April 18-July 7, 2013 SILK! Luxurious Antique & Contemporary Art Quilts
Pam Week, Curator | The Demoulas Foundation, Exhibition Sponsor
COMPOSITION by Michael James, 1986 [NEQM permanent collection]
Silk! The word evokes visions of sumptuousness and opulence, whether silk fabrics are worn on the body or draped on the bed. Silk quilts are documented in the inventories of wealthy European households as far back as the Middle Ages. They were some of the first luxury items brought to America with the early colonists.
This exhibition includes one such quilt, made in or brought to Salem, Massachusetts by 1800. Another early piece represents the use of silk by Quakers protesting slavery in the cotton- producing South. Mid-nineteenth century quilts are testaments to the quilt artistry of the period, employing complicated piecing patterns. Some quilts are representative of the Crazy Quilt fad of the late 1800s, when women of all economic classes made thousands of these colorful, playful quilts.
Silk is so desirable that other fibers have often been used to mimic it, including cotton, rayon and polyester. Manufacturers employ either a silk-like weave or chemical processes that result in a product that imitates the luster of silk. I’ve included some of these quilts in the exhibition to demonstrate how the eye can be fooled by the weaver or chemist.
Silk enjoyed a revival in the 1990s, when artists painted surfaces and joined layers to make quilts, or used silk elements to give sparkle to predominantly cotton quilts. Both long-arm quilters and those using home sewing machines turn to silk to sculpt their work or add that sheen that only it offers, enhancing any pattern. Thus, the tradition of luxury continues.
June 15: 10AM LECTURE BY SUE REICH
Susie C. Walker: Her Life and Quilts in a 19th Century Connecticut Silk Mill Company Town
This presentation presents Susie C. Walker, a quiltmaker with incredible piecing and embroidery skills. She lived and worked in Manchester, Connecticut in the late nineteenth century. Her life and the lives of her townsfolk revolved around the textile mills throughout the village. The development and evolution of the sericulture industry, and the Cheney Brothers catapulted this town to fame and fortune, providing Manchester, CT with economic sustenance. This factory’s success served the American textile industry with the production of silk for clothing and for home decoration and defense for nearly 150 years.
Lecture FREE with paid admission to the galleries.
Museum members always admitted free.
STAR OF THE WEST  by Suzie C. Walker
Photography (without flash) of the quilts in this exhibition IS permitted, except for some clearly marked pieces.
Photos are for personal use only and may not be posted to any website without prior permission of the New England Quilt Museum.