Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Quilts 1700-1945...

Clare and I were very lucky to fly to Brisbane last weekend and immerse ourselves in the Quilts 1700-1945 exhibition, a smaller version of the V&A's very successful exhibition from recent years. And, although reduced in quilt quantity, no less inspiring!
We rose spectacularly early to board a 6.05am flight out of Adelaide, made a beeline for the train into the City, alighting at the Cultural Centre's doorstep. A small brain snap from both of us as we found ourselves in the GOMA first up. Both of us feeling very silly when the security guard pointed out that this was a 'contemporary gallery for modern artwork'. Yeh, yeh, yeh, he didn't have to labour the 'modern' point ! So, we turned on our heels and laughed at how we had both misread the website, reading what we wanted to read and interpreting it as such because we were both familiar with that part of the gallery complex. Back on track we unchecked our luggage from the GOMA, headed on over to the Art Gallery across the courtyard, and re-checked in our bags for an early tour.
The exhibition is not extensive, only about 30 or so quilts but each one gob-smackingly amazing in it's own right. Perfectly preserved silk and wool quilts from 1648, paper-pieced blocks with the backs exposed so you could read the papers that were used in the piecing, miniature hexagons made from military uniform wool just 1.5cm wide, silk ribbons converted to pinwheels and hourglass blocks, gifts of comfort from Canada to war-torn London and hexagons made from the clothes women and girls were left standing in having been captured and imprisoned in Changi Prison during the second world war. And then off course, the jewel in Australia's crown, the Rajah quilt made by convict women sent to Australia for petty crimes to give them something meaningful to do with their idle hands whilst making the treacherous journey from the UK to Tasmania in the colonial days of settlement.
I could say that many of the quilts weren't my style and won't be put on my to-do list in the near future but that sounds like I didn't like the exhibition. Far from it, each one told a story, made me gasp in awe, or made me incredibly sad or happy as I tried to imagine what life must have been like for each of the individuals who had played a role in the birth of these quilts. From the genteel crafts-woman showcasing her needlework skill to the gathering of remnants from the woollen mills or pyjama factory in the village. I felt an affinity with each person who stitched a bit of their soul into every one of the quilts that were on display.
I also felt very proud to be a part of a community that was present as an audience on the day. Lots of women who like us had their sensible shoes on and talked in hushed excitement as they pointed out fabric combinations, block patterns, colours used, humility patches and sheer skill involved. It was electric and we felt connected. And to top it off? The playlist in the toilet. Well done curators. What a lovely fun way to finish off the day!

Mind you. We didn't completely leave the gallery there because we came back again the next day before our flight home to enjoy a gorgeous little maker fair in the form of a suitcase rummage and if we'd had more time we would have stayed a little longer to stitch away at the sit and sew session.

Oh...and there was a bit of fabric shopping squeezed in too from a very lovely little shop in East Brisbane, Voodoo Rabbit. It has a great collection of goth, rockabilly and Halloween fabrics, along with some pretties.
If you're near Brisbane, I urge you to get yourself to Quilts 1700 to 1945. You won't be disappointed.


  1. Looks wonderful - I can't wait to go and see these quilts too!

  2. That tricked you... I only removed the comment because it had a spelling mistake LOL Just wanted to say thanks for a great weekend.