Friday, June 22, 2018

My Favorite Things: Originality

About 20 years ago, I found a new way to look at a lot of quilts in a short period of time. The best part about it was the quilts were all for sale. I was browsing through the auctions on eBay, spending many hours scrolling through photos of quilts and quilt related items for sale.

1840s pieced and appliqued quilt from Baltimore.
Seeing the quilts in rapid-fire mode helped me learn which ones stood out. There were hundreds of pastel-colored quilts in familiar patterns such as Dresden Plate, Double Wedding Ring, Grandmother's Flower Garden and Sunbonnet Sue. I was looking for something different, not the same quilts everyone else had.

Pennsylvania Hexagon Pictorial, c. 1900
Seek and you shall find! I love the head-turners, oddballs and quirkies. My favorite question is "what was the maker thinking?" The more unusual it is, the better.

1890s pieced quilt made of silks
I love a technical masterwork as much as other collectors, but there has to be something more. It could be a one-of-a-kind original design, or it could be a new way of thinking about a traditional design. It could also be far from perfect. Originality was much more important to me than technical mastery.

1920s pieced quilt with fans, New York
early 20th century velvet crazy quilt
There is nothing quite like the excitement of finding the one quilt that really jumps off the page...or off the computer screen. With tens of thousands of quilts up for auction at any given time, you can do a lot of looking on eBay and other auction and sale sites.

1930s pictorial quilt, Ohio
I did a fair amount of buying, some selling, and a lot of looking. It was an important formative experience, eventually leading to more focused collecting and research. It was really a good lesson in originality. After looking at thousands of quilts every day for decades, the most indelible quilts were the most original ones.

1 comment:

  1. eBay is an amazing resource, like the world's largest flea market. I buy almost all my fabric there, and I've also learned to look for the lots that stand out. There's a metric ton of (often dull) fabric being sold out of Grandmas' estates, but every once in a while I find a whole stash that makes my heart sing and my pocketbook happy.