Posts Tagged ‘textiles’

London — By Andrea Kirkby on February 21, 2010 at 2:01 pm
Filed under: crafts, london museums, quilts, textiles, V&A

Coming up: Quilts

Starting on 20 March, the V&A will be hosting an exhibition on quilts. The earliest date from 1700, but the most recenthave been specially commissioned by the exhibition.

It’s intriguing how the quilt has moved from being a vital piece of weaponry in the fight against the winter cold, to the modern artist’s canvas. Quilts by Tracey Emin and Grayson Perry, for instance, will be on show, as well as a delightful anonymous piece from George III’s reign showing the king reviewing troops. (Though it’s anonymous, a red-haired woman appears in many of the scenes on the quilt – perhaps the maker of the quilt, claiming her artistic copyright by appearing in it rather than signing it?)

There’s also a commission made by prisoners in HMP Wandsworth. These men have contributed individual hexagons based on their prison experience – some sad, some humorous – and apparently find hand-stitching a remarkably meditative experience (something I think any embroiderer or knitter will understand).

I’ve been impressed reading the curator’s blog by the amount of research that has gone into the exhibition. We think of quilts as just a girly thing. Wrong – not only are the men of Wandsworth making a quilt, but there’s a military quilt made by Private Brayley, on service in India, perhaps as a wedding present for his wife. Some quilts have been reunited with their makers’ diaries – again correcting the impression I’d always had that early quilts were anonymous. Far from it! The stories behind some of these quilts are really interesting; one made by prisoners being transported to Australia, on HMS Rajah, particularly caught my attention.

And then there’s the Chapman coverlet which includes a love poem. Aaah, how sweet. Except for the fact that the poem is in fact an epitaph to Mary Vanbutchel, whose husband lived with her embalmed body in his house for many years. (This wasn’t great love; apparently he could retain her dowry as long as she remained unburied.)

These will all be British quilts, by the way – a slightly different tradition from American quilting. But there really are all kinds, from strict geometrical quilts to delightful quilts showing historical events and others with colourful flowers like a Dutch still-life painting.

I look forward to this exhibition. It should be great fun – and as the subtitle, ‘Hidden histories, untold stories’, suggests, it should show some of the lives behind the quilts, bringing these textiles to life as never before.

When: till 4 July: 10-1745 daily and till 2200 Fridays (last tickets sold 2045)

Where: Victoria & Albert Museum[map]; South Kensington tube

How much: £10 (seniors £8, students £6)

Photo by Jared on flickr

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