Wednesday, 14 April 2010

rich stitch

Popped up to London to see the Quilt Exhibition yesterday at the V&A. Pop was a bit extended as our train got stuck behind a long, long freight train that was going slow.
Lots of people and kidlets around as it is still the Easter holidays. Fortunately as we all marched down the tunnel from the tube station to the sunshine most peeled off like an excited army of chirruping chickens to the Natural History museum. Haven't been since mine were small,and I hear lots has happened, but will wait to re-acquaint with the dinosaurs at a less seasonal time.

The show was excellent, well set out, each quilt in its own space, well lit and impressive. It was all so richly colourful; I felt the museum was granting the makers total respect, equal to all the other pieces in all the other galleries of art and crafts. Stitchers aren't usually allowed the same gravitas as sculpture or ceramics.

Most of the older quilts were embellished with stitching and applique and obviously took ages to complete, revelling in the sheer joy of making, and then making some more.

Quilts by men, often soldiers were very structured - often made from cut up uniforms. Tailors also made historical didactic quilts, carefully planned as masterpieces to show at big exhibitions.

The women's quilts were more domestic, meant for use but from fine silks or velvets and expensive scraps of printed textiles they were still intended to impress.
The contemporary quilts were often much more spare and cerebral, dyed and designed to impress in a different way, often quietly including opinions and attitudes that would not be discussed in general society.

The whole cloth quilts, painstakingly quilted by well trained apprentices were meant to provide an income, so competed to display the skills and twirls of the handstitcher, working in a group, flawlessly completed, the only spontaneity being the chat between the stichers as they worked long hours together.

One quilt that combined the two, individuality and total control was by a colleague, Sara, who uses text. She took some lines from a love letter found after her mother had died and created a poem, each letter trapped in a grid of machine stitching. very much appreciated by the women at the exhibition. The few men tended to sit on the benches and wait.

This quilt explored abortion and was hung at the back of the space allowed, out of reach, as was our Tracey's, bed covers of a young girl reflecting her fears about sex. I so wanted to get nearer to read the text.
This difficulty affected many of the ladies peering at the perfect/imperfect stitching and concepts. The warning siren sounded repeatedly as the line was over stepped by extended pointing and then all went quiet except an embarrassed titter as we were repelled back into our proper place.

This link hopefully will give you an idea of the riches.