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 :)