Thursday, August 11, 2011

Beauty Secrets: Maverick

What is a "Maverick" quilt? Julie Silber, in a recent interview with Pat Sloan said, "Well, I think I made it up...and it was, believe me, way before the last election. So it has nothing to do with any politicians. They're just oddball, eccentric, idiosyncratic quilts. They tend to be based on traditional designs and traditional formats and then they have a very personal twist to them that really makes them memorable."

This 1940's quilt is definitely a maverick, and coincidentally, I bought it from Julie Silber, who had it listed on eBay in February, 2007. It is based on the New York Beauty design, and has elements of the traditional design but is a huge departure from any other New York Beauty I've ever seen. Although the red, white, and green color scheme and spiky arches wedged in the inside corners of the blocks could be considered traditional, that's where all similarities end.

According to the auction listing, the quilt came from an African-American estate in East Texas and was made by "Auntie" - but that's about all we know. Regardless of the race of the maker, the quilt was made by a very free-spirited individual - someone who may have known about tradition but was not bound by it. The blocks don't line up, the number and quality of the points is not consistent, and the sashing is boldly rendered with roughly placed, wide strips of green and white fabric.

It's the kind of quilt that astonishes and perplexes a lot of quiltmakers. It makes you scratch your head and wonder, "Why did she do that? How did she do that?" Even though it's beyond quirky and not particularly well crafted, it's always a viewers' favorite whenever I show it. Even traditionalists who don't particularly care for Gee's Bend quilts love this one. I think it's because the quilt is so human. It's far from perfect, just like most people - but unlike a lot of us, it seems to celebrate and embrace its flaws.

This quilt is currently on display at the Benton County Museum in Philomath, Oregon, as part of "Beauty Secrets: 150 Years of History in One Quilt Pattern" through October 1st. The exhibit is part of Quilt County, a biennial, countywide celebration of quilts. An 80-page, full-color printed catalog is available in limited numbers at the museum, and online through Blurb. To preview or purchase the catalog, click here.

1 comment:

  1. What a fun quilt! Right up my alley so to speak...a real humble quilt;)