Historic Quilting Design Ideas!
For the first time in my life, I found an art exhibit so enthralling that I returned TWICE to see it. In fact, I have plans to go back a third time. Ooh, the “Quilts and Color” exhibit at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts made me happy! Its rainbow blasts were a perfect match for baby, too, as wee ones adore patterns.
History of Women and Quilt Making
What I find particularly moving about these quilts is not just their beauty, however: it’s the history of the women who made them. Many of these works were sewn in the 1800s: a time when women in America couldn’t vote, let alone have the freedoms I so enjoy, from gallivanting alone around the world, to marrying who I choose, to having a well-paid career, to speaking my mind, publicly… frequently.
Empowerment and Quilt Art Expression
Further, some of the quilts, including the one featured in every advertisement for this exhibit, were created by African-American women. Having just finished Sue Monk Kidd’s book, The Invention of Wings (affiliate link), one concept is fresh in my mind: When women are shackled either mentally or physically, the spirit of expression can still pour out through “everyday” artwork.
The Thread of Female Creativity Over Time
Given this, I found observing the other exhibit-goers particularly poignant. Everywhere, gazing at the walls, were women of all ages. Some elderly women held their middle-aged daughters by the hand. Others, like me, strode around with their 30-something friends and fresh new babies.
From the 1800s to Today
This meant that at the “Quilts and Color” exhibit, women who lived three long centuries apart swirl together. Did the ladies in the 1800s who stitched these masterpieces ever imagine, as they poured their frustrated dreams into each scrap, that hundreds of years later their work would be on display in one of the leading art museums of the world?
Quilting Artists Who are Anonymous Now
And yet, many of the quilters from this exhibit remain anonymous. Signs read, “American, 1880” or “Amish” or “Mennonite,” but many of the women’s names have evaporated with history.
Mennonites and Quilting in History
Let us talk for a moment about Mennonites. I never thought about that religion before this year, but suddenly it has come to my attention that Mennonites love color bursts as much as I do. Apparently, so does the Methodist religion, as seen in the fabulous multicolored “gingerbread cottages” in Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard which we discovered last month. Huzzah for color-lovers of the world!
Thank You, Boston Museum of Fine Arts
A note about the MFA museum guards at this exhibit: They’re great! When I was struggling to take a photo, more than one offered to help snap it for me. Another offered photography tips, and yet another played a delightful game of peekaboo with my baby. Good stuff from good staff.
Pilgrim and Roy, Quilt Collectors
So who put together this beautiful quilt exhibit? The collectors are named Pilgrim and Roy, and their private quilt collection actually contains over 2,500 quilts. According to their website, they began their quilt lust in the 1960s whilst working as interior decorators.
Since then, they became founding board members of the American Quilter’s Society, and designed the interior of the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky. Sheesh– I didn’t even know we had a quilt museum in America, but now I’m curious to go! I’m also deeply grateful to Pilgrim and Roy for preserving these luscious quilts.
More Amazing Quilt Patterns to Inspire
Now, let me pull back my words and let the beauty of the quilts take over. Walk through the “Quilts and Color” exhibit with me, and enjoy!
Which Quilt Patterns Do You Like Best?
Now that you’ve seen them, which is YOUR favorite quilt?
Want to see more inspiring art exhibits? Check out the Corning Glass Museum in NY, MASS MoCA in Western Massachusetts, Lowe Mill in Alabama, and my giant collection of 40 art prompts from around the world. Happy peeping!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 3.7 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!