Not Your Memaw's Quilts (But Hers Were Just Fine)
Stitched with Purpose
The Jackie quilt by Susan Lenz of Columbia, South Carolina is part of an incredible collection called HERstory Quilts: A Celebration of Strong Women, which you can see at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky, throughApril 9, 2019.
To create HERstory, the museum worked with artist Susanne Miller Jones, who curated the collection of over 100 quilts contributed by 84 artists from 7 different countries. A selection of those quilts—a number of them by Southern hands—became a traveling exhibit, currently showcased at the museum.
“People still make traditional quilts that are beautiful, and they are art—I believe all quilting is art—but what we call fiber art is more like something you would hang on the wall,” Jones explained. “It could be very traditional patchwork but usually it’s not. Art quilters use machine applique and hand applique; they paint; sometimes they create whole cloth quilts where they have hand-painted a scene and then free-motion quilted it, but there’s no piecing involved at all.”
Some 41,000 visitors from all over the world come to the museum every year, said CEO Frank Bennett: “Quilting is in a place in its history where it truly has become an art form. Many people think of the quilt they had on the bed as a kid, but they don’t know what’s possible until they see collections like this.”
Check out some of the Southern-made quilts in HERstory.
Field of Hope: Lady Bird Johnson
by Sarah Entsminger, Ashburn, Virginia
Entsminger’s tribute bears Johnson’s quote, “Where flowers bloom, so does hope.”
Misty in the Making
by Nneka Gamble, Victoria, Texas
Gamble salutes Misty Copeland, the athletic, mold-breaking, breathtaking principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre—the first African American woman ever to hold that title.
Oprah Winfrey: Overcoming and Conquering
by Leo T. Ransom, Sherman, Texas
Ransom is known for portraits. He says he chose to honor Winfrey with one made from thumbnail-sized pieces of fabric laid onto a pattern that he drew.
Texas Governor Ann Richards
by Teresa P Bristow, Springfield, Virginia
Bristow’s artist statement praises Richards, who “felt there was a lot of disparity between what government was intended to be and what the politicians were actually doing.”
by Gabriele DiTota, Melbourne, Florida
DiTota’s piece celebrates Bresenhan for being a “visionary and a driving force in promoting and cultivating the quilting industry.” Her artist statement says she enjoys working with hand painted, dyed, and printed fabrics, drawing great satisfaction from “the freedom that comes from creating.”
Fly, Wally, Fly: Wally Funk
by Gay Young, Sweetwater, Texas
The first U.S. astronauts—all men—were called the Mercury 7. However, 13 women—now called the Mercury 13—passed the same tests as the men but weren’t allowed into space. Wally Funk was one of them. The seasoned pilot has taught thousands of students to fly.
Liberté de l’air: Bessie Coleman
by Ricki S. Selva, Fort Myer, Virginia
“Ricki paints on sheer fabric and hand-quilts her pieces,” Jones explained. The artist describes her subject, one of 13 children born to Texas sharecroppers: “When no one in the United States would teach a woman of color to fly, Elizabeth ‘Bessie’ Coleman learned to speak French, moved to Le Crotoy, France, and earned her international pilot’s license.”
INTEGRITY: Frances Oldham Kelsey
by Bobbe Shapiro Nolan, Eagle Lake, Texas
On her first assignment at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1960, Kelsey resisted considerable pressure to prevent Thalidomide, now known to cause severe birth defects, from being sold in the U.S. The artist honors her with a piece incorporating cottons, paint, perle cotton threads, and synthetic corded edging.
May I Take Off My Hat? Yvonne Porcella
by Susanne M Jones, Potomac Falls, Virginia
“My work is highly personal and realistic,” Jones says. Here she pays tribute to one of the pioneers of art quilting.
To Play One or To Be One, That is the Question! (Hattie McDaniel)
by Nneka K Gamble, Victoria, Texas
Best known as “Mammy” in Gone with the Wind, McDaniel was the first African American to win the Oscar. “Aya,” a fern-like Andrinka symbol, is quilted into the background. “The fern, like Hattie, sometimes grows in harsh and difficult terrain, but still flourishes and survives,” the artist writes.
Brave Betty: Betty Ford
by Janet A. Marney, Fairfax, Virginia
“With boldness, honesty, wisdom, and compassion, she used her prominent position to speak out on a variety of issues, raising awareness and giving hope to millions,” the artist writes. Ford’s openness about her battles with alcohol and breast cancer was groundbreaking.
Hillary Rodham Clinton
by Margaret Williams, Tucker, Georgia
“Margaret has a unique style in that she hides little pictures among the tiny pieces that she fuses to create her portraits,” Jones explained. When she saw Clinton wearing suffragette white the evening of her nomination, the artist said, she imagined the candidate “was literally clothed in the spirits of many women, men, and children who have worked to create an America that values freedom and justice for all human beings.”
It All Started on a Bus: Rosa Parks
by Carole A. Nicholas, Oakton, Virginia
“The words on my quilt were written by Kiari Day in 2008, on a bedsheet banner for Barack Obama’s first Presidential campaign,” the artist writes. “Hand embroidered between the quilting lines are two famous quotations: ‘Nah,’ and ‘The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.’”
She Knows! Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
by Tammi Daubenspeck, Sherman, Texas
The artist was a traditional quilter when she learned of Jones’ first art quilt collection, Fly Me to the Moon. Her first art quilts were chosen for that show. Here she salutes suffragist and women’s rights advocate Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
by Kaylea Daubenspeck, Sherman, Texas
The daughter of quilt artist Tammi Daubenspeck, Kaylea Daubenspeck is a painter. This tribute to primatologist and conservationist Jane Goodall is her first art quilt.
Digit for Dian Fossey
by Tracy Williams, Austin, Texas
Williams memorializes Digit, the favorite gorilla of primatologist Dian Fossey. Digit was killed by poachers. Fossey’s book Gorillas in the Mist was later made into a movie.
by Margaret (Peggy) Fetteroff, Spring, Texas
“The red bull in this creation is a bit of an oxymoron suggesting a slightly feminine version of the famous Wall Street bull,” writes Fetteroff in her artist statement. Her subject, Muriel Faye Siebert, became the first woman to buy her own seat on the New York Stock Exchange in 1967.
Get the Book
You can order a book about the collection from Amazon.