Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Where to?

In the midst of planning the first big showing of quilts from my collection - "Beauty Secrets: 150 years of History in One Quilt Pattern" at the Benton County Historical Museum next year, I'm starting to wonder where it all could lead.

Certainly, research and academic study is one direction, although I admit to having more of a right-brain response to quilts. When I started collecting, quilts were simply wonderful wall decor, works of art. I didn't have research projects in mind, but now realize research is appropriate. The American Quilt Study Group is what comes to mind when considering academic work. A good side project, I'm thinking, but maybe not the primary goal.

A book would be another option, and it's a good option. I'm working on a self-published book about this collection, and there will be two versions - one for visual presentation, and one that's more like a traditional show catalog. The visual book will be mostly for show proposals, and the catalog will accompany the show, and will be available online. 

"What would be most fulfilling thing to do?" I ask myself. Back when I was doing journalism and editing a magazine, I was communicating with as many as 50,000 people. That felt good at times, but I have a stronger feeling about these quilts. They deserve to be part of the quilt zeitgeist, but 50,000 people will not automatically receive the catalog like the readers of my old magazine.

The other problem is, when working with mostly one-of-a-kind antiques, the quilts have needs of their own, conservation and preservation first and foremost. After the show at the Benton County Historical Museum, I will consider a few select venues, in places I've always wanted to visit, places where I could also bring my mother. Several places come to mind.  

I wish the quilts would tell me where they wanted to go, but they seem to be leaving those decisions up to me. At the same time, I feel like I'm just along for the ride. The quilts may say, "Take us to a safe place, where we can be together and many people can enjoy us. Take us to a place where people will continue to learn about us, even after we've traveled far from there." They may be saying something else. I don't know yet. Whatever it is these quilts are trying to say to me, I've started to listen more carefully. 

So, where to?


  1. Bill, every time you post a new New York Beauty photo I remark to myself - Another one! - and I am always delighted and surpised to see the new variation, not just in the overall design but also in the fabric details and quilting (that pink spot matched with the blue is so sweet).
    The beauty of your collection, to me, is having brought together such a wide variety of quilts - a family of quilts.
    Whatever you do, I hope the quilts will continue to stay together, and that you continue to travel with them, write about them, and publish them - internet, print, whatever....

  2. Alice, there are now 29 in the collection, so it's getting to the point of being its own traveling show. We're just at the beginning, so buckle your seatbelt!

  3. I'd love to see them in person but Oregon is a bit far from Michigan. The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan would be a good site for your show. They own the Susan McCord quilts and do wonderful exhibits of them as well as other quilt collections.

  4. Your collection is wonderful. I hope you've talked to someone at AQS and/or Barbara Brackman. The answer will come.

  5. Karey Bresenhan (quilts.com) is opening a quilt museum in beautiful downtown La Grange, TX in fall 2011. Located half way between Austin and Houston, we're a town of about 5000. The restored buildings will have exposed brick walls and a railing around the 2nd floor gallery. I think it would be a perfect venue!

  6. Buon Giorno, Bill!

    Such confection. Iʻm having breakfast now, feeling like Holly Golightly, as I savor these wonderful quilts. Some kind of jewels.