Tuesday, March 30, 2010

New inspiration

News items about the recently opened quilt exhibition in London's V&A have been popping up everywhere lately. The exhibition even has it's own blog. I knew I wouldn't be able to visit in person before it closes this summer, so once I realized there was a new book out for the occasion, my finger didn't hover over the pre-order button on Amazon more than a few seconds before I pushed it firmly ;-) The book arrived a week ago, and I have been sneaking peeks all week, postponing the savouring of the book until I had enough time to really enjoy it. A few days off from work now seems the perfect opportunity to settle down with some choice books and a nice cup of tea.
I don't know if I have mentioned it here before (I know I keep doing so in a lot of comments I leave...), but I absolutely love the V&A! Ever since my first visit at 19 I have been enthralled by this treasure trove of crafts and art pieces. The textile collection in particular, so I just knew that this was I book I had to get. In fact, I believe that it was in the V&A I first saw patchwork and quilts in "real life" - if you can call exhibitions in a museum real life, that is.

I remember being particularily taken with this patchwork coverlet (ca 1860-70) on my first visit. Made of tiny pieces of dressmaker's silks it has a stunning 3D effect. What made it particularily endearing to me though, was that it seemed to have been worked at over a period of ten years, but it had not been finished, so you also got to see the construction: each little piece stitched around a carefully cut out piece of paper from a newspaper, complete with news, ads and all. The fact that the maker's relatives had seen enough value in this unfinished piece to think it worthy of a museum instead of throwing it out, was also very moving to me. I have made up lots of scenarios in my head about how this patchwork got to be made and by whom, and always made a point of seeking it out when it has been on display on my visits - like meeting up with an old friend. I'm looking forward to settling down with my new book over the next couple of days to see if I can learn more about it.
My book parcel contained another treasure, very different from the first one, although this too is about patchwork and quilting. I have long admired the work of Janet Bolton, and could hardly bring myself to leave her exibition at the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham a few years back. Her work has a certain naivite, a bit like folk art, yet at the same time they are sophisticated, creating emotions and waking memories in the viewer with simple lines and gentle curves. In this book she explains how she goes about creating her pictures. How she plans the designs and the techniques she uses to appliqué her little figures. I wish I had known more about this before I started my little picture, which I'll show tomorrow, but maybe
I'll pick up a few pointers for the next one, although I daresay I'll never make anything quite like a Janet Bolton piece. But that's not the point, though, is it? I have my own journey to travel and my work will be my own. But learning new skills is never a waste of time. And looking at pretty pictures nourishes the soul. Aren't her giraffes sweet? And have a look at her Three Happy Girls Flying Kites or her Three Ladies Crossing the Wide Beach. You can actually feel yourself straining against the wind of a blustery seaside afternoon, can't you? Ah, I think I need a nice cup of tea.

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