifetime.  It can be good or burdened memories, but our minds are always going home. We are forever holding audience with our childhood memories.  

Bed quilt – trace of domesticity #2

Bed quilt – trace of domesticity #2 (detail)
Norma Slabbert, 2022, 240 x 190 cm, quilted by Lori Neels 
Seen in a gallery, the bedquilt makes the privacy of home, visible and public.  Bedquilts are deeply rooted in the myth and sentiment of the cosy cottage, the frugal scrap bag, the sisterhood of quilting bees, and a fictional simple past.  And while the bedquilt may still be a symbol and a trace of domestic comfort and warmth, it has become part of a highly competitive, billion-dollar industry – a profession in which both men and women compete, thrive, and excel. 

Home – holding our heirlooms

Home – holding our heirlooms (detail)
Norma Slabbert, 2019, 159 x 157 cm 
We define and archive human life and traces of an existence by the objects and heirlooms we make and pass on to future generations.  It tells us about our past and where we have come from. The Suffolk Puff or Yo-Yo quilt is based on the housetop quilt pattern. 

Home – during lockdown

Home – during lockdown
Norma Slabbert, 2021, 141 x 140 cm 
While the pandemic created chaos and interrupted our lives, the lockdown and forced order created a different kind of daily rhythm and an uncertain security.  Home took on a new importance during the lockdowns.  During our second lockdown, in the Spring of 2021, I made one quilt block every day – to speak about my daily observations and feelings on the unfolding drama.

Home – a carefully curated image

Home – a carefully curated image
Norma Slabbert, 2022, 66 x 66 cm 
Home is often an organised place and a vessel for conformity – a place that prescribes compliance, behaviour, and views.  It can be a perfect and carefully curated media and public image that suppresses the tension between ideal and reality.  

Home – when threads between ideal and reality unravel

Home – when threads between ideal and reality unravel (detail)
Norma Slabbert, 2022, 69 x 70 cm 
Home is a place that holds our stories, secrets, and sorrows.  Sometimes the threads between ideal and reality unravel, leaving us frazzled and exposed to deal with a bad domestic dream. This is when we are not at home in the place we call home, and when home remains an elusive dream.

Home exposed

Home exposed
Norma Slabbert, 2021, 35 x 22 x 16 cm
Will home ever be the same again?  Since the office moved in, home has become much more than a private shelter.  It has become a makeshift workplace, a school, a playground, a social hub, a media centre, and everything in between.  Even our bedrooms have become zoom-ready stylised spaces to shine online.  The blurring lines between work and personal life put our most intimate spaces and safety blankets on display.  Will this new concept of home rewire our understanding of privacy and exposure?

When home was a place where we worked the soil and planted seeds

When home was a place where we worked the soil and planted seeds (detail)
Norma Slabbert, 2020, 130 x 168 cm
Once upon a time, before Covid, home was a place where we worked the soil and planted seeds.  Until it all changed, and we had to close our doors and garden gates.  But as we slowed down and in the silence of our isolation, we looked with new eyes at our homes and gardens. An awakening happened as we reconnected with our plants, flowers, crawly creatures, and birds.  And we got to know ourselves better.   

She who knows home isolation

She who knows home isolation
Norma Slabbert, 2020, 44 x 41 cm 
Nature has a way of showing us things. Where I come from, the female hornbill knows all about home isolation. She seals herself in a tree cavity with a wall of mud and remains trapped inside her nest for months while her eggs are incubating and the chicks grow up. During this time the male feeds her through a small opening in the mud wall. In African Folklore, the Yellow-Billed Hornbill brings laughter to one’s heart. They always look up at the sky as if they see something there. Hence they have become a symbol of faith in a better tomorrow. The bird of optimism.

Home – where we unravel and stitch ourselves back together

Home – where we unravel and stitch ourselves back together (detail)
Norma Slabbert, 2022, 69 x 56 cm
Every home has a light and dark side.  It is the place where we feel most ourselves.  A place where we can exhale, let go, slowly unravel, and safely fall apart. But it is also a place where we stitch ourselves back together. A place where we heal relationships, our bodies, and our planet. The quilt is based on variation of the Log Cabin quilt pattern that has roots in the idea of the cosy log cabin with a comforting fireplace at its centre.
%d bloggers like this: