Friday, August 31, 2012

Two Snake Trail Fans Quilts

I have this pile of quilts that I like to think of as the "should I stay or should I go" pile. Every so often I go through it, and some days I think I should sell the whole pile. Other days I can't bear to part with any of them. This Snake Trail Fans quilt was in the pile. It came from an eBay seller in Tennessee, who thought it was from New England. The seller also thought it had been made between 1850 and 1870, so it's hard to say what the seller really knew.

I think it's an early 20th century Southern "utility" quilt, although my friend Teddy Pruett says it's better than that. The colors might suggest it's late 19th century, but the size, construction, and quilting may indicate otherwise. It is 64" x 74", echo quilted in rows separated by 1/2" to 3/4", and the fan fabrics all have a sheen, as if they were glazed. These fabrics also have stripes, like ticking, and the back is flannel. There is a decorative feather stitch running along the edges of the fans. It looks like it was done with a machine because it is anchored to an even running stitch. Very unusual!

There is another pile of quilts in the same storage space, and it's quilts that are unquestionably keepers, but I don't always know what I'm doing with them. One of these is another Snake Trail Fans, made in the last quarter of the 19th century in the Eastern United States, possibly Pennsylvania.

I call this quilt a keeper for several reasons. First, it came to me from Shelly Zegart's personal collection and was once displayed in her New York apartment, as pictured in an article published in Country Living Magazine.

The quilt was offered in an eBay benefit auction for the Alliance for American Quilts, and I always felt I'd gotten a bargain. Recently, it was examined by an appraiser for the first time, and I'm waiting to find out just how much of a bargain I got.

People go nuts over this quilt. I love everything about it, and you could say it has all the bells and whistles. It has fine, challis fabrics, an eye-catching combination of colors, wonderful embroidery, and is clearly informed by the Pennsylvania German decorative and folk arts. And just as I said about the silk Diamonds in yesterday's blog, this quilt is iconic.

Both quilts are truly amazing, but it's probably a little selfish to keep two when one would suffice. So I'm selling the one with the black background and all the echo quilting. There are already three people who've expressed an interest in it, so I'm sure it'll find a good home soon!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Why Quilts Matter: Quilts and Art History

The latest "Why Quilts Matter" guest blog is now posted, and the topic is Quilts and Art History. It's a topic that's near and dear, because I first started learning about quilts when I was enrolled in art school. However, art history curriculum didn't include quilts.

To accompany the blog, I chose this wonderful Diamonds quilt from the 1890s, one of my personal favorites. This stained glass window made of silk is an iconic, memorable image- and isn't art history built around iconic, memorable images?

Art history should include quilts- quilts like this! It's a masterpiece. When thinking of Victorian quilts and quilt history, it comes easily to mind. It's a remarkably good example of the Victorian obsession with embellishment and detail. And even though it is far more structured than most quilts of the period, it is no less obsessive. A rare, but representative example.

How do we even begin to address the inclusion of quilts in art history? To read my take on the subject, click here.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Stacked Bars, c. 1965, Texas

This wonderful Stacked Bars quilt arrived on my doorstep today. The quilt was made in the 1960s and came from an eBay seller in Texas. In the description, it was called an African American quilt, "Crooked Cemetery Rows" pattern. Since there is no maker's information, I'm calling it an improvisational Stacked Bars utility quilt.

The quilt includes a variety of double-knit polyester fabrics, and cotton/polyester blends. My favorite is the green fabric with the daisy print. I also love the orange and white double-knit with critters that look like pigs and hippos a la Space Invaders.

The quilt is tied, and the binding is rolled from back to front. Because the back is pieced, so is the binding. It has great vertical movement because of the stacks of bars, and also some horizontal movement with the wavy placement of the bars. I posted a picture of it on Facebook, and it triggered a lot of discussion. A fun quilt- hope you've enjoyed it!!

Book Collection- New Additions

I love collecting quilt books almost as much as I love collecting quilts, and in the last week I added four books after finding one book on eBay and three others at Powell's. "Cloth & Comfort: Pieces of Women's LIves from Their Quilts and Diaries" by Roderick Kiracofe is (I think) the only one of his books that I didn't have. So, I was delighted to find it at Powell's, used but in perfect condition. It's a lovely little book, and I can't wait to sit down and read it!

I found two other books at Powell's - "Treasury of American Quilts" by Cyril Nelson and Carter Houck, and "Erica Wilson's Quilts of America" featuring winning techniques and patterns from the Great Quilt Contest, published in 1979. "Treasury of American Quilts" is one of those classic quilt books, full of amazing examples. I'm particularly struck by how quilts by artists such as Nancy Crow and Molly Upton appear side by side with quilts from the early 1800s - and it makes sense!

The fourth book came from eBay, and I hadn't seen it before, so I grabbed it. The book is called "Kentucky Quilts and Their Makers" by Mary Washington Clarke, and it was published in 1976 - a few years before the Kentucky Quilt Project was launched.

I'd never realized there had been an effort to publish a book about Kentucky quilts before their state documentation. It's been really interesting looking through it, seeing what Clarke discovered, and seeing how it overlapped with the state quilt documentation. There is just one reference to the New York Beauty that I found. More about that later...

So, those are the latest additions to my book collection. At this point I've lost count of how many quilt books I've got. It must be well over 100, possibly closer to 200. What are your favorite quilt books, and which ones have you purchased recently?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

"Changing the World" Exhibit Catalog

I'm having an exhibit of quilts from the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative (AAQI) at Anne Amie Vineyards, September 1st through October 31st, and I thought it would be fun to offer something printed to accompany the show. So, I put together a 20-page catalog with pictures of all 15 quilts in the exhibit, and an introduction about how I got started collecting AAQI quilts. The self-published, full-color catalog is available through Blurb, and is also available as an eBook for iPad. To preview or purchase, click here.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Lecture at the Pacific West Quilt Show

Today's lecture at the Pacific West Quilt Show went well. I was happy to see many familiar faces in the audience, and there were lots of great questions. The subject was the New York Beauty quilts, and I mixed up the line-up a bit. It's always difficult limiting the number of quilts I bring for this lecture since I've got 50 of them. Something great always stays at home. But I was happy with the group of quilts I brought, and I think the audience was, too. Here's what we looked at.

This damaged quilt from the 1870s is one I don't always bring, but I'd posted it on Facebook recently, and was thinking about it. When I bought this quilt, I had decided to collect every New York Beauty I could get my hands on, regardless of condition. It resulted in a collection that even astounds me sometimes.

This quilt top from the 1960s is another piece I don't always bring, but I wanted something to represent the period between the mid 1940s and the Bicentennial

I told the life story of this pattern with twelve quilts and one top, and the lecture was a good warm-up for the AQSG Seminar in Lincoln this October, when I will show a significantly larger group of quilts over a two-hour period. Should be fun!! Thank you to all the folks from the Pacific West Quilt Show. I enjoyed myself, and hope to return in the future. Special thanks to everyone who came to the lecture. It was a fun afternoon!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

More Quilts Arriving Soon!

Bars, c. 1960-1970, Texas
My quilt buying season got started a few weeks early when I spotted some fun vintage quilts on eBay. The quilts of the 60s and 70s are still holding my attention, and so are the ones made from double-knit polyester. This wonderful Bars quilt comes from Texas. The seller had a very creative description of it, but I prefer to stick with what I can verify. It's basically a Southern, improvisational utility quilt.

The next quilt is a Streak of Lightning, also Zig-Zag and Bricks. It was most likely made in the 1970s and comes from Indiana. There's something especially pleasing about the color combination in this quilt. I will probably display it vertically rather than horizontally. Appears to be all double-knit polyester!

The third and final quilt I'll share today is a simple 9-patch, also made with a variety of double-knit polyester fabrics. It may be a bit earlier, maybe 50s or 60s, and it comes from Texas. I like how some blocks have strong colors while others are very soft and subtle.

So, that's what's been catching my eye on eBay lately. Hope you enjoyed. Will post more pictures when the quilts arrive. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

On Deck: Friday Lecture at the Pacific West Quilt Show

This Friday, August 24th from 1-2pm, I will be giving a lecture at the Pacific West Quilt Show in Tacoma. It's my first time attending the show, and I'm planning to bring along some wonderful quilts. Here are just a few...


As you can probably see, I'm doing my New York Beauty lecture. It's a fun talk. We get to look at quilt history from 1850 to today, as seen through one incredible quilt pattern. I'll have several more quilts with me, and an hour to share as many as I possibly can. People just love this talk.

I'm also going to bring along three more quilts to share with the appraisers at the show, but I'm still deciding what to bring. I've heard a lot of great things about this show, so I'm very much looking forward to it!! For more information about the Pacific West Quilt Show, click here.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Random Art Moment: Aquarium

Top section of Aquarium, 2012
We had a heat wave in Portland during the week. Triple digits for the first time in a long time, and even though I have air conditioning, it still got warm upstairs in the bedroom. It was hard to sleep. I had interesting dreams.

Aquarium, 2012
"Aquarium" came to me in a dream. The dream was black and white with a hint of blue. It was about an aquarium, how the aquarium was actually the body, and how the body was really one life. The aquarium was part of the cosmos, floating as one, ghostlike, but unconnected. Beyond that, hard to explain. Two years ago, I did a similar photomontage called "Zauberspiegel" and entered it in the annual Spooky Show at Lightbox Photographic gallery in Astoria.

Zauberspiegel, 2010 

I'm thinking about entering "Aquarium" it in this year's show - it's the fourth annual, and I participated in the first two but missed last year. It would be fun to go back. I love Astoria, and Lightbox is really a neat gallery. It would also be nice to see what "Aquarium" looks like as a finished piece, hanging in a gallery. That is, assuming it's accepted. The "Spooky Show" will have its first guest juror this year, and the show has steadily drawn photographers from around the world. So, I guess I'll print it if it gets accepted. Otherwise, it might just exist as part of the cosmos, like the idea, itself. 

Anyway, here are a few details of "Aquarium".