Monday, January 25, 2010

What Came First

What is at the roots of our quiltmaking? What is the event that brought about the modern quiltmaking renaissance. While we all know a bit of our American quilt history and the quilt designs and fabrics that occurred in historical eras (say Civil War, or 1930's and a particular style and color pallet comes forth in our mind) - what made 20th century women fore go the department store and decide to make their own bedcoverings?

Most style mavens, artists, and quilters will say the 1971 Whitney Museum "Abstract Design in American Quilts" show as the signature event. Suddenly, stodgy 19th century bed linens made by women were on a par with Modern Art made by Warhol, and Kandinsky. This, along with the pending Bicentennial - made things "made by hand" all the rage. Now, what brought about the Whitney Show? Probably a lot of things, and I don't claim to know the reasons - Barbara would :). Ask antique dealers, art gallery owners, and quilt collectors and they will all mention different things that collided into a perfect storm of Folk Art and quilts. The hippie-fication of America was one reason. Could this have been another? I was perusing a book I checked out of the library last week - Horst: Interiors. It is a compilation of Horst P. Horst's photo essays on stylish interiors. You know, home shoots in decorator magazines. He most often worked for House Beautiful and Vogue. These homes were/are stylish! The homeowners include Warhol himself, Jackie Onassis, Oscar de la Renta, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and many more. The one that floored me (literally) was Gloria Vanderbilt. Here is her bedroom and these photos were first published in 1970.

I took these photos off the internet as I couldn't scan the huge book with it's substantial binding. I wish they were a little bigger. The bit of text next to them say the entire room, except for the moldings, were covered in patchwork. OH. MY. GOD. It is hard to tell, but it looks like the floor was covered in quilt blocks and unfinished tops and then maybe coats of polyurethane over it. Those are collages on the wall that Gloria herself made. Now, Gloria is a go-to gal for style. Remember a few years later in the 70's when we all wore her jeans to disco dance in? Hmmmm. Looking at later home shoots in the book you see more patchwork. Could it be Gloria who we can thank for our contemporary fabric madness?

I know. Before it goes any further - we can't condone the destroying of antique quilts. I feel the same way. But - really, I like to think that these quilts in Gloria's bedroom, on her floor and ceiling, became their "Quilt Destiny" here. I think the sum surpasses all the parts. These quilts died for our present quiltmaking mania, wouldn't you say? Brava, Gloria!

What does it all mean, and what am I trying to say? I don't know. I just found it fascinating. You never know where a creative idea can take you - and take everyone else. Ideas aren't made in a vacuum. One thing sparks another and now with internet speed - we all spark each other. Happy sparking, everyone.

And on to more pedestrian quilting.....here is the first block of the Winter Garden/Love Letters quilt. The large applique pieces go fast! The colors aren't quite this bright in reality ;)

Laurie

19 comments:

Helen said...

I have to admit I have mixed feelings seeing Gloria Vanderbilt's bedroom. On the one hand, it's nice to see her love of quilts. On the other hand those are quilts on the walls and floor. It definitely shows a different attitude towards quilts. Value and abuse.

I love your Winter Garden/Love Letters block. It's a very different take on the colors. But that's what I love about seeing what other people do with a pattern. I'm looking forward to seeing more blocks.

Sharon said...

Excellent post Love the Gloria V. bedroom pics. Different strokes... Your block is great and it's going to be fun watching this come to life on your blog!

Nancyz said...

Thanks for the post. Very interesting... might have to check the book out of the library. PS-love the pics of Gibby! Too cute. I also take lots of pics of my Murphy (mini schnauzer). More pics of him than my kids.

Janet said...

Fascinating pictures! I love your applique block. The dark background is wonderful.

Shelley said...

Interesting perspective on quilts and their history. Thank you.

kjb139 said...

Your quilting is anything but pedestrian!

Anonymous said...

I see from ATHA magazine that Polly was teaching over the weekend in Sebring, Florida. Anything new to share? Love to see some photos of some of the rugs being created . . .

WoolenSails said...

I love the colors you used in your block, it is gorgeous.

Debbie

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the fascinating bit of history. Who knew? Your block is lucious!
~Joyce in MI

Betweens said...

Laurie if I had a choice I would also decorate as much as I could the quilts that I have made. the joy of viewing the work rather than hiding them in the chest is more what I love. I have made quilts and they have been loved to death but given back in pieces to create other things with them...

I love your Love letters block..I love turquoise so it is perfect. I am also making this quilt. but find the larger blocks take longer than the smaller ones such as the Aunt Millie's garden from piece of cake I am putting together.. LOL

Anonymous said...

suebee said:

Love your color choices for the quilt top. Cant wait to see more.

Also the quilts on the floor go a little past me. Now on the wall I have made three just for that purpose. I have plenty for charity and piles on the bed so I hung some on my walls. Love the photos of Gibby. I take most of my photos of our Miniature Schnauzer ZoeyB.

PamKittyMorning said...

That room is crazy! And I do remember those disco days. Those were some crazy years.

Vicky said...

More is not always better; it's just more.

Love love your block. I took this quilt off my to-do list, but I'll be watching your progress and cheering you on.

S said...

The G.V. pics were a reflection of the times,IMHO. In 1973 I purchased a couple of rolls of Hallmark gift wrap which was a scrappy Lone Star. I put the wrapping paper up in our teeny tiny kitchen over the awful walls. Everyone loved it, even our landlord. Maybe some of G.V.'s quilts were wrapping paper or something close. She could have photocopied these quilts. Well,it makes me feel better than to think of a quilt-chopping frenzied G.V. going wild with real quilts.

Janet said...

Amazing!!! It bears the look of an asiatic tent pavilion! And Kaffe Fassets interiors, based on his early study of textiles and ceramics (taking place at this same time) brings us right up to the current moment.
BTW that block is inspiration! Thanks for sharing with us.
Janet, watching a beautiful late winter sunrise

Anonymous said...

YES - I see someone else wants to see a little rug hooking on this blog!!!! PLEASE! Love all the quilts but would like to see the 'Minick' part too:) We miss you Polly . . . wants new in the rug world? or, in your lovely studio? Any new wool, any new rugs you can show or updates on your gallery?? Does Moda make any wool for rug hooking?
Thanks for sharing Polly -
Martha of TN

Maggie said...

disregarding for the moment the "distruction" of quilts to do Glorias room...the thought of having such a collection of incredible quilts at hand just makes my mine spin and can make one a little envious as well!

barbara r-g said...

who knows maybe her design team made the quilts. i love it and would think you could do it with wall paper too. Oh the work involved. thanks for sharing such inspriation, never to much pattern or color in my book.

Hi! I hope you find my blog interesting. I'm Donna Turner, said...

You asked for the thing I miss the most from my childhood? My grandma. She was the most wonderful soul. She lived a hard life. I used to walk with her the mile to her work as a factory cook across an old railroad bridge that traversed the Susquehanna River. Once there, she would set about making the breakfast, and later, the lunch, for the factory men, and I would crayon and play games with her. Other times we would walk along grassy paths near her home, and suddenly she would swoop down and pick up a four leaf clover! It seemed she could find one no matter where we were. Or we would gather a handful of violets on the walk from her house to her sister's. Sometimes she would burst into song, usually a hymn, and I would sing along with her, content to be in her presence, where everything was magic and wondrous. I tried to give my children that same sense of awe and mystery when viewing the world and doing even the most simple things. Yes, of all the things about my childhood that are now gone, my grandma is the one I miss the most.

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