Thursday, 6 May 2010


There appears to be somewhat of a quilting mania in London right now, with the V&A's imaginatively titled major exhibition Quilts: 1700-2010 running until July - in addition to the London Quilters' Exhibition 2010 currently showing at the Swiss Cottage Library. The V&A had some great historical examples but the Swiss Cottage show embodied a far more down to earth and contemporary take on the craft (see pics below).

Quilts somehow seem to become allegorical symbols for their makers. The traditional quality of the craft reflects centuries of domestic teaching between mothers and daughters, providing a nostalgic vibe into the mix for modern quilt makers, in line with the comeback of all things handmade. For some, quilting seems almost an obsessional practice, incorporating sophisticated designs and even names for each piece they produce. English quilter Hazel Ryder, quoted in a recent Guardian article suggested 'I think I need to make quilts. Quilting to me is like breathing - it is what I do. It is my way of responding to the world'.

British artist Tracey Emin, of course, remains heavily associated with the needleworking genre, customising this feminine form of expression to blistering effect in her 2004 work Hate and Power Can Be a Terrible Thing (above).  Her juxtaposition of stark, angry phrases with the pastel colours and kitsch floral designs of the fabric she employs epitomise to me the enormous gulf between the idealised societal expectations of femininity and the often brutal reality of what it means to be a woman today.

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