Tuesday, June 6, 2017

the orange rug

When I saw the orange rug in the installation of my exhibition, "Off the Grid, The Bill Volckening Collection" at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, I thought, "How did they know??"


I'll tell you a little story...

The Peddie School in Hightstown, New Jersey is my high school alma mater. When I tell my West Coast friends about going to a "boarding school" they usually try to offer a few consoling words. Their idea of a boarding school is a home for wayward youth and juvenile delinquents.

I laugh first, explain later.

Peddie is an East Coast prep school, one of the top ten endowed prep schools in the United States. A $100 million dollar gift from Walter Annenberg, Class of 1927, boosted the school's endowment several years ago. Kids who attend Peddie are incredibly fortunate. Boarding student tuition for one year, 2016-2017, was $56,100. Not exactly a place to send kids for poor behavior.

So, now that we've cleared that up...

My senior year roommate in 1983-1984 was a guy from Elyria, Ohio named Tom Sabga. At the beginning of the school year we barely knew each other. By the end of the year we were friends for life. We lived in a small house dorm on the edge of campus called Rivenburg, third floor, center room. It was a privilege to live in one of the small house dorms, usually reserved for upperclassmen.

F.A. Towne, longtime science professor was our dormmaster. He lived on the first floor and cooked breakfast for the boys on Thursdays, his day off. Tom and I lived on the top floor in the smallest room, but it was the coolest. We decorated the walls with hippie tapestries and had old upholstered armchairs. There were antique brass ship lamps among other tchotchkes, and an orange rug from Sears.

When Mom and I went to Sears to look for rugs before the school year, there wasn't much of a selection in our price range. We didn't have a lot of money. Even though I was going to Peddie, my maternal grandparents footed the bill for that. There was an orange rug, and that was about all, but I was lucky to have that. Bare floors wouldn't do!

Our room turned out to be the social headquarters of the dorm that year, and the orange rug saw a lot of shenanigans. By the end of the year, the poor rug was trashed. We probably didn't vacuum it all year. I think we sold it in a garage sale, but I'll never forget it.


Before the installation of my exhibition at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, I had no knowledge of the plan to include a rug and benches. As you can probably imagine, the installation photos with the orange rug made me very happy! Thank you to the museum curators and staff for an idea that was way more thoughtful than they could've ever known.


  1. I love the orange rug significance and how fitting to have an orange rug at your exhibition! And, I'm a West Coast gal and I always think prep school when I hear boarding school, but it's true: we really don't have prep schools out here. Your exhibit looks fantastic. Congratulations, Bill!

  2. What a great story! I love this so much. I knew the staff was amazing, but this kind of intuition is a superpower that's a complete surprise!

  3. Congratulations!! And what an interesting story about prep school!

  4. Thanks for sharing this story from your past - it's amazing how an object can open such tales about a person's history and current state!

  5. Your story made me smile--how serendipitous!