The Queensland Art Gallery has a new exhibition, Quilts 1700-1945, which runs from 15 June to 22 September 2013. Most of the quilts come from the Victoria and Albert Museum, with a few from the Imperial War Museum, and the exhibition is billed as ‘200 years of British quiltmaking’, but there is also one important Australian quilt, the Rajah Quilt from the National Gallery of Australia.
The quilts show a mixture of decorative patchwork, embroidery, and collage. The earliest quilt dates from the 1690s; the last from the Second World War. I’d recommend the exhibition to anyone interested in textile history or women’s work or domestic decoration – though I confess that I’m always at a bit of a loss when it comes to deciding just where to draw the boundary between Art and Craft. For me, these pieces, lovely as they are, definitely fall on the ‘Craft’ side of that line.
My overwhelming feeling, coming out after a couple of hours, was sheer relief that I have never had to spend my time doing all that work! By hand! By candlelight! Yet I know people who love quilting, will happily spend time hand sewing patches, and take delight in the finished product. I’m afraid I’m just not one of those people.
For me, the pleasure of the show lay rather in the stories that lie behind many of these quilts. Continue reading