Quilts are, at their core, functional items, but they nonetheless occupy a special place in art history. Since the 16th century, beginning in India and the Mediterranean and spreading across the world, quilts have acted as creative outlets and record keepers for those outside the world of traditional high art. Quilts can be made by anyone with access to fabric and thread, and because of this, they have been a medium of self expression for the historically underrepresented – women throughout history, and African Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Quilts allow their viewers to trace the lives of everyday people throughout the centuries, but they are also objects of artistic wonder – some of the quilts are all white, their texture coming entirely from almost invisible embroidery, others are almost incomprehensibly intricate, made of tens of thousand tiny scraps of fabric. But that is the beauty of textile arts – they can be preserved in a frame and hung on a wall, or worn thin and laid on a bed. They are treasures that most of us have had access to, maybe in our childhood homes or the guest bedroom of a relative, all while holding, within them a social, political, and domestic history.
Do you have a memory of a quilt that meant something important to you? Share it below! The first two respondents to submit a short memory of a significant quilt in their lives will receive a free copy of Four Centuries of Quilts* by Linda Baumgarten and Kimberly Smith Ivey, with a foreword by Ronald Hurst.