Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tush Kiiz Envy

Editor's Note: To celebrate the grand opening of the newly expanded Quilt House gallery, International Quilt Study Center & Museum team members are blogging about pieces in the gallery's inaugural exhibition, "Getting to Know You."

IQSCM 2011.040.0039

By Marin Hanson
Curator of Exhibitions

As I thought about why I love this Kyrgyz tush kiiz so much, I looked around my house. And it suddenly became obvious: I have tush kiiz envy.

When I travel internationally, I always bring home something to hang in my house – on the wall, sometimes, but particularly on the ceiling or in a doorway. I love the concept of welcoming people into your home space(s) with beautiful textiles or other decorations. I also like passing under them myself on a daily basis – they serve as a reminder that beauty is everywhere, even in our most commonplace spaces.

These pieces are mostly from India – which undeniably has some of the most beautiful textiles in the world. At top left is a mango and chile pepper fabric ornament that is a quintessential symbol of Mumbai; at top right is a toran, or Indian door decoration with symbolism rooted in both Buddhism and Hinduism; and at bottom right is a beaded hanging from Kutch, in Gujarat. At bottom left are two pieces from China. They were made by a famous artisan from rural Shaanxi Province and they are both loaded with auspiciousness (on the right-hand piece, stacked from top to bottom, are the symbols for fu (a bat), good luck, lu (coins), wealth, and shou, longevity – for those of you who love your Chinese symbology!).

So I guess this just means that I now have to go to Kyrgyzstan and get my own tush kiiz – I have the perfect spot for it: the dramatic portal between my living room and dining room!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Bold Design

Editor's Note: To celebrate the grand opening of the newly expanded Quilt House gallery, International Quilt Study Center & Museum team members are blogging about pieces in the gallery's inaugural exhibition, "Getting to Know You."

IQSCM 2014.027.0012

By Dean Young
Operations Manager

Blocks of bold and colorful designs, arranged in perfect symmetry have great appeal to me in the form of this quilt.

I can envision a quilter conceptualizing each block and putting them joyfully together to form a beautiful collection of texture and design!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Purple Love

Editor's Note: To celebrate the grand opening of the newly expanded Quilt House gallery, International Quilt Study Center & Museum team members are blogging about pieces in the gallery's inaugural exhibition, "Getting to Know You."

Center Diamond, made by Melinda King,
United States, circa 1910-1930. Ardis and Robert
James Collection IQSCM 1997.007.0063.

By Joy Shalla Glenna
Membership and Public Programs Assistant

Red + Blue = Purple! Purple is my favorite color. I love this quilt. I look at it and see purple. It draws me – the straight lines, the simplicity, how austere and clean it is. It is comforting and yet hard.

I wonder about its maker. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a chat with her? What was her life like? What was her family like? I doubt it was simple. This makes me want to know more!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Rabari Ralli

Editors's Note: To celebrate the grand opening of the newly expanded Quilt House gallery, International Quilt Study Center & Museum team members are blogging about pieces in the gallery's inaugural exhibition, "Getting to Know You."

Ghodiyun Cradle Cover, made by the Rabari People,
Kutch, India, Circa 1975-2000. IQSCM 2012.001.0007.

By Marin Hanson
Curator of Exhibitions

I know I've written about India lately, but I just can't help it – I want to keep going back.

Quite simply, I love this quilt because it reminds me of the time I was fortunate enough to be able to go to the part of India where it was made – Kutch, which is a region in the state of Gujarat in the far West of the country. In fact, I was there when this piece was acquired on our behalf – by our good friend Geeta Khandelwal. Isn't it magnificent? The stylized peacocks, flowing trees of life, and triangular temples are surrounded by seemingly endless applique borders that reverberate and ripple outward. Clearly, this quilt would have added color and beauty to life in this arid part of India.

Rabari tribeswomen have made these quilts for generations. The Rabari family from whom we acquired this piece are no longer nomadic like their ancestors – in fact, they welcomed us into their home where the husband has a shop of Rabari crafts for sale.

Here I am – wistfully wishing I could stay longer in this wonderful country!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Little Log Cabin

Editor's Note: To celebrate the grand opening of the newly expanded Quilt House gallery, International Quilt Study Center & Museum team members are blogging about pieces in the gallery's inaugural exhibition, "Getting to Know You."

Log Cabin, maker unknown, made in United States, circa 1890-1910.
Ardis and Robert James Collection, IQSCM 1997.007.0114.

By Laura Chapman
Communications Coordinator

I grew up with fairly limited exposure to quilts. My mom and grandma knitted and crocheted, so most of my knowledge about quilts came from the Little House books and the Dove in the Window quilt Laura worked on throughout the series.

I’m truly lucky to work alongside a great team of co-workers at such a beautiful building that houses such amazing treasures. Like this one. There really is something about a Log Cabin quilt that is wonderful. Maybe it’s that connection to the Little House books. No, they didn’t make any in the series, but Laura was born in a log cabin in the woods.

Yeah. I've been there. Or at least to the replica cabin that was built on the site where the one she lived it in used to exist.

Or maybe I just like these quilts because they're versatile and can look so different based on how you put them together. This great animation created by University of Nebraska-Lincoln shows featured in our exhibition, "Design Dynamics of Log Cabin Quilts," shows those different settings.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Mix of Old and New(ish)

Editor's Note: To celebrate the grand opening of the newly expanded Quilt House gallery, International Quilt Study Center & Museum team members are blogging about pieces in the gallery's inaugural exhibition, "Getting to Know You."

Whole cloth, maker unknown, circa 1890-1910,
made in Turkey. IQSCM 2010.045.0012.

By Carolyn Ducey
Curator of Collections

I love fabrics. I love quilts too, but it is the fabric themselves that call to me. This piece is block printed with a turquoise design reminiscent of an early Indian paisley. The fact that it was made in the twentieth century, with a technique that has been used for centuries is amazing. It tells me that traditional ways still have life and are still appreciated in their communities. This Anatolian variation is done in two halves that, when sewn together, make a whole cloth quilt.

Maybe that’s a part of the appeal of this quilt as well… I never could make seams match or corners sharp. I like the idea that the medallion, in its contrasting blue and yellow colors, the paisleys printed in the body of the quilt and the design of the outer border are complete – the only thing needed is to stitch the batting and backing together and you have a striking, warm, beautiful quilt. That’s my kind of piecing!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Triangles, Triangles Everywhere

Editor's Note: To celebrate the grand opening of the newly expanded Quilt House gallery, International Quilt Study Center & Museum team members are blogging about pieces in the gallery's inaugural exhibition, "Getting to Know You."

Patchwork, maker unknown, Thailand,
circa 1980. IQSCM 2008.012.0006.

By Marin Hanson
Curator of Exhibitions

Repeating triangles. It's a thing with quiltmakers everywhere. This quilt from Thailand inspired me to look through the International Quilt Study Center & Museum's collections and find some other examples of the obsessive triangles phenomenon. Enjoy!

UNITED STATES. c. 1850, probably Pennsylvania,
Holstein Collection, 2003.003.0305
UNITED STATES, c. 1890-1910,
possibly Posey County, Indiana,
James Collection, 1997.007.0085
c. 1975, L. Miller, Probably Wayne County,
Ohio, James Collection, 1997.007.0501
c. 1975-1985, Dennis Jones, Pickens County, Alabama,
Cargo Collection, 2000.004.0051
KYRGYZSTAN, c. 1930-1940, 2011.040.0016
c. 1970-1990, 2000.003.0004
CHINA, c. 2010, He Xiuxian (maker),
Jialiang, Guizhou Province, 2014.027.0010

Thursday, April 9, 2015

British Mania

Editor's Note: To celebrate the upcoming grand opening of the newly expanded Quilt House gallery, International Quilt Study Center & Museum team members are blogging about pieces in the gallery's inaugural exhibition, "Getting to Know You."

Medallion, maker unknown, probably made in Allendale region,
England, United Kingdom, circa 1830. IQSCM 2007.014.0001.

By Laura Chapman
Communications Coordinator

I have been a bit of an anglophile since middle school, when I watched Sliding Doors and Notting Hill. That was about the same time my dad introduced me to Monty Python's Flying Circus, and I watched a multi-part documentary on Beatlemania with my parents. That probably prompted me to spend high school reading everything by Helen Fielding, Lisa Jewell, and Jane Austen. By the time I went to college, I knew I was a bit obsessed.

Imagine my excitement when the summer before my senior year, I had an opportunity to travel to England with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

Not only did I get to see amazing things like Platform 9 ¾ at Kings Cross Station…

Hogwarts bound!

And tour London…

My classmates and I before attending Sunday
service at Westminster Abbey.

But I also saw a lot of quilts. UNL sent us to England as part of a depth reporting project on the international scope of quilts and quiltmaking. We were working on a magazine and documentary to be released in conjunction with the grand opening of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum at Quilt House in spring 2008.

We went to England, because there were excellent sources for us to interview at the Victoria & Albert Museum and British Museum in London. We were also fortunate enough to meet with Bridget Long, an IQSCM associate fellow, and one of her friends in Ashwell, near Cambridge.

The main elements of our research took place at the International Festival of Quilts in Birmingham. While our friends at the IQSCM, who are now my colleagues, told us the festival would be bigger than we could imagine, I wasn't prepared for the frenzy of activity that would meet us. We saw hundreds of quilts, including a mixture of historical, contemporary, and art quilts. And we also met wonderful people, both in our interviews and by mingling in the crowd.

Though this British quilt looks different than any of the pieces I saw during that trip in 2007, it reminds me of the festival and of one of the greatest experiences in my life.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Black and Blue

Editor's Note: To celebrate the upcoming grand opening of the newly expanded Quilt House gallery, International Quilt Study Center & Museum team members are blogging about pieces in the gallery's inaugural exhibition, "Getting to Know You."

Checkerboard, maker unknown, made in United States,
circa 1800-1820. IQSCM 1997.007.0376

By Carolyn Ducey
Curator of Collections

This quilt calls to my heart. There is something so dramatic about the blue and black squares on point that I love. Rich, dark, pulsing… But then, you notice the candy cane outer border. The turquoise blue is just the right shade lighter than the center blue, so it adds a flash of color. The pale pink, in parallelograms that point upward, literally pushes your eye back to the quilt – a remarkably effective design element. Then, when you think you’ve seen it all, look – the maker brought the three border colors used together in the bottom center. Aaaaah, it just literally makes my eyes happy.

And, if you are lucky enough to have worked with this quilt, you know that is it composed of wool, some loosely woven but fused to create a luscious shine. The light plays with the designs the quilter used to join the layers… carefully crafted floral patterns.

I want to hug this quilt  – even though it is a bit stiff and scratchy. I want to wrap myself in this particular woman’s vision and just feel her creative  spirit for a moment. Wow.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Game Boards, Old and New

Editor's Note: To celebrate the upcoming grand opening of the newly expanded Quilt House gallery, International Quilt Study Center & Museum team members are blogging about pieces in the gallery's inaugural exhibition, "Getting to Know You."

Kantha, maker unknown, made in Bangladesh,
circa 1900-1925. IQSCM 2012.001.0004.

By Marin Hanson
Curator of Exhibitions

For many reasons, this kantha piqued my interest as soon as I saw it. I love the Hindu gods Krishna and Radha in the center; I can never resist an elephant; and the British cavalry soldier clearly references India's colonial past (and I was a history major, after all). But obviously, the snakes are the showstoppers here. Every time I look at them, they remind me of board games – Chutes and Ladders, Candyland, even Life. Those were the games I liked as a child, the ones where you seemed to be going on an adventure – linear, yes, but definitely twisty and turny.

So I started poking around online and found out that Chutes and Ladders, a Milton Bradley board game first released in 1943, was simply a version of an old Indian game called Snakes and Ladders. In the game, you roll a die to move through the numbered squares on the grid; if you land on a square with a ladder, you ascend one or more rows, but if you land on a snake, you descend, sometimes all the way back to the beginning.

Snakes and Ladders, India, 19th century
Chutes and Ladders, c. 1952. ("Cnl03" by DASHbot.
Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia)

In the Indian game, Hindu ideas of morality were abundant: "The ladders represented virtues such as generosity, faith, and humility, while the snakes represented vices such as lust, anger, murder, and theft. The morality lesson of the game was that a person can attain salvation (Moksha) through doing good, whereas by doing evil one will inherit rebirth to lower forms of life. The number of ladders was less than the number of snakes as a reminder that a path of good is much more difficult to tread than a path of sins" (Wikipedia). In the Western version, much of this morality is absent, but the fun of seeing who can make it to the top first is still there.

I now want to figure out if I could turn this kantha into a board game of some kind. How would you do it?

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Visit to the University of Alberta

By Carolyn Ducey
Curator of Collections

Last week I was honored to be invited by the Department of Human Ecology at the University of Alberta to speak about my research on quilts made by the Evangelical Sewing Society of the First Baptist Church of Philadelphia – a small part of my dissertation research. Like I told the audience, being asked to talk about your research is like someone sincerely – really! – requesting you show your vacation photos… Such an indulgence!

Lori Moran, Vlada Blinova and Rebecca Blakey made me feel so welcome. They graciously showed me around the University and Vlada gave me a personal tour of their clothing and textile collection. I kept my hands in my pockets the whole time… I wanted to reach out and touch the gorgeous chintzes and woven brocades, stroke the exquisite velvet shoes and the feathered hats. You know I know better, but it was almost irresistible.

I wasn’t aware that the evening of my presentation was also the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences College. That put a little more pressure on… I have to say I was a bit more nervous than usual when speaking! Lots of really smart people in the audience with a wealth of information. Lots of quilters too – and they had such thoughtful questions after I finished.

I also really enjoyed the impromptu exhibition of quilts made by the Edmonton Quilt Guild. They went to so much trouble to make the night special and I was overwhelmed to be a part of the celebration.

The Human Ecology department at the University of Alberta and the IQSCM have a lot in common. We both are devoted to the preservation and care of textiles and quilts, because we realize they have such rich stories to tell. We both take our mission seriously – to instill the same sense of delight we feel about marvelous textiles to future generations. Visit our websites, check out our exhibitions, read our publications – I promise you’ll be hooked too!

Additional Links:
International Quilt Study Center & Museum
University of Alberta Museums

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Fresh Look

If you have been to Quilt House during the past couple of months, then you already know that our main galleries have been closed for maintenance and repainting in advance of the grand opening of our new building expansion. The new expansion will double the size of our gallery and collections storage area and include a new digital gallery. We are excited about our museum's next phase, and we wanted to spruce up our existing space to make sure visitors have the best experience possible when they come this summer.

In December, our exhibitions team and volunteers removed the three exhibitions on display in our galleries. It left us with a lot of bare walls, which was a little sad, but also neat, because our galleries are truly beautiful.

During January, a painting crew painted the walls and ceiling. We decided to try a different shade of paint for our center gallery. In the past, we have typically displayed our quilts and pieces on white walls or fabric mounts. We wanted to see what our space would look like with some diversity.

And is it a big difference!

The center gallery currently features the exhibition Signature Cloths, guest-curated by Lynn Setterington, a UK artist who also created several of the pieces on display. This particular show features several white pieces, and they really pop against the darker walls.

Exhibitions team members and volunteers prepare to install Signature Cloths.

We are in the process of introducing new LED lights into our galleries. These LED lights are expected to last longer and produce less heat, which is important to us as we protect our collection and borrowed items while they are on display.

We also installed new lighting over the grand staircase, which can be seen from our front windows. These LEDs are also longer lasting and more energy efficient, which is important for our LEED-certified building.

And the building looks gorgeous.

Thank you to Sampson Construction for coordinating all of these efforts. We are so lucky to have such a great place to house and share our collection.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

How Can You Mend a Broken Heart

By Jonathan Gregory
Assistant Curator of Exhibitions

I’ve been thinking how to describe what “Making & Mending: Quilts for Causes and Commemoration,” the International Quilt Study Center & Museum’s seventh biennial symposium, April 16-18, is really about.

There’s this Bee Gees’ 1971 hit, How Can You Mend a Broken Heart? It goes like this:
“How can you mend a broken heart?
How can you stop the rain from falling down?
How can you stop the sun from shining?
What makes the world go round?” 
I wouldn’t want to stop the rain and sun both, but I guess the idea is that you can fix a broken heart about as easily as stopping either. Like, never. Pretty sad.

It’s true, some things will always stay broken. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t try to mend the ripped-up stuff in our world, or at least try to give some support to those who suffer from the consequences.

That’s kind of what “mending” in the symposium title is talking about.

Madison Township Memorial of the World War
Alice J. Hedderich, circa 1918
Madison Township, Clinton County, Indiana
IQSCM 2012.032.0002
Acquisition made possible by Robert & Ardis James Fund
Alice Hedderich did some local mending during World War I. She appliqu├ęd blue stars to honor male soldiers from her township in Indiana who served in World War I, gold stars to remember the soldiers who fought and died, and red crosses, probably to represent Red Cross nurses who served. It’s impossible to bring back a soldier who died, but on her quilt that soldier still has a physical place in this world. A bit of bright gold to say this one lived and sacrificed himself, and that says to the soldiers’ family and community, “We Remember.”

Mending in the needle-and-thread sense isn’t something that we know as much about, these days. If I lose a button on a shirt, the shirt stays in the closet and eventually ends up pushed to the back and then goes to the Salvation Army. Have you heard of a darning egg? Well, I’ve seen one, and it is an egg-shaped hard object. If I had a hole in the sole of my sock, I could put the darning egg down inside the sock to give me something hard to push my needle against as I gathered up and closed the edges of the hole with thread. Brilliant really. Women used to keep them in their sewing baskets, but now I see them mostly in antique stores.

But sewing up holes in things is the right idea. Mending doesn’t undo the damage, but it can make the shirt or sole—or soul in the case of those who suffer—somewhat functional again. It restores a semblance of wholeness and normalcy.

Space is still available for symposium. Register today online.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Creating Worldwide Connections

Leslie with past and present International Advisory Board
members Victoria Findlay Wolfe, left, and Gul Laporte, right.

By Leslie Levy
Ardis and Robert James Executive Director of Quilt House

In a conversation with Carolyn Ducey, the International Quilt Study Center & Museum's curator of collections, I heard her say, "...I travel the world with quilts..."

It's true. One of the tremendous joys of being the executive director of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum is meeting and working with wonderful people from around the globe.

Here at QuiltCon, I have had the opportunity to meet people from England, Australia, and Canada; the furthest attendees came from India. I have had a chance to hang out with current and former IQSCM International Advisory Board members from Italy and France.

Carolyn and Leslie with
Alex Veronelli, IAB member.

And there is no shortage of new friends from across the United States: Colorado, Utah, New York, California, Texas (of course!), Nebraska, Minnesota, and the list goes on... literally. There are quilters from 48 states and 15 countries at QuiltCon--that is impressive!  I was also struck by the young demographic of the attendees and that the workshops were sold out illustrating a definite energy, enthusiasm and commitment for the modern quilting movement.

Leslie with past and present IAB members Brenda Groelz and Gul  Laporte.

It doesn't matter where we travel to or from, when we meet other quilters or industry experts, there is an immediate bond. (It also helps that quilters have their own language... can you say: charm pack, jelly roll, fat quarters and honey comb?).

Leslie with Bill Volckening and Shelly Zegart.

For more visit the Modern Quilt Guild's blog and read our post from yesterday.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Greetings from Austin

By Carolyn Ducey
Curator of Exhibitions

Hello from QuiltCon, in Austin Texas!

Wow, Day One has my head spinning. Yesterday morning we went to the presentation of awards. It was so much fun seeing the winners reactions--jumping up and down, screaming, even crying. They were so happy and proud. It was inspiring, but I'm afraid after seeing the quilt made by Mollie McMahon, a 9-year-old Australian girl, the winner of the Youth category, I'm also really intimidated. Her piece is definitely on my list of favorites.

Next we toured the quilt exhibition. International Quilt Study Center & Museum Executive Director Leslie Levy and I wandered for hours checking out all of the amazing new work done by the members of the Modern Quilt Guild.

Here's Leslie looking at one of the
quilts in the exhbition.

I love the Guild's approach to quiltmaking--simple dynamic shapes, bold new colors, and adaptations of traditional patterns. Its fresh and exciting.

And, I learned something new... Have any of you heard of matchstick quilting? It's closely stitched vertical quilting that gives a heavy textural finish to a quilt... love it! (Jazz hands! That's an inside joke for our fellow attendees.)

I'm looking forward to seeing lots of old friends and going to exciting lectures and workshops for the next few days. And I hate to tell you, all my dear quilt friends stuck in the winter weather, it's sunny, warm and welcoming--70 fabulous degrees today. I'll be back soon, suffering with you, but for now, it's friends, fun and sun (and some work, really!).

I love the places the IQSCM's quilts take us!

You can read another recap of the first day on the Modern Quilt Guild's blog here.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The IQSCM Returns to India

By Marin Hanson
Curator of Exhibitions

My knowledge of India is, for better or worse, focused in large part on two things: textiles and Hindi language cinema, aka Bollywood.

As far as textiles go, learning about and coming to deeply appreciate Indian quilts has been a highlight of my work at IQSCM. Collecting and researching quilts from India gave me the opportunity to not only go there for the first time in 2009 but also to help curate an exhibition on South Asian quilts in 2010.

Our Indian collection includes nearly 100 pieces from Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and West Bengal, among other states, and it reveals the amazing diversity of Indian textile traditions. Complex embroidery, applique, patchwork, and quilting are all represented and each style is unique to its region, with colors, motifs, and formats changing from place to place. This fantastic piece features hundreds of strips of fabric taken from used clothing -- upcycling at its best!

Gudari from Maharashtra, India -- gift of Geeta Khandelwal, IQSCM 2009.049.0007

And this quilt, despite its simple color palette, is complex in its imagery, intricately depicting animals, people and plants of the Bengal region.

Kantha from West Bengal, India -- IQSCM 2006.039.0002

As for Bollywood, I don't think it was a coincidence that as we were building our Indian quilt collection, I also developed a minor obsession with Hindi language cinema. The music, the dancing, and the melodrama--all of it appeals to me.

Raj Kapoor, Nargis, and me.
And in some ways, the colorful nature of Bollywood movies relates to the exuberance of Indian quilts. The energy and playfulness of songs like "Mehndi Laga Ke Rakhna," which features Bollywood superstars Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol in an engagement party scene, parallel the vibrancy and boldness of many Indian quilts.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to be able to return to India. Leslie Levy, IQSCM executive director, and I went to Mumbai to attend an exhibition of quilts from the collection of Geeta Khandelwal, businesswoman, author, quiltmaker, and former member of the IQSCM International Advisory Board. The event also celebrated the book launch for Geeta's Godharis of Maharashtra, Western India.

Geeta Khandelwal with her book,
Godharis of Maharashtra, Western India
It was wonderful to see our old friend, Geeta, and to make many new friends as well, like the Patils of Connecticut.

Vijay Patil, me, Leslie Levy, Geeta Khandelwal, Lata Patil
I was also pleased and honored to be asked to give a lecture, "Quilts in Common: Quiltmaking Around the World and Across the Centuries," at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (formerly the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India). I had a full and appreciative audience, all of whom enjoyed the beauty and history of quilts from a range of times and places.

Our trip was such a success that I think it means only one thing: we must go back to India soon . . . .

. . . . if only for the beautiful tile floors :)