Friday, July 30, 2010

The Quilts of Gee's Bend

Last night, I had the immense pleasure of visiting an art gallery with my dear friend Rose. In and of itself that would have been a rare treat to be savored. But what was inside was a collection I've wanted to see for years, one that moved both of us more than we expected. The quilts of Gee's Bend.

Two years ago I scrapped (no pun intended) my measured method of quilting and joined droves of modern quilters in the improvisational movement. This liberating practice of piecing to your heart's content and throwing straight lines and rulers out the window results in a much more interesting, personal, creative expression. The quilters of Gee's Bend literally pioneered this movement, and not by going down the road to the fabric store, but by finding scraps, jackets, blankets, whatever--and creating history.
Stopping at this pre-war piece entered me in conversation with another quilter moved to tears.
This piece shows just how resourceful the quilters were. Using swatches from campaign ribbons, army gear, sweaters, mixing knitwear and cotton and polyester and bedsheets with beautiful results.
Log cabin-style blocks become so much more interesting when pieced in this way!
I think this was my favorite quilt in the room. Again, pausing to admire it found me in conversation with another quilter, this time trying to imagine how the quilter's pieced this beauty. The juxtaposition of fabrics is spectacular.
Another friend was there, and she recognized one of the fabrics from a doll she had as a child!
I loved this very improv log cabin piece that used cottons and courdoroys in perfect accord, contrasting them with denim from old blue jeans. They kept the pockets! Love that!
Each of the quilts was so inspirational. Every piece of fabric was carefully transformed into something much bigger than itself. The quilts of Gee's Bend are metaphoric, iconic pieces of Americana that showcase community, creativity, and true sustainability. I was grateful to be in the presence of so much love.


amy said...

Wow that would be amazing to see. The thing that always strikes me is how we often go to the fabric store to buy fabric for quilts when we don't really need to. Gorgeous photos, thanks for sharing the trip!

Rose said...

It was amazing and so inspirational. I know two women who will be quilting tomorrow!

SwedeLife said...

Awesome. In Sweden old clothing goes on the loom in strips to become woven rag rugs. They are everywhere in the thrift stores and loppis- garage sales. The two rugs on the floor of our play room are from my husband mother's childhood clothing...he can point out the dress she wore for high school graduation. So meaningful to resuse things like these. I had no idea about this quilting history, thanks for sharing!

Liquid Pen said...

I really enjoyed that post...thanks for sharing!