out and about :: v&a: quilts 1700-2010

Katie | April 28, 2010

I saw this exhibition at the V&A on Friday evening, with a friend who wants to make her first quilt. I was mostly attracted by the fantastically geeky title of the exhibition and surprisingly enough, it wasn’t overrun on a Friday night! It was however a very good exhibition, even for someone like me; who’s not a textiles-nut.

This was my favourite piece:

Punctuation by Sara Impey

Inspired by the tradition of sewing love letters into quilts, in this piece Sara Impey used a line from a letter she discovered after her mother’s death, from a friend hinting at a possible relationship, which was signed off “See you suddenly one day.” She wrote the poem in this quilt using that fragment as a starting point.
Sara very generously gave me this rare picture of the quilt and also took the time to answer a few questions about her work:
coadg: What does craft as a means of expression mean to you? What role does it play in your life?
sara: Making quilts has been central in my life for many years.  I made my first quilt in 1971, aged 17.  There was a gap when I went to university, worked as a newspaper journalist, married, had children, etc., during which I made stuff intermittently for the home.  I took it up seriously again in the early 1990s, when I realised its expressive potential, and started exhibiting.  It’s got to the point now where quilt-making is my identity, it’s what I do.  Like you and design by the sound of it, it’s my default mode – I am constantly thinking about and planning quilts, as well as actually making them.  For the last six years my quilts have included lettering, and this has become more and more important – I write my own texts and am always on the hunt for new ideas.  As the texts have got more complex, the design has got simpler.
coadg: What’s your favourite part of the creative process?
sara: There is tremendous satisfaction in actually finishing a piece of work, especially as my quilts can take up to 200 hours over months.  But I also enjoy the day-to-day methodical stitching – very calming and therapeutic.  There is something about being master (or mistress!) of the sewing machine that appeals to me, the sense of being on top of one’s game.  I also enjoy working out the texts.  Some of my recent quilts have had a sentence reading down through them, as well as across, and it is very satisfying getting this to work – I worry away at it with a dictionary and thesaurus on squared paper until I have clinched it.  Rather like writing a poem to a particular set of constraints, or perhaps compiling a crossword.
coadg: Who are your craft or design heroes?
sara: In the quilting world I admire Elizabeth Brimelow, Janet Twinn and Helen Parrott, among many others.  I also like the textile artist Ptolemy Mann.  I enjoy some types of graphic computer art: particularly highly complex yet precise repeated patterns with tiny variations.  I like contemporary glass, though I don’t know enough about it to name names.  I also love the work of the stone-carver Gary Breeze.   I like simplicity, yet at the same time I like patterns that cover the whole surface.
Links & Info:
Quilts 1700 – 2010 is on at the V&A until 4th July 2010.

Further Reading for the Especially Geeky ::

Founding Editor – Katie Treggiden

Having established confessions of a design geek in 2010, Katie Treggiden has gone on to a career in design journalism, writing for titles such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, Elle Decoration, Stylist, Design Milk and Ideal Home. In 2014, she launched Fiera, an independent magazine dedicated to discovering new talent at the world’s design fairs. Her second book, Makers of East London, was published in 2015.

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