Posts Tagged ‘quilts’


Photo: Portland (Maine) Museum of Art
The quilts of artist Gina Adams tell the tale of broken treaties.

Lately, I’ve been reading books that have given me a deeper, more disturbing understanding of American history. Of course I knew about slavery and broken Indian treaties and adventurism abroad, but I tended to slink away from knowing too many details. You can hide only so long. Two books I would recommend are the novel Underground Railroad and the history Ramp Hollow.

Artist Gina Adams found her metier in quilts about broken treaties. There are no shortage of those, she says. This article by Indian County Today recounts the evolution of her work “Broken Treaties Quilts.”

“Gina Adams’ journey to becoming a political artist began as she probed deeper into her Native roots. Trained as a painter and printmaker, Gina Adams made apolitical art for many years. …

“While studying the effects of post-Colonial trauma and assimilation at the University of Kansas, Adams identified feelings of remorse and grief in her own life, stemming from her Ojibwe-Lakota grandfather’s forced boarding at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania. Her art began to change.

“ ‘I realized how powerful it was to be able to speak about all of those feelings,’ said Adams, who lives in Longmont, Colorado. …

“ ‘Broken Treaties Quilts,’ involves sewing text from Indian treaties onto antique quilts. … Sewing the words of injustice, letter by letter, onto objects of comfort and beauty represents the turmoil that Indians have suffered. …

“Adams, 52, recently finished quilts about both the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie treaties, which she made in response to the Dakota Access Pipeline standoff at Standing Rock. She has made 18 quilts so far, and shown them from Maine to the Midwest. Wherever she shows her work, she makes a new quilt that’s relevant to the treaty history of that geographic area.

Her goal is to create a quilt for every U.S. state.

“There’s no shortage of broken treaties, she said, and all were populated with twisting, confusing language that purposefully misled people and subjected the treaties to misunderstanding and different interpretations.

“Adams has spent most of the past three years reading the treaties, word for word.

” ‘In cutting up these letters and reading and re-reading these treaties, you begin to realize how the language was meant to be confusing when they were written. They are still confusing today. They’re very duplicitous in their meaning,’ she said. ‘You can understand why the misunderstandings happened. …

“In Native cultures, the quilt transcends modern timekeeping. It’s been around forever, serving as a source of warmth and comfort, as well as a feeling of home and family. Quilting is also thoroughly American, she notes, and both the quilt and quilting bees symbolize community and the idea of working together. …

“Adams begins with antique quilts that she finds at flea markets and elsewhere. Many people also give them to her. She prefers quilts that are a century old or older, so they reflect the general vintage of the treaties she represents. …

“The process of making the quilts is time-consuming and labor intensive, and enjoyable, Adams said.

“ ‘It’s very contemplative. It’s very mindful,’ she said. ‘I so look forward to every single aspect of it, even when I am doing the detailed stitching on the quilt. It’s a really focused time. I am lost in my thoughts and just focusing on the work itself. I find it to be so rewarding.’

“Adams … descended from indigenous and colonial Americans. Her grandfather was Ojibwe and Lakota, and Adams has always identified with her Native roots. ‘I remember being 3 and 4 years old and going on hikes with my grandfather. He would talk to me and introduce me to plants and animals and things in nature in the Ojibwe language,’ she said. ‘He would tell me everything in Ojibwe and then translate it. It was a wonderful connecting point that stuck in my heart and soul and has been there my whole entire life.’

“Adams, who is not an enrolled tribal member, plans to take Ojibwe language classes this fall, to deepen her cultural immersion.”

Read about Adams’s quilting process here.

Hat tip: @WomensArt1 on twitter.


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Photo: Gavin Ashworth
Klewicke, “Original Design Quilt” (Corning, New York, 1907), pieced silk, faille, taffeta, and satin, digitized by the American Folk Art Museum in New York City.

Nowadays, it’s not enough for museums to exhibit art that you can go see or read about in a book: they want to be able to share their treasures online. That’s why the American Folk Art Museum in New York City is digitizing the New York Quilt Project, which features more than 6,000 quilts and their histories.

Allison Meier writes at Hyperallergic, “From a 19th-century block pattern quilt made from a woman’s wedding dress, to a commemorative quilt celebrating the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, the New York Quilt Project contains an invaluable record of the state’s folk art history. …

“Now AFAM [the American Folk Art Museum] is digitizing these materials to make them more accessible. …

“The vast majority of these quilts are not at the New York City museum, but are heirlooms in private collections, whether an attic in the Catskills or a quilt trunk in Brooklyn. … AFAM has so far put about 1,500 quilts online, and expects to finish the digitization in 2019. AFAM also has related oral history recordings that they’re working to digitize.

“Quilt projects statewide were really popular in the ’80s, and people started collecting their histories,” [Mimi Lester, an AFAM archivist and project manager for the digitization] explained.

“The Kentucky Quilt Project, founded in 1981, was the first of these, inspiring a resurgence of interest in the United States. Frequently these grassroots initiatives revolved around ‘quilt days,’ at which people could have their family quilts documented. …

“People would bring their quilts to YMCAs or churches or museums, and we would have registrars there who would help the individuals fill out the forms and take photographs,” Lester said. …

“Details were recorded like family background, religion, where a quiltmaker learned the craft, why they made the quilt, and where they obtained textiles, and a small tab was sewn into the back of each quilt for identification. These stories often chronicle immigration.”

Click here for photos of some lovely quilts — and lovely quilters.

Hat tip: radio show Studio 360 on twitter, @studio360show.

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Although I have known Julie Weinstein mostly as a graphic designer, I learned from many conversations over the years that she has experience in a variety of fields. Lately she has been concentrating on quilting.

I went to see the delightful pieces below at the Emerson Community Arts Center’s Earth Month exhibit, “Life on the Edge.” Completely charming. The panels were inspired by seeing birdwatchers and wondering if the birds watch the watchers. In one panel a woman is birdwatching with binoculars. In another, a bird lifts binoculars to study the woman.

The Umbrella website says, “This year’s theme, ‘Life on the Edge,’ invites us to consider those experiences and places where people and habitats intersect. Also called ecotones, liminal or transitional zones, these points of intersection can spawn collaboration, conflict, beauty, chaos, change, and more.” The show is up until May 5. More details here.

Interesting to see the word “liminal” used for the intersection of people and habitats. At Asakiyume’s blog, her literary readers use liminal and the word “interstitial” to refer to places between worlds and ways of being. Like the platforms where Harry Potter catches a train that ordinary people can’t see.

Come to think of it, that is not so different from the intersection of the natural world and the developed one the art show describes. It’s a place where you might see three large wild turkeys sashaying down the middle of a downtown street, as my husband and I did on a recent Sunday morning.

Quilts: Julie Weinstein


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Above, “I” Formation, by Ann Ribbens
Ann says, “This piece is a combination of a purchased hand-dyed top panel and an Arashi (pole-wrapping) shibori piece that I made. The panels were assembled, heavily machine quilted and embellished with beads.”

My ex-boss in Minnesota is a very fine quilter. That doesn’t mean that I’m a quilter. It means that she was my boss in her day job.

Ann is exhibiting the piece above in the show “A Common Thread” at the Textile Center in Minneapolis, here, through February 26. She has a number of other pieces available for viewing at the Minnesota Artist website, here. I think you will find the variety quite remarkable.

I often wonder if an artist is better off finding a way to make a living from art or doing art on the side. The first way means doing art all the time but maybe compromising to please clients.

The second means never having enough time but always having freedom. Ann is an example of someone who has made the latter approach work. Her day job is completely unrelated to quilting. But I suspect that while she is focused on it, her unconscious is working away on her next textile project.

Sometimes it’s not a bad idea to let one part of your mind lie fallow while the other is busy.

Below, “Carnelian Sunbursts,” by Ann Ribbens
Ann says, “This work incorporates shibori dyeing. It is intensively machine quilted. It was completed in 2011 and is a table runner, 15 x 43 inches.”

This work incorporates shibori dyeing. It is intensively machine quilted. It was completed in 2011 and is a table runner, 15 x 43 inches.

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