Last month I was fortunate to escape Melbourne’s wintery weather and holiday for a fortnight in Queensland. Fortunate indeed because I was able to visit “Quilts 1700-1945” during my time in Brisbane. This exhibition of more than 30 quilts, bedhangings and other handcrafted items is from the Victoria and Albert Museum and would, I think, represent one of the most important quilt exhibitions ever to come to Australia. http://www.qagoma.qld.gov.au/exhibitions/current/quilts_1700-1945
In addition to this treat, the Rajah Quilt was also on display, something that doesn’t occur very often because of the need to preserve this important historical item. http://www.nga.gov.au/rajahquilt/
I joined a free guided tour (provided by volunteers) which was a wonderful way to learn lots of interesting details about the quilts’ history and construction as well details of society of the time. Who knew that it was the norm for women to entertain in their bedrooms in the eighteenth century? I certainly didn’t, but of course it explains why wealthy women used their bed quilts as a showpiece to display their craftsmanship.
Photos cannot be taken in the exhibition (the light would be detrimental to the textiles), so unfortunately I cannot share visually with you some of the wonderful things I saw.
…the quilt made by an officer in the British Army in 1864 who was recovering from TB. Thousands of tiny hexagons made from thick uniform material.
…a clamshell bed curtain made for a four poster by orphans in the workhouse. Over 6400 pieces!!
… the incomplete Changi quilt made by young girl guides for their leader, using scraps and threads taken from the seams of clothing. It was worked on for a year before being removed by a guard, and that it survives today seems quite miraculous!
Ladybirdee has alerted me to these short videos which are interesting to view. http://tv.qagoma.qld.gov.au/mediatype/videos/?exhibition=quilts
One of the things that struck me was the colours and designs of the fabric. The reproduction fabrics so readily available to us today are a true representation of the style fashionable so many years earlier.
This is one of my current projects, Queen Square by Sue Ambrose. Four of the blocks use Clamshells, but fortunately for me, only 12 Clamshells are used in each block . So only 48 to make, not 6400 as in the bedhanging on display in the exhibition..
Here is the finished block. The colours and design would have fitted well with some of the antique quilts on display.
A display of quilts by Ruth Stoneley (1940-2007) entitled “A Stitch in Time” was also on display in a separate exhibition at the gallery. http://www.qagoma.qld.gov.au/exhibitions/current/ruth_stoneley_a_stitch_in_time Ruth was a very inspiring and innovative craftswomen and I shopped at her store when I lived in Brisbane in the 1990s. Some of the items on display reflected the trends of time in which they were made, but some were ahead of their time.
By chance I happened to also come across another interesting exhibition at the Queensland Performing Arts Complex, just over the road from the art gallery.
This was a free display of ballet costumes used by dancers of The Australian Ballet and Queensland Ballet. Again, I was not allowed to take photos, but it was a very interesting insight into the costumes, the development of the tutu, and showed how a classical tutu is constructed. (A bit different to how my grandmother toiled to make ballet costumes for me!) http://www.qpac.com.au/event/Tools_of_the_Trade_13.aspx
And as if I didn’t have enough stimulation I also took in a regional food festival held at Southbank on the same day. Thanks Brisbane for such an enjoyable day!