Memorable Quilt Collections and Connections – Giveaway Today!

Starburst (variant) Made by Amanda Dubois (for Andrew Dubois) 1878. Asheville, NC. Wools.

Starburst (variant) Made by Amanda Dubois (for Andrew Dubois) 1878. Asheville, NC. Wools.

As a newbie quilter in the early 80s, I clearly remember attending an exhibit at the Oakland Museum titled American Quilts: a Handmade Legacy. The exhibit was outstanding, but what stands out in my memory is the film Quilts in Women’s Lives by Pat Ferrero. This thoughtful and inspiring film features the stories of seven quiltmakers who share their passion for making quilts.

Shortly thereafter, I had the good fortune to work at Empty Spools, a quilt shop owned by Diana McClun, a woman who would go on to have a huge impact on my quilting life as my creative partner. Quilts! Quilts!! Quilts!!! , our first book collaboration, was published by Michael Kile, an editor/publisher who had published a series called Quilt Digests. quiltdigestEach volume included articles written by experts in a variety of quiltmaking fields.  One of those experts was Julie Silber, whom I mentioned in a previous post, a woman renowned for her knowledge of the history of our quilting craft.  Julie was also one of the coordinators of that Oakland Museum exhibit that so captured my attention.

L: Julie SilberAs a long-time admirer of Julie’s work, I wanted to take the opportunity of this post to tell her story to our readers. Even though I was armed with a long list of questions, Julie and I never made it past the first two because she had so much to share, and I was a transfixed listener. I’m sure she’s told her tale many a time, but her enthusiasm and passion for her work would lead any listener to believe that this time was the first.

Julie was born in Detroit into a family of first-generation Americans. Her Jewish upper-middle-class parents were both art collectors, and she was exposed to a wealth of beautiful paintings and sculpture as a child, but quilts had never crossed her path.

After graduating with an art degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Julie headed to California where she met up with two friends, Pat Ferrero and Linda Reuther, who would prove to be major influencers on her career direction. Both friends displayed quilts as artwork on the walls of their homes. Linda’s was a simple country-style quilt that had been made by her grandmother, while Pat’s was a late-Victorian Log Cabin Barn Raising design circa 1880. It was purchased in a San Francisco thrift store where Pat found it balled up in a corner of the shop.

"Glad Day" Crazy Quilt. Initialed (EFB) and dated (Nov. 11, 1918) Cottons.

“Glad Day” Crazy Quilt. Initialed (EFB) and dated (Nov. 11, 1918) Cottons.

The combination of Linda’s emotional attachment to her grandmother’s quilt and Pat’s stunningly beautiful quilt helped to “seal the deal” on Julie’s passion for quilts. She was touched on both a visual and emotional level. Julie says she made this realization only later in looking back and trying to understand why quilts hit her so powerfully.

Julie immediately jumped into collecting and buying/selling antique quilts. When asked what it is about a quilt that compels a purchase for her personal collection, she reveals that the quilt has to speak to her in a memorable way. Her reaction to the quilt might be emotional, or what she calls a “gut” reaction: visually stunning in color or design, or both.

String Star Circa 1880. Cottons Who knows why a woman might organize her color this way: So many old quilts come to us without any history attached. Don't we wish we could ask her?

String Star Circa 1880. Cottons Who knows why a woman might organize her color this way: So many old quilts come to us without any history attached. Don’t we wish we could ask her?

She continues to buy and sell quilts, hold exhibitions, lecture, and curate gallery shows across the country. One of her current shows–Off the Wall: Maverick Quilts–is on display at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, Fort Worth, TX, through March 31, 2013.

Here are a few more of Julie’s memorable quilts from her private collection.

Appliqué Sampler Circa 1890. Collected in Penobscot, ME. Wools.

Appliqué Sampler Circa 1890. Collected in Penobscot, ME. Wools.

Zig Zag Circa 1900. Cotton Flannels.

Zig Zag Circa 1900. Cotton Flannels.

Log Cabin/Sawtooth (variant) Circa 1880. Cottons

Log Cabin/Sawtooth (variant) Circa 1880. Cottons

Giveaway-GoldJulie is generously donating an out-of-print copy of Volume 1 of The Quilt Digest (cover shown above) to one lucky reader. Please leave a comment by end of day February 15 telling us what makes a quilt memorable to you. I will announce the winner in my post later that month.

Julie Silber is a lecturer, author and curator with more than forty years’ experience collecting and studying quilts.  She is the curator of the former Esprit Quilt Collection in San Francisco, and is currently the curator of the Susie Tompkins Buell Quilt Collection and the Douglas R. Tompkins Quilt Collection.  Julie is the associate producer of the film, Hearts and Hands.  She was the curator of several major quilt exhibitions including American Quilts: A Handmade Legacy at the Oakland Museum and Amish: The Art of the Quilt, at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. With her partner Jean Demeter, Julie owns her own business, The Quilt Complex, which offers quilt-related services including appraisals, consulting, and brokerage to individuals, institutions, and corporations. The Quilt Complex and Julie Silber’s Blog.

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28 Responses to Memorable Quilt Collections and Connections – Giveaway Today!

  1. Nancy Chrzanowski says:

    having recieved a beautiful patriotic quilt when we were at the army hospital in san antonio with our son who was severly injured in Iraq, I fell in love with the compassion and artistry of the women and men from all over the the world who honor our soldiers and their families. Many days and night I wrapped myself in that quilt praying oyur son would survive. He did and I have been quilting ever since. I always find myself drawn to the patriotic themes but truly enoy the thousand of styles available. I have made quilts from antique doilies to quilts of family clothing scraps. I just love the process and the creativity of quilting!
    Nancy in Michigan

  2. Judy, SC says:

    At the NQA show held in Knoxville, TN (do not remember the year) there was a quilt on display called ‘Anemone’ that just spoke to me. To this day I can still see this quilt. Must have looked at it at least 30 times. This quilt was a log cabin version in darker colors. Funny, I rarely work in dark colors and have only made one log cabin but still see this quilt. Since I was a fairly new quilter at the time I did not note maker. There are many quilts at shows that require a second and third look. These are quilts that have some aspect that draw my attention. It could be the colors , pattern , setting and most recently the unusual borders that drew my attention. There are so many aspects of quilting and what makes a quilt to draw us to a closer look. Maybe this is why so many of us are drawn to quilting.

  3. Cathy Clark says:

    A quilt in colours I like, or with a dramatic geometric design, will draw my attention; but what makes the quilt memorable is if I like the design and texture from the quilting so much that I must investigate and find out what it is I like so much. These days, there are lots of amazing quilts to look at on the internet or at quilt shows, but the ones that are most memorable are ones that I enjoy looking at so much, I figure out how it was made and dream of making one like it myself.

  4. Alcea Rosea says:

    Colour changes even the simplest of quilts and I wish I had that special ‘eye’ that can put together amazing combinations to create memorable quilts.

  5. Willa Pettygrove says:

    I love old quilts for their hidden messages as women, too busy to do “real” art, took this medium as their own form of self expression. The names for traditional patterns are engaging. For me, “Drunkard’s Path” and its many variations is the prime example. I have an early 20th century Drunkard’s Path quilt hanging in a special place in my house. One of the first things that moved me to quilting was the movie “Quilts in Women’s Lives” which featured many different women and their own stories.

  6. Luci says:

    Color and design draw me to a quilt. Some quilts just jump off the wall or the page of a book or magazine. I am usually drawn to bright colors with high contrast. I’m still working on incorporating those characteristics into my own quilts. I can do the bright colors but the high contrast that makes a quilt pop continues to elude me.

  7. Deborah M says:

    A quilt becomes memorable to me by virtue of design aspect(s), e.g., color, composition, technicality. If any of these is unique and visually compelling to me, it sticks! Taste is such an individualized thing.

  8. It’s actually the personal connection that I have with a quilt that draws me to it. I am most connected to the quilt my Aunt let me choose from her collection – it was unfinished and somehow my mom (a non-quilter) found someone to finish the edges adding the red border that I requested. And I remember the beautiful yellow background with red wedding rings of my boyfriend’s grandfather’s second wife who accepted us into her apartment even though she apparently had forgotten that her husband had been married before. In both of these quilts there was a range of fabrics, tiny pieces, and beautiful hand stitching.

  9. Beautiful quilts and enjoyed reading the post. I think the most memorable quilts are the ones I make for a reason, like the ones I made for my sisters. One was in a bad accident and I made her an angel applique quilt for her recovery time and another has cancer, so I made her an angel quilt with sayings to comfort her, since I couldn’t be there, for them.

    Debbie

  10. Pat T. says:

    Thank you for sharing these wonderful quilts!
    Amazing, the “modern” look to some of these oldest ones!

    What usually makes a quilt memorable to me is a delicate balance between color and design… *although*, a quilt with outstanding design can stand alone, and be memorable to me!… Intriguing because of its great design, and the inspiration it gives me… My imagination gets fired up, creating my own (better?!) choices of color, and even some design changes!
    If I happen to know the story behind a quilt (and *every* quilt, like every person, has a story, even if untold!!)… that can trump color and even design!
    Thank you for the great question!
    Pat T.
    in Michigan

  11. Cathy says:

    I find a quilt memorable if the design is graphically pleasing or stimulating and conveys a mood. Some of the most simple shapes, with careful arrangement, can be either vibrant or soothing. I definitely have to like the colors in a quilt too, and that doesn’t necessarily mean all the colors of the rainbow get used, but an interesting palette and enough of a range to keep the eyes moving. I also like to see irregularities and lots of fabric variety. It keeps the eyes from skimming over the quilt in two seconds and saying “I’m done!” Will fall asleep or become violently ill at the sight of many dusty beige and maroon quilts especially if made as all identical blocks…blech!

  12. Linda says:

    I love so many things about quilts but I believe that the most important things that speaks to me, hands down, is the color.

  13. diane says:

    I have made quite a few quilts leaning the art in the past years but I kept my first silly one I ever made, a Jacobs ladder black background floral prints with organza solids coordinating the floral. it is not so big but I still try to snuggle under it occasionally.

  14. Carol Barringer says:

    Thank you for this display of exceptional quilts! I keep rolling back to see them again. What makes a quilt memorable is a tough question! I’m initially drawn by color and by contrast/design. But what makes a quilt linger in my mind is hard to pin down. Perhaps there are two ways a quilt might stay on my mind: one is if I think I might make something similar; the other, conversely, is if the quilt is so complex/amazing that I know I’d NEVER be able to do anything like it! I do love studying old quilts, especially scrap quilts. I love the zig-zag quilt above, which is amazingly 3-dimensional even though the lights and darks aren’t organized the way I’d expect. And I’ve just started to sew my “strings” into a spiderweb design.

  15. Debbie Gallett says:

    I love looking at old quilts. When I love one I like to stop and try and figure out what is really drawing me to it. It might be the colors or pattern but it might be the way a certain color runs through the design. They are just each so facinating.

  16. Sandy says:

    Color and contrast seem to be the two things I admire the most in quilts, whether they be old or new. Every quilt shown in this post are excellent examples of both. I love reading and collecting quilt history books and would love to win Volume 1 of The Quilt Digest.

  17. mjkasz says:

    What a wonderful blog reaching into the history of our beloved art form. I was especially drawn to the Nov. 11 quilt as this was the date of my father’s birth and he only lived to be 52 long before I became a great lover of his love sewing.

  18. Brenda Cornell says:

    The star quilt at the beginning of this post jumped out at me. Julie hung it at the American Quilt Study Group seminar in San Jose. My friend Janet Locey approached her about making a quilt based on it for the bi-annual study challenge and Julie graciously agreed. Both quilts have stories.

  19. Sally says:

    As a lover of wool appliqué and graphic designs, this posting was inspiring in many ways. If I had seen these exhibited, I would certainly have been surprised at the dates of construction. Your question about what makes a quilt memorable is coming at a time as I am writing a memorial for a friend who was a quilter. As I think about her life and her quilts, I am reminded of how regardless of the design, stitched in her quilts are her time, her vision, her gifts of generosity, her support, and her talents. This is what makes all quilts memorable.

  20. Susan Paxton says:

    As a new quilter I find that the colors and fabrics really speak to me. I love simple quilts and yet the more intricate designs intrigue me. I guess you could say I am more of a traditional person but I find looking through the quilt books and magazines have a calming affect on me. The few quilts I have made are the highlights in my home.

  21. Jane says:

    A quilt speaks to me with the various colours and shades, the pattern and the fabrics themselves. I love old quilts made from old aprons, or children’s clothing or curtains.
    Those made by a church group at a “bee”
    They all fire my imagination.

  22. pjdominici says:

    I have also long admired old quilts, mainly 30′s scrappy quilts.

  23. elaine says:

    every quilt has a story whether the creator knows it. the inspiration of the quilt; the choice of the fabrics; the personal piecing design or chosen block design; the quilting; and even the binding–all a story. i can never see enough stories of quilts and just wonder in awe how they were created and why. thanks for sharing some stories with us.

  24. Jill Schlageter says:

    First the color strikes me, then composition and overall look. I wonder about the maker and the love she put into making the quilt. It is memorable if the quilt beckons me to take a closer look.

  25. Brenda says:

    Thanks for the lovely show. I love quilts that sparkle in some way — either in the design or colours. I’m also impressed with antique quilts with complicated piecing. thanks for the chance to win.

  26. kathie L says:

    I’m first attracted to the colors in the quilt. a wonderful design inland colors does nothing for me.

  27. Christina in Cleveland says:

    Wow, what GORGEOUS quilts!! The vibe of the loving care which went into each quilt transcends time. It’s the love which makes each quilt unique. The joy in all phases. The unknown “fixes”, the sigh of triumph when it is completed and the delight the recipient of the quilt must have felt. This is the tingly feeling of quilts and quilting. Thanks for asking!
    ~ Christina in Cleveland

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