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Posts Tagged ‘quilt’

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Photo: Smithsonian
This quilt, “Solar System,” was created by E.H. Baker in 1876 and is now in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution. Astronomy was a field of science that was more open to women historically than other fields were.

Women have always been interested in science, but they have not always been welcomed as equals. Consider Beatrix Potter, who was more knowledgeable about botany (mushrooms especially) than most men of her time.

But a determined woman could still learn and contribute. It seems that many were interested in astronomy, sometimes translating that interest into the art form they knew best.

At the Smithsonian’s website American History, you can read about Ellen Harding Baker of Cedar County, Iowa, and the quilt of the solar system she completed in 1876 after years of research to make it as accurate as possible.

“The wool top of this applique quilt is embellished with wool-fabric applique, wool braid, and wool and silk embroidery. … The lining is a red cotton-and-wool fabric and the filling is of cotton fiber. The maker, Sarah Ellen Harding, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, June 8, 1847, and married Marion Baker of Cedar County, Iowa, on October 10, 1867. They lived in Cedar County until 1878, and then moved to Johnson County.  …

“The design of Ellen’s striking and unusual quilt resembles illustrations in astronomy books of the period. Ellen used the quilt as a visual aid for lectures she gave on astronomy in the towns of West Branch, Moscow, and Lone Tree, Iowa. New York Times (September 22, 1883) mentioned this item from an Iowa paper: ‘Mrs. M. Baker, of Lone Tree, has just finished a silk quilt which she has been seven years in making. It has the solar system worked in completely and accurately. The lady went to Chicago to view the comet and sun spots through the telescope that she might be very accurate. Then she devised a lecture in astronomy from it.’ ” More.

Good news, bad news. Maria Mitchell of Nantucket garnered international recognition for discovering a comet, but her female students were generally shut out of work in the field.

Smithsonian reports, “Mitchell was born on Nantucket in 1818. Her family was Quaker, which meant that they believed both girls and boys should go to school. Her father, a teacher and an astronomer, taught her about the skies when she was very young. In terms of equipment, at-home astronomers weren’t at a disadvantage; Harvard’s telescope was roughly the same size and power as the Mitchells’. When she was 12, she and her father observed a solar eclipse.

“From there, Mitchell’s ascent as an astronomer was swift. In 1847, the prince of Denmark awarded the 29-year-old Mitchell a medal for reporting a comet that was too far away to be seen without a telescope (the comet became known as ‘Miss Mitchell’s Comet’). The next year, she became the first woman elected into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. …

“[Mitchell] used the rhetoric of the time to argue for more women in the sciences. ‘The training of a girl fits her for delicate work,’ Mitchell wrote in 1878. ‘The touch of her fingers upon the delicate screws of an astronomical instrument might become wonderfully accurate in results; a woman’s eyes are trained to nicety of color. The eye that directs a needle in the delicate meshes of embroidery will equally well bisect a star with the spider web of the micrometer.’ ” More.

Quilters! Be sure to check out other solar-system quilts at Barbara Brackman’s blog on blogspot, here.

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Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Detail showing Abraham Lincoln’s signature in an autograph quilt created by a seventeen-year-old Rhode Island girl in 1856.

To boldly go where no one has gone before (Star Trek)

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

I like to think of myself as occasionally creative, but when I read a story like this one about a 19th century Rhode Island girl, I’m humbled. See how she took a traditional idea and expanded on it.

According to Public Domain Review, “In 1856, a seventeen-year-old girl from Rhode Island embarked on a unique and brilliant quiltmaking project.

“The girl’s name was Adeline Harris and her project was to make a quilt incorporating hundreds of celebrity autographs. While signature quilts were nothing new, the contributions were typically sourced from within a small community, such as a church, and functioned to commemorate a single event, such as a birth or marriage.

“Adeline, however, had bigger ideas, her community as the notable figures of her day, her event the phenomenon of nineteenth-century celebrity. …

“She sent a small diamond of white silk in the post with an explanation of her project and a request that they send it back to her signed. The returned and now autographed fragments were then worked into the quilt as the ‘top’ planes in a wonderful trompe l’oeil tumbling block design.

“The response she got to her unusual request was nothing short of phenomenal — she ended up incorporating 360 signed pieces in total, including those from such luminaries as Jacob Grimm, Alexander von Humboldt, Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Abraham Lincoln (one of eight American presidents represented). …

“One of the people Adeline contacted in 1864 was Sarah Hale, editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, who, as well as providing her signature, also promptly wrote up ‘the very beautiful idea’ in her magazine. Hale explains how it is not only the signed pieces which tell a story:

Each autograph is written, with common black ink, on a diamond shaped piece of white silk (placed over a diagram of white paper and basted at the edges), each piece the centre of a group of colored diamonds, formed in many instances, from ‘storied’ fragments of dresses which were worn in the olden days of our country. For instance, there are pieces of a pink satin dress which flaunted at one of President Washington’s dinner parties …

“As for the process, conservator Elena Philips explains that, after examining the seams along the quilt top, it can be seen that ‘first she stitched the individual diamonds into blocks, then connected the blocks into columns, and finally seamed the columns together across the entire width. In total, she cut and stitched 1,840 individual silk pieces to create the quilt … [and used] more than one hundred and fifty different silk fabrics.’

“This is just one example from the Metropolitan Museum’s superb collection of 151 American quilts and coverlets, more about which you can read in curator Amelia Peck’s American Quilts and Coverlets in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009).”

More at Public Domain Review.

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A quilt in Liberia’s executive mansion. Former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was a great booster of Liberia’s quilting tradition.

Here’s a tidbit for the quilters who visit this blog.

According to Cholo Brooks at Global News Network Liberia, the African nation founded by former US slaves has a proud quilting tradition that includes a story about Queen Victoria.

Brooks writes that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, until recently president of Liberia, got together with Liberian quilters last fall to reaffirm her support. She praised “the Associations of Liberian Women who produced quilts for national and international use – urging them to work together and be strong in lifting Liberia: ‘Let me commend you for what you have been doing.’ …

“President Sirleaf made the statement on Thursday, October 26, 2017, at her Foreign Ministry office in Monrovia when she received in audience over 23 female quilters from different communities in Monrovia and parts adjacent. …

“At a forum aimed at promoting Liberian women in business, President Sirleaf … pledged her continued support and thanked them for their contribution to Liberia, including keeping the peace Liberia now enjoys. …

“The women appealed to President Sirleaf for additional support in promoting quilts both nationally and internationally, especially by securing a place for them to operate their businesses.” More at Global News Network Liberia, here.

See also this BBC article about Martha Ricks, the Liberian who made a Coffee Tree quilt for Queen Victoria — and delivered it to her.

Photo: Penny Dale
Quageh quilting group in Caldwell, Liberia, recreated the Coffee Tree quilt that Martha Ricks gave to Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle in 1892.

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101817-Brush-Gallery-Vets-Ribbens-quilt

My former Minnesota boss, Ann Ribbens, has always quilted, even when her day job was something completely different. Her quilts have been in a number of shows and in a book published by Mary Ann’s company, Quarry: 1000 Quilt Inspirations, by Sandra Sider.

Recently, one of Ann’s quilts was accepted by the Brush Gallery in Lowell, Massachusetts, for an art exhibit honoring veterans. The show was diverse and included military artifacts, paintings, and photography. I thought Ann’s quilt was especially wonderful.

The quilt narrates the stories of three family members who served — one in the Boer War (lower left panel), one in World War II (upper left), and one in Vietnam (upper right). The fourth panel expresses her longing for peace and an end to all that veterans suffer in war and on their return from war.

I love the combination of gratitude and hope that these portraits represent, the war colors expressing the heat of battle and the cool blue expressing serenity.

The exhibit was presented in conjunction with Ironstone Farm of Andover, Massachusetts, which provides veterans who have experienced trauma and anxiety with a healing “equine encounter” one day a week for eight weeks. (“I never thought a horse could teach me so much about myself,” says one participant.)

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101817-Boer-War-Ribbens-quilt

 

 

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This is a sampling of the bloggers I follow.

First is Asakiyume, from whom I learned everything I know about blogging, including how to borrow a photo from another site in such a way that readers will go to that site. She is an editor and a novelist, and she blogs about a wide range of topics, from personal to global.

In this post she compares a chest of drawers in a local coffee shop to something she saw in the animated Japanese feature Spirited Away. She offers many inspiring social justice ruminations plus thoughtful literary criticism, especially of fantasy and science fiction: the interstitial world.

KerryCan is a retired English professor who is very serious about crafts, selling many of her own on Etsy. She is a chocolate maker, a weaver, a quilter — you name it. I like her description of studying and resurrecting a forgotten quilt art in a recent post on “redwork.”

“I have been using an inexpensive child’s lightbox to trace the redwork panels on to paper,” KerryCan writes, “so I can keep them. Then I trace from the paper version on to off-white cotton fabric. As I trace and then stitch, I enjoy the designs. There are flowers, lots and lots of flowers. And there are animals; some are the ones the maker would know from the farm and some are exotic, known only from books or dreams.

“My favorite blocks, though, are the ones with the people, and, especially, children. The children depicted are not the cute and pampered and romanticized children of modern America but are serious and, often, awkward-looking.” Check it out.

New England Nomad is a perfect blog for learning about hidden places that even natives don’t know. The Nomad takes lots of pictures and provides detailed information on directions, special features, parking and costs. You may have heard about the Newport Cliff Walk, and the Nomad covers it, but do you know the “gem of Rhode Island,” Colt State Park in Bristol? Read about it here.

A Musical Life on Planet Earth blogger doesn’t post often, but when he does, Wow. Not only is he a music teacher and singer, he is deeply knowledgeable about the American Songbook, Broadway in particular — Rodgers, Hart, Hammerstein, Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin … . He cleans out the local library when doing research for one of his featured-composer shows. Find everything you ever want to know about the great Jerome Kern at this post, and listen to Will sing.

I’ll be doing more of these blogger recognitions from time to time, but before I leave today, I have to say I’ve been riveted to relatives’ Burning Cloud Blog, detailing the ups and downs of five months in a sailboat. Most of the posts are written by the children in the family. Read the entry “I have operated a lock” here.

Photo: New England Nomad
Colt State Park, the “gem of Rhode Island.”

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Maser-Flanagan-quilt-Concord-Library

This was a weekend for looking at art. The quilts on the left are by Valerie Maser-Flanagan and are on display at the Concord Library. My favorite was the one with the vertical stripes.

My husband and I also visited Brandeis University’s Rose Art Museum, back in action after being threatened with extinction by a president who lost his job over the ensuing uproar. I must say, the Rose presents some pretty inaccessible stuff, but the weird films by Mika Rottenberg were the highlight of the visit for me today. Mesmerizing.

The films carried me back to Kenneth Anger’s and Andy Warhol’s experimental movies in the ’60s. I didn’t understand those films either, but I was fascinated. Rottenberg’s kooky stories also was reminded me (my husband, too) of an offbeat video Asakiyume lent us recently called Cold Fever, which we loved. (Saying it was about a young Japanese businessman getting lost in Iceland in winter — on a quest to honor his dead parents with ceremonies he doesn’t believe in — hardly does it justice.)

Sebastian Smee at the Boston Sunday Globe has more on Rottenberg’s videos, and he covers the other exhibits, too.

Also this weekend, I stopped in at a gallery I like in Lincoln. They were featuring several interesting artists, including the photographer Leonard Freed, below. And they have other great work coming up March 4 — take a taste here.

Photo: Leonard Freed
From “Black and White in America” exhibit at the Clark Gallery in Lincoln. See review by Mark Feeney in the Boston Globe, here.

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My friend Ann Ribbens creates unique, artistic quilts and has shown her work in many places, including the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts. Here are two samples of her work.

I don’t know much about quilts, but I am always happy to see new creative energy go into old art forms.

Recently I noticed that this a local frame shop is hosting an exhibit of art quilts, featuring the work of Sophie Schulman-CahnMarjie Cahn,Kathy Connors, and Georgette Gagne.

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