Saturday, July 17, 2010

In the Company of Quilters

This week two friends and I wended our way up the hills of Ithaca to Cornell's Herbert F. Johnson Museum, which was hosting an exhibit of quilts from the collection of Etsuko Terasaki, who began buying quilts in 1975.  Sadly, the origins of most of these quilts is unknown, and even when the maker signed the quilt, nothing appears to be known about her life or even where the quilt was made.  While a few bore specific dates in the 1800s, most were labelled late 19th or early 20th century.  These were not abstract, out-of-the-box art quilts, but traditional, historical works made primarily to be used, and I found much to contemplate.  

Usually when I go to big quilt shows I take off on my own, since I may want to linger at a quilt that someone else may not be interested in--or vice versa.  But this was a small show---probably twenty bed quilts--and we stayed together, commenting on different aspects of the quilts and sharing our general impressions.   Why, we wondered, did one quilter take care to keep her seams matched and points sharp but did not cut the striped fabric for the sashing so that it matched up?  The cheddar orange, that favorite color of some 18th c. quilters, blared out at us in one quilt, fighting with the pink and teal of the some of the other fabrics, but just gave a zing to another eight-pointed star quilt.  We spent time picking out spider webs and tennis rackets and peacocks and flowers and unusual fabrics from the multiplicity of images and techniques on a beautiful crazy quilt, and we all admired a tumbling blocks quilt, where the randomness of the perspective and colors of the small blocks gave it a lively energy.  And I only set off an alarm once! 

Many of the topics of our discussions I might have noticed on my own, but some I would have missed. Much has been written about the experiences of quilters quilting together, but quilters looking at quilts together, something not possible before the age of quilt exhibits, can be an equally specialized form of experience--and a great way to spend a hot summer morning.

Top it off with a quick trip to a well stocked quilt shop, Quilters Corner, and an incomparable lunch at Moosewood and you have a great way to spend a day.

No photos of quilts possible but the exhibit is at the museum until August 1. 

And if you are still with me, thanks for the virtual company!

1 comment:

Anya said...

It was a great trip -- thanks for the company to you as well!