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

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

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.

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