I did leave the riverbank for some excursions and one was, of course, to the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky. I visited once before, but it was a quick trip while we were on the road to a motorcycle race a few years ago. Glen was in a hurry which made me in a hurry, and I didn’t get to enjoy it as much as I would have liked.
This trip, he stayed behind, and I went with my college roommate, Julie. She and her husband have joined us on our journey for the next four weeks. We left the guys at the campground to do some maintenance work on the trailers and slipped away for the museum and downtown Paducah.
It was so much fun to have a fellow quilter along to talk about not only the colors and designs, but the techniques exhibited by the quilts on display. Established by Bill and Meredith Schroeder of Paducah who chose to create a museum celebrating the work of modern quilters and advancing the art of quilting. While many people think of quilts simply as traditional bedcovers, quilting is now recognized as an art form.
In centuries past, most women did not have time to utilize their creativity purely for pleasure. Leisure activities such as painting, or drawing were reserved for the wealthy who could leave household chores to others. Instead, women invested their talents into useful household items that had dual uses. Both practical and beautiful, quilts served to express their talents as well to make social connections with other women.
Today, quilts continue to be used for comfort and warmth, but they are also works of art that are enjoyed for their beauty alone. The National Quilting Museum recognizes traditional forms of quilting but also promotes quilting as “art for art’s sake.”
The museum, which opened in 1991, changes exhibits every six months. While maintaining an extensive collection of curated quilts, the museum hosts travelling exhibits as well as contests designed to teach and to honor the craft of quilting. Currently, the museum displays an exhibit of quilts highlighting social justice issues such as voting rights, child labor, environmental activism, racism, LBGT advances, and disability laws and reforms.
There is also a section dedicated to specific artists such as Leni Levenson Wiener, a fiber artist who recreates scenes from photographs of unsuspecting people on park benches.
We also saw contest winners from the museum’s annual competition that focusses on a traditional block pattern, in this case, wheel of fortune.
As one quilter stated in the description of her piece, the artists hope to draw viewers into the art rather than build admiration for the techniques used. However, as aspiring quilters, Julie and I could not help but to feel discouraged at the depth of the talent and design work exhibited. We expressed as much to a volunteer, who encouraged us to look for one technique that we could replicate ourselves. Then, to look for that technique as it was used in a variety of quilts and take that knowledge home to use in our own creations. Her wisdom helped us to be inspired instead of depressed!
The technique I hope to recreate involves using netting or translucent materials to add depth, shading, and color to a finished piece. Time will tell if I learn to make realistic bees’ wings or shadowed mountains!
The volunteer also asked us which piece was our favorite. I could not choose one among the hundreds of artworks on display so chose one from each section.
From the museum’s collection, I picked this blue and lavender block panel with cone flowers. The details around the flowers are magnificent.
From the section on social justice, I chose this woodland scene. Even though the artist wanted to call our attention to the destruction of forests and the environment, for me, it was a breath of air after contemplating all the serious crimes to humanity depicted in the other works. They made you think and, in most cases, feel angry while my favorite lured you up the steps and beyond the trees to rest before taking up a cause to champion.
From the park bench series, I chose, “We Need to Talk.” I love the different fabrics used for hair and clothing as well as the serious expressions on the characters faces.
From a series of miniature quilts, no more than 12 X 12 inches, but as detailed as a larger piece, I chose a simple piece of strips and French knots. Some of the quilts were much finer in detail and realism, but this piece appealed to me for its simplicity.
Finally, from the Wheel of Fortune contest winners, I chose Inky’s Garden, a whimsical design showing an octopus watering his flower garden. The fish hiding among the flowers and the circular snail shells cleverly displayed the wheel of fortune pattern all the while telling a story.
These quilts are just a small part of the museum’s collection and exhibitions. By design, museum staff change exhibits frequently making the museum a place you want to visit time and again. There is always something new to see. And to learn!