Sunday, October 23, 2011

Gee's Bend Week

The likelihood of a good night's sleep for me tonight is slim. I am super excited about the next two days. I'll be back at Maiwa for a workshop with three of the Gee's Bend Quilters. Last time they came to town, in 2005, I wasn't able to grab a spot in their workshops, so this year I knew I had to be fast on registration day and I managed to score the last place!

Quilts of Gee's Bend
The quiltmakers, L-R: Annie Mae Young, Mary Lee Bendolph, Mary Lee Bendolph, Arlonzia Pettway, Mesie Lee Pettway.

Like so many others, I have been fascinated by the quilts made in Gee's Bend ever since they were first exhibited in Houston in 2002. I was lucky enough to see some in person in July, 2004 when Ed Mirvish Books on Art hosted a small exhibit in Toronto. That's where all the photos in this post were taken.

Quilts of Gee's Bend
Candis Pettway

After standing with my mouth open in front of every quilt, I sat and watched the video of the quilters made by Tinwood Media. I bought the VHS tape and I bought the coffee table book (it was my birthday, after all). When I returned to Vancouver, I was so anxious to share what I'd learned and seen, I read the book cover to cover and gave a slide show presentation to my guild in the fall.

Quilts of Gee's Bend
Nancy Pettway

Last Friday night, I attended a lecture given by three of the quilters, Louisiana Bendolph, China Pettway, Revil Mosley along with Matt Arnett (who, with his father, has mounted the museum shows of quilts, published the womens' stories and traveled around the world, introducing the quilters and their work). Felicity wrote an excellent summary of the lecture you can read on her blog here and there's even a video clip of their amazing singing!!

Quilts of Gee's Bend
This is one of my all-time fav quilts. I am smitten by that angled center panel, all protected by the field of light green grounded by the strong red stripe across the bottom...
made by Gloria Hoppins

On a 2009 trip to Sisters, Oregon for the famous outdoor quilt show put on by the Stitchin' Post every July, there were 8 quilters from Gee's Bend in attendance, promoting the second coffee table book, the Architecture of the Quilt. I bought it. They signed it. I cried when they broke into gospel. Look closely at this next photo:

Quilts of Gee's Bend
Mensie Lee Pettway
See the labels below the quilt, defining the type of books for sale on the shelves below? How perfect. Now take a look at this next one:

Quilts of Gee's Bend
Mary Lee Bendolph
Even more perfect!!!! I just loved that. Modern Art indeed.

These last few photos are all quilts made from colourful corduroy that the women were able to acquire as leftover cuts from the Freedom Quilting Bee - a sewing business not far from Gee's Bend where many worked making commercial bedding for Sears Roebuck at one time. These are some of my favourite quilts, too. The wild colours and how the quilter's used them in their compositions are truly special.

Quilts of Gee's Bend
Annie Mae Young

And here you see some classic Gee's Bend work. The denim pant legs sewn right into the quilt top. We are going to deconstruct some clothing in the workshop and make some of our own compositions. I think. We may just sing for two days and that would suit me just fine.

It may take me a little bit to put it all into words and photos for you. I know how lucky I am to have this opportunity and how many of you would enjoy it too, so I promise to share.

Note: the quilts photographed here were hung a storey above the floor where I was standing. I was not able to read the tiny labels 12 feet up on the wall, identifying the each quiltmaker. I'm sorry I cannot identify the individual that created each quilt pictured here.
Edited: Thanks to Matt Arnett who identified each quilt's maker for me!

27 comments:

Lynne (Lily's Quilts) said...

Have a wonderful wonderful time and I wish I could be there with you.

Kerry said...

that is going to be an incredibly inspiring workshop! Can't wait to hear more when you return

Kerry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nova said...

wonderful! so so WONDERFUL! enjoy every moment Krista :) really looking forward to the follow up post/s ;) x

Flying Blind... said...

Oh you are going to have such an amazing time!

Elizabeth D. said...

Wow, have an awesome time! I cannot wait to hear all about it!

Nina Lise Moen said...

Hope you'll have a brilliant time!!

Gene Black said...

As you may know, Gee's Bend is in Alabama. I have never been there, but I have deconstructed clothing to make pieces for quilts. I love thrift store shopping for fabric, but I get some funny looks when I pick out cotton dresses (in the largest sizes I can find of course!)

Abbybeth said...

The Flint Institute of Arts (Michigan) hosted an exhibit of Gee's Bend quilts and I was fortunate enough to attend a one-day workshop with the ladies. They're all so warm, inviting and wonderful and I had such thought provoking conversations with Louisiana Bendolf regarding following patterns and finding the self confidence to make my own pattern instead. They also sang for us - after brunch and at the end of the day. They brought us into the exhibit and sang as their goodbye, a perfect end to truly amazing day with them.

Leanne said...

Thank you for sharing all the photographs and I hope you enjoy the workshop. I sure wish I could come too!

My Sweet Prairie said...

We had a Gees Bend coffee table book - out of print! - for auction at our quilt show. It went for hundreds of dollars!! Very cool. It's interesting to see how modern / contemporary all this looks now, isn't it!

Monika
sewing in Saskatoon

Kristen said...

Have a great day! I love them so much because they are beautiful pieces out of completely everyday fabrics that most of us would have overlooked.

Patti said...

I'd need to have a big box of kleenex as well as fabric! I'd be a blubbering fool the whole time! Have a great time, you lucky, lucky gal!

paulette said...

Wow!! Lucky you!! Have fun and I will be waiting to see the pictures that you take!! It's the next best thing to actually going!
P

Krista said...

How fun!!! Have a great time. I can't wait to hear about it.

Heather D. said...

Wowza! Those quilts are amazing. Have fun!

PinkGranny said...

Have fun! You can sleep when you get hoome...

Cynthia F said...

Oh wow- what an awesome workshop to be a part of, I agree with Patti, I'd just be in sheer awe of being there- have a wonderful time and can't wait to see what you do!

felicity said...

I cannot WAIT to hear all about your experience and now that I've met the women (and been hugged - twice! - by Revil), I *really* wish I were going to be there. Thanks for the shout out to my summary.

Love, Rainman.

Dianne said...

Love this post Krista! My excitement for this evening is even greater now. I cannot believe how lucky I am to get to visit with them in such an intimate setting. I hope your workshop with the ladies is amazing!

quiltmom said...

Krista,
I have been a great fan of Gee Bend quilts and have drooled over their book when I borrowed it from the library. I have seen a film on PBS about them. What a magnificent show that you visited in Ontario.
I am sure you are going to have an absolutely fabulous time creating and singing with the Gee Bend women. I will look forward to your next post about it.
Warmest regards,
Anna

twirlymama said...

Add me to the green-with-envy-can't-wait-to-hear list! :)

Live a Colorful Life said...

Thanks for the beautiful pictures of these phenomenal quilts. What an amazing opportunity for you. Looking forward to details!

carol said...

Awesome! You are one lucky girl to grab that last spot. I envy you! Enjoy every minute!

Amy said...

I bet it was fantastic. I can't believe that they even got you loving brown. Can't wait to hear more!

Jules said...

that is such cool stuff, and i love the accidental perfect labels for the quilts!. enjoy.

Michele Pacey said...

These quilters and their quilts are inspirational. I had no idea they sang... How cool!

You are one lucky Krista to be meeting and working with this group. So amazing!