Friday, January 13, 2012

Why Quilts Matter

This late 19th century Pine Tree / Tree of Life quilt appears in the series
I feel a strong connection to "Why Quilts Matter: History, Art & Politics" - the nine-part documentary series exploring quilts, which has recently aired on PBS stations across the U.S. I'm a big fan of the subject, and creator Shelly Zegart, who sold me my first antique quilt. I made a contribution to support the production, my name (Bill Volckening) appears in the credits, and two quilts in my personal collection appear in the series.

The critically acclaimed series was recently recommended by Educational Media Reviews Online (ERMO), as reviewed by Winifred Fordham Metz of UNC at Chapel Hill, and Lori Widzinski at the University of Buffalo, State University of New York. An ERMO recommendation is a very big deal, but I'm not surprised knowing Shelly. If you don't know her, she's essentially a guru of antique quilts, and has done it all. Just google her!

So, one day last May, I received an e-mail from Shelly, who was frantically looking for a pieced quilt with a "humility block" - an obvious mistake - to illustrate the highly romanticized notion that quilters made intentional mistakes because only God was perfect.

As always, she knew just the right person to ask. The Pine Tree / Tree of Life quilt hanging on the wall just two steps away from me would work perfectly. It's in Episode 9: Quilt Scholarship: Romance and Reality. The other quilt, which popped up in another episode, is the quilt on the cover of my "Beauty Secrets" catalog. Apparently, Shelly had sold it to Susie Tompkins of Esprit in the early 1990s, but still had a picture of it.

This quilt also made a cameo in the series.
Naturally, I feel a strong connection to Why Quilts Matter, but starting this month I'll have another connection. I'll be doing guest blogs on the Why Quilts Matter web site. In fact, my first blog will also be the first guest blog. In the blog, I tell the story of my "eureka moment" - the moment back in 1989 when I first realized why quilts matter. It's no coincidence that Shelly Zegart was present that day. 


  1. Ok need to go find the Why Quilts Matter web site. On a side note, I had heard they might make this into a DVD series??? any truth to that??? or is it a tad early???? if they do sure hope it is close captioned as I don't hear and know there is a lot of information that will be mentioned.

  2. Just checked site - DVD is available NOW have emailed them to see if it is close captioned.... so maybe by heart day???

  3. Thanks for posting about why quilts matter to you personally. I love old quilts. Furthermore, while I understand why collectors appreciate quilts of the past, as do I, as an active quilt maker for almost 30 years, I can tell you with absolute certainty that an actual quilter would value the workmanship even more because he/she understands the process and the difficulty of some of the patterns. Just sayin' - for whatever it's worth! Patricia Cummings, E.G.A. certified master craftsman in quilting (2000)

  4. Being a quilter isn't necessarily a prerequisite for understanding and appreciating quality workmanship, but I think a lot of that depends on the individual. People like Shelly Zegart and Julie Silber have a deep understanding and appreciation of fine workmanship, but as far as I know, neither has ever made a quilt. Also, knowing how to make something does not necessarily prepare someone to know the cultural and art historical context of an object.