Yesterday I posted pictures of a quilt top that I said reminded me of a Gee’s bend Quilt
here is the top again
Here is what Wikipedia has to say about Gee’s Bend Quilts:
Calvin Trillin devoted a 1969 The New Yorker piece to the opening of the community’s new sewing center, paid for with quilting bee revenues. In 1983, an exhibit in Birmingham sponsored by the Alabama Humanities Foundation included several of Rothstein’s photographs of Gee’s Bend, and an oral history project at the Birmingham Public Library sent new researchers and a photographer to document a new generation of residents. Nevertheless the residents themselves have expressed some doubt that the attention they have received has improved their lot in life. In 1985, local historian Kathryn Tucker Windham reported: “They say, ‘Ain’t nothing ever happened.’”
And then in 2002, an exhibition of their art work opened at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, organized by the Tinwood Alliance and everything changed. The show went to the Whitney Museum in New York City and their art was hailed as “some of the most miraculous work of art America has produced.” The show subsequently traveled to numerous other museums and the women have found gallery representation for their art. In June 2006, a second exhibition of quilts opened at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, also organized by the Tinwood Alliance, called “Gee’s Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt.” It traveled to seven additional museums, including the Smithsonian, the final stop of the nationwide tour was the Philadelphia Museum of Art at the end of 2008. Many of the quilt makers have become well known and have traveled extensively to talk about their community and their art. Many now have real incomes for the first time and their work, and its success, has helped to reunite and revive a dying community. In August 2006, the United States Postal Service released a sheet of ten commemorative stamps bearing images of Gee’s Bend quilts sewn between c.1940 and 2001.
I mentioned that I was not sure about the quilting style that would be the most appropriate. I had never seen a gee’s Bend quilt up close and personal.
Bill Volckening, who sold me the quilt top, also happens to own a Gee’s Bend Quilt made by Lucy Mingo, and suggested that looking at the quilting on that quilt would be a good idea to get a feel for the approach to quilting this one.. The quilt is called Bible Story and Bill has provided these pictures of the quilt.
He has written about the quilt on His blog Wonkyworld and here are a few of the posts
And a brief bit on Lucy Mingo
“You know, we had hard times. We worked in the fields, we picked cotton, and sometimes we had it and sometimes we didn’t. And so you look at your quilt and you say, “This is some of the old clothes that I wore in the fields. I wore them out, but they’re still doing good. ”—Lucy Mingo
Born in Rehoboth, a settlement just north of Gee’s Bend, Lucy Mingo grew up picking crops, cooking for her family, and walking four miles to and from school each day. Her father worked as a longshoreman in Mobile. Mingo married her husband, David, in 1949, and together they raised ten children. In 1965, she joined Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on a march to Selma and also bravely registered to vote in Camden, Alabama, with other residents of Gee’s Bend. In 2006, Mingo and her daughter, Polly Raymond, received a Folk Arts Apprenticeship grant, given by the Alabama State Council on the Arts, which matches master artists with apprentices. The grant covered the costs of Mingo teaching her daughter how to quilt.
When I was relatively new to quilting, and just beginning to learn a bit about quilt history I was not sure what to make of quilts like these. It seemed as if they didn’t know how to make a quilt “the right way”. I don’t think that any more…there is no “right way”! There is your way, and when you make a quilt your way it becomes an individual expression, and that is what makes a quilt into art.
When I work on quilting a vintage or antique quilt top I am often tempted to try to make it perfect, but I try to remember that I am finishing up the expression of a quilter from the past. I don’t want to totally wipe out their artistic contribution to the quilt, I want to bring it to completion in a way that I hope they would approve of.
I can’t wait to get started!