Monday, March 30, 2015

Ten Most Amazing Discoveries

one of my ten most amazing discoveries, now part of a museum collection
The other night I was catching up with a friend from college. We had kept in touch loosely over the years, but the last time was probably six years ago. Like most other people, she had no previous knowledge of my interest in quilts and was surprised by it. There is no way to explain the whole quilt thing in a quick, late-nite Facebook chat, so I shared a few of the quilts. Later, I thought it would be fun to do a blog post about the incredible objects I have discovered, so without further delay, here are ten of my most amazing discoveries.

the second of two Willow Tree Quilts, c. 1815
10) The Willow Tree Quilts: These two incredible all-white, stuffed work quilts from the first quarter of the 19th century share the same central motif, a large weeping willow tree. The two quilts came up at auction almost a year apart, but they were from one collector who got both quilts from one dealer. Both quilts were auctioned by Skinner. I wrote about the first quilt in a guest blog for "Why Quilts Matter, History, Art & Politics" where you can read all about it.

the "Start the Car" quilt, c. 1860
9) Floral Six-Block Appliqué: In April 2014, I walked into an antique shop in the Sellwood district of Portland expecting the usual-- no quilts I would consider buying. When I saw this masterpiece Civil War era, six-block floral appliqué quilt folded up in a nook close to the floor, I could not believe my eyes. "Start the car" is what you say to antique shopping accomplices whenever you find a phenomenal bargain and want to make a quick getaway. To read more about it, click here.

Tile Blocks c. 1975, Louisiana
8) Tile Blocks: Three years into collecting 1970s quilts, I found the most monumental example of polyester patchwork I have ever seen. This polyester top came from an eBay seller in Louisiana. I bought it in October 2013, and later had it backed for display. It has appeared in Quilters Newsletter and Patchwork Professional (Germany), and was exhibited at QuiltCon 2015 in Austin, Texas.

Tilton Family Quilt, c. 1840, Burlington County, NJ
7) The Tilton Family Quilt: This spectacular quilt from Burlington County, New Jersey has over 7000 pieces and a piped, 1/16th-inch edge finish. I found it on eBay around 2008 or 2009. The name Araminta Tilton is stamped on the reverse side in all four corners. She is thought to be the owner of the quilt but probably not the maker. My family lived in Burlington County for many years, and it was wonderful to find a quilt from the area.

pieced quilt, c. 1870, Virginia
6) 1870s pieced quilt from Virginia: This quilt was not a bargain, but it was also worth a lot more than I paid for it. I found it on eBay from a seller in Virginia in 2004, and it is one of the best quilts I have ever found on eBay. A stunning example of precision piecing, in excellent condition, with pencil markings still visible; the zigzag borders are very unusual. It is one of 70 quilts in my new book.

pieced quilt, c. 1800, Rhode Island

5) c. 1800 Rhode Island pieced quilt: In March 2011, the sniper bid heard round the world went down on eBay, when this extraordinary quilt jumped from under $800 to over $5000 in the last ten seconds of the auction. I meant business, and it was worth every cent. It was a once-in-a-lifetime find, among the very earliest American pieced quilts. To read more about it, click here.

4) "Wild Thing": In 2010 I discovered my first 1970s quilt. Less than five years later, I have more than 100 of the 1970s quilts, and the collection has gained a lot of attention of late. This quilt traveled to Ireland for a special exhibit at the International Quilt Festival of Ireland, and was also exhibited at QuiltCon 2015. To read more about the quilt, click here.

"Night Flight" by Andrea Balosky, 1982
3) Night Flight: In 2010, a woman came to the Oregon Quilt Project booth at Sisters wanting to find a home for a very special quilt. The quilt was Night Flight, which was included in Quilt National 1983, and the woman was Andrea Balosky, known as Andrea Leong Scadden when she made the quilt. After learning more about Andrea and her quilts, I curated my first exhibition of her quilts at Latimer Quilt & Textile Center. Currently I have nine of her quilts and some "studio droppings" in my collection. To read more, click here.

Bible Story by Lucy Mingo, Gee's Bend, Alabama  1979
2) Bible Story by Lucy Mingo: From the moment I first saw The Quilts of Gee's Bend at the Whitney in 2002, I wanted a Gee's Bend quilt. In 2010, I had my opportunity, and what an extraordinary story it was. To read more about it, click here.

a national treasure, now part of the collection at the DAR Museum
1) Chintz Medallion by Achsah Goodwin Wilkins: On September 12th, 2012, I received an auction alert about a "Broderie Perse Bedspread" at Skinner, just after visiting with a friend and saying how much I wanted to find an example of chintz appliqué. I quickly signed up to bid on the auction, which was already in progress, and less than an hour later the lot came up. I won the auction, and hoped it would be something good. It turned out to be a national treasure. To read more about it click here.

So, these are ten of my most amazing discoveries. I've had good luck with quilts, maybe "an eye" for them, and was always intrigued by them. It's funny to think of the time when nobody knew about the quilts. It really wasn't that long ago.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

book sightings

Barbara Black spotted the book at Quilt Festival in Chicago this weekend
"New York Beauty, Quilts from the Volckening Collection" is officially out and available for sale. There were some sightings over the weekend. Facebook friend Barbara Black spotted a copy at the Quilt Festival in Chicago. I could tell someone had been peeking at it...the paper sleeve was on backwards and slightly skewed. (haha! busted!!) Thank you, Barbara, for the photo.

Abbey, Chris Turner's beautiful Dalmatian approved of the book

"...the quilts clearly had 
their own agenda." 

Chris Turner, who recently made the stunning small-scale quilt inspired by one of the quilts in the book, posted a photo after receiving her copy in the mail. Her quilt was completed after the book was done, but it is now part of the collection and will be displayed in France. When her copy of the book arrived, Abbey the Dalmatian gave it the paws-up. It was wonderful to hear Chris's reaction. Rather than savoring it, she said she was "devouring" it. Thank you, Chris!

Chris Turner's amazing quilt will be on display in Nantes
The cover creates a sense of excitement about opening the book. Being a very visual person, I was initially unsure how I would feel about the design, solid red with black type when the paper sleeve is removed. It was a very bold choice for a book brimming with intensely detailed photographs, and that's exactly what I love about it. Very few quilt books could pull that off, but I think this one does.

Capper's Weekly Springtime in the Rockies, detail of edge finish

The thing that makes the book special is it's approach to quilt description. Being factual and unromantic was a purposeful choice. During my 25 years collecting and handling these quilts, I heard all kinds of interesting tales about the origins of the New York Beauty quilt design. The regionalist folklore had to make me wonder, but the quilts clearly had their own agenda.

It was just a matter of paying close attention, and that's the funny thing about quilts. They have voices of their own. If you think about it, the same premise is offered in Barbara Brackman's seminal book, "Clues in the Calico, A Guide to Identifying and Dating Antique Quilts", published in 1989, the year I bought my first quilt. Each quilt has clues, and to be a good detective it is important to look at the clues and understand what they mean. These clues are the quilt's true voice.

"New York Beauty, Quilts from the Volckening Collection" is published by Quiltmania. The book includes more than 300 pages, it is bilingual in English and French, with detailed descriptions and photos of 70 quilts made between 1850 and present day. To learn more about the book and see a preview, click here.

Six Sage Owls

Saturday, March 28, 2015

eBay find from New Mexico

I was looking around on eBay and came across this wonderful raw-edge appliqué, tied quilt from a seller in New Mexico. The quilt is 62" x 87" and is made of a nice selection of polyester double knit fabrics. Each block is a rectangle with a circle machine stitched down, and each circle is tied in the center with black yarn. From a distance, the circles look like buttons...but the button I clicked was "Buy It Now" - for under $30, I couldn't really go wrong.

Six Sassy Owls

Friday, March 27, 2015

Next Stop, Nantes!

It's been a great year, so far. I have done two web seminars, special exhibits and lectures at QuiltCon and Airing of the Quilts, and published an article about the 1970s quilts in Quilters Newsletter Magazine. But I am especially thrilled about the next stop on the Magical Mystery Tour-- Nantes, France. In just a few weeks I will be at Pour l'Amour du Fil with my mother and my best friend from high school, exhibiting 50 quilts from my New York Beauty Collection and launching my new book, "New York Beauty, Quilts from the Volckening Collection" (Quiltmania). We will soon be seeing much more of the 1860s quilt from Kentucky (pictured) and many others. Stay tuned...

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Throwback Thursday, 2010: Welcome to Wonkyworld

I made the denim quilt top that is my blog wallpaper
I started blogging around 2008-2009, but in 2010 I started using Google Blogger. Friends told me about it, and Blogger seemed to resolve some of the technical issues I had using the blog template from iWeb. It also offered a way to reach more people.

I decided to call the blog Wonkyworld, and the first post was on October 5th, 2010. I was just testing the waters, but soon switched over to Blogger permanently. Hard to believe it's been 4 & 1/2 years and almost 600,000 page views since launching this blog.

1840s "Sprigs of Laurel Medallion" from Baltimore
The first quilt that appeared on Wonkyworld was this 1840s "Sprigs of Laurel" Medallion from Baltimore. This quilt came from a thrilling eBay auction on October 16th, 2007, when I entered a sniper bid in the last moments and outbid the other bidder. When my first Wonkyworld blog post was published, I had just discovered the identity of the other bidder, who saw the quilt on my blog.

2011 exhibition at Benton County Museum - my first!
Much has happened since 2010, a world of opportunity- museum exhibitions, magazine publications, web seminars, lectures, appraisals, I started making quilts, and my first book is coming out any day now. Before Wonkyworld, I'm not sure if any of these things would have been possible.

block, sash and cornerstones from the MacMillan Family Quilt, 1868, KY
Starting a blog was a way of sharing the quilts I collected for the previous 20 years-- and sharing the quilts was really all I ever wanted to do. Before blogging, hardly anyone knew about my collection.

two rare, 18th century resist quilts "just hanging out"
Wonkyworld is my journal, the diary of a 21st century quilt collector, and readers have been able to watch the whole journey unfolding. That's the thing about this blog. Until recently, collectors' activities have been mostly private.

Patchwork Professional Magazine, Germany
You couldn't read much about the incredible bargain finds and all the things it takes to build and share a collection. Exhibitions and publications just appeared magically, and the only people who saw what went into those efforts were the ones working behind the scenes. The process was gradually demystified when it became the subject of an ongoing series of blog posts, and it was something that made me unique.

Photoshopping a quilt, a 1990s school project from Macon, Georgia
Process is a popular subject among the thousands of great quilt blogs, but most are related to construction, technique, and making quilts. This blog is more about the thrill of the hunt, buying and sometimes selling, antique, vintage and new; photographing quilts and studying them; it is about washing, conserving and storing quilts, preparing them for exhibitions, donating them, and all the amazing discoveries along the way.

at QuiltCon, February 2015
Most of all, Wonkyworld is about revealing my process as a collector. When I started the blog, sharing my quilt-related activities seemed like the natural thing to do, but in hindsight, it was really something new. So, today I thank the readers for 4 & 1/2 great years and close to 600,000 page views. I hope you'll keep reading along. There's always something interesting going on at Wonkyworld.