Written by: Alex Stacey & Esther Bryan
Ulla Kuhlmann’s neighbors must have been baffled by this petite woman’s huge appetite for pizza, for suddenly, in 2003 she began receiving several deliveries of extra large pizza boxes each week. Little did they know, however, that nestled within those cozy cardboard containers lay individual textile artworks.
The relay had begun years earlier when pieces of fibre art for the enormous Quilt of Belonging began arriving at the project’s headquarters in Williamstown. Some needed finishing touches, and all needed borders and final assembly. The artwork travelled from volunteer to volunteer, but finding light, inexpensive travel cases for these awkward 18 inch hexagonal creations presented a challenge. Then came the light bulb moment- pizza boxes. Extra large please! Donated by a local restaurant, these proved to be the perfect fit and the ideal carriers.
The race to finish the blocks was on. Last stop in the game of pizza box tag was Ulla’s secluded country house. A shy, soft spoken octogenarian, she took on the mammoth task of hand embroidering each nation’s name, both in French and English and when needed, in aboriginal languages.
Over the span of two years, Ulla painstakingly stitched the lettering on 160 of the 263 blocks. She even embroidered 15 of them twice and one three times as the background colours had been changed. That’s almost 200 big pizza boxes delivered! We wonder if Ulla’s neighbors ever figured out the answer to her sudden craving for pizza.