June 09, 2009 – Windham Fabrics is collaborating with the Gee’s Bend Quilters Collective to present the “Quilts of Gee’s Bend.” This project, scheduled to debut this coming fall (2009), consists of a collection of hand-dyed solid fabrics, as well as a series of kits of Debby Kratovil’s faithful interpretations of four original Gee’s Bend quilts.
We are very excited to announce that Windham Fabrics’ four “Quilts of Gee’s Bend” will be on display in our gallery (upstairs at Quilted Threads) in mid-November, as one of their first stops on a lengthy tour. Please join us for a special reception and viewing of these stunning works on Friday, November 20, from 6pm – 8pm. The quilts will remain on display through early December and can be enjoyed during our regular store hours.
Windham describes this collaboration with the Gee’s Bend Collective as follows:
“A small remote community in Alabama (pop. 700), represents the genius of a group of exceptional quilters who, for more than a century, have created distinctive works of art for their homes and families. The textile artists of Gee’s Bend are the inheritors of a tradition that goes back many generations. The “discovery” of these unique American masterpieces has led to their exhibition in museums including The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, among others.
Windham Fabrics is proud to partner with the Gee’s Bend Quilters Collective and present The Quilts of Gee’s Bend. It is our pleasure to encourage every quilter to be inspired by the vision and courage of the modern quilting pioneers, and create their own masterpiece. For more information about the women of Gee’s Bend, their stories, and their quilts please visit www.quiltsofgeesbend.com.”
The Gee’s Bend Solids are a collection of 23 hand-dyed fabrics, created by textile artisans.“There is no definitive pattern, and each yard is different from the preceding yard, with no defined repeat. It is not unusual to find dying defects, splotches, mis-color, and “dripped color” in random spots throughout each bolt of fabric, The natural imperfections that result in this dyeing process ad to and enhance the unique flavor that is inherent in the original Gee’s Bend quilts.”
Quilted Threads will carry the complete line of hand-dyed Gee’s Bend Solids, as well as kits for all four of the Gee’s Bend Quilts, while supplies last. These quilts are only available as limited edition kits, and will be packaged by Windham Fabrics in a collector’s bag accompanied by a bio of the original artist. Please call us at 603-428-6622 with questions about the exhibit, fabric collection, or to reserve a quilt kit.
Pictures of the four (interpreted) quilts in Windham’s collection, along with brief bios of their quilters, follow below.
“Lazy Gal Variation”
by Qunnie Pettway (b. 1943)
The great-granddaughter of Dinah Miller who is said to have arrived in the United States aboard a slave ship from Africa – the Clotilde which docked in Mobile Bay, Alabama prior to the Civil War. Qunnie learned to quilt House Tops under the tutelage of her mother, Candis Pettway. In 1960 after she married, she found her unique artistic voice and began making patterned quilts including Wedding Ring – which she learned from her sister – Chestnut Bud, Bear Paw and Crazy Z. Qunniea’s daughter, Loretta P. Bennett is one of the youngest quilters actively creating extraordinary quilts today.
“Lazy Gal Variation” – 52″ x 62”
Housetop – 4 Block Variation”
by Mary L. Bennett (b. 1942)
The granddaughter of Delia Bennett (1892-1976) ancestor of many quilt makers in Gee’s Bend. Mary L. Bennett pieces primarily “Housetop” and “Bricklayer” compositions and imaginative variations on them. As quoted by Mary, “I was born down here in Brown Quarters and got raised by my grandmother. I started out working in the fields for my uncle Stalling Bennett. I didn’t get no schooling – every now and then a day here and there. Didn’t nobody teach me to make quilts. I just learned it by myself, about 12 or 13. I was seeing my grandmamma piecing it up, and then I start. I just taken me some pieces and put it together, piece them up till they look like I want them to look. That’s all.”
“Housetop – 4 Block Variation” – 57″ x 65″
“Strips & Strings”
by Mary Lee Bendolph (b. 1935)
The 7th of 17children, descends from generations of accomplished quilt makers. She learned to quilt from her mother, Aolar Mosely and a network of aunts and female in-laws. She worked in Alabama fields and attended school intermittently until she was 14, when she began her own family. Bendolph was one of many Gee’s Benders who accompanied Martin Luther King Jr. in his march at Camden, AL in 1965. Her quilt making style marries a flair for improvisation to traditional construction techniques that emphasize rectangles and squares. Her minimalist patches, small compositions of cloth, build to create intricate overall compositions that contain humorous touches and autobiographical references.
“Strips & Strings” – 75″ x 60″
by Rita Mae Pettway (b. 1941)
She made her first quilt at the age of 14. She was raised by her grandmother, quiltmaker Annie E. Pettway and still lives in the house that her grandfather built for the family in the 1940s. “Onliest thing we did after everything else was done, we sit by the fireplace in the wintertime and piece up quilts. Me and my grandmama Annie. She didn’t have no pattern to go by; she just cut them by the way she know how to make them,” say Rita Mae. Piecing quilts, according to Rita Mae, was done individually but quilting “we all did together.” Rita Mae, along with her ancestors and her daughter, renowned quilter Louisiana Bendolph share a penchant for creating strip quilts in concentric squares resulting in Housetops and Hog Pens, each artist though has a unique style and variation on the theme.
“Housetop” – 52″ x 64″