09 February, 2021

My Visit(s) To The National Quilt Museum

I borrowed the photo (left) from the Internet. When I visited the museum on January 30 it was raining so hard in Paducah that I was NOT posing for a snapshot out front! These photos, below, are from the first time I visited here in 1993. Can you spot the  biggest difference between the two? 
The museum has undergone a name change! Somehow I missed this occurrence when it happened and it became my mission to find out when and why the former Museum of the American Quilter's Society (MAQS) became The National Quilt Museum. More about that later. Let me assure you, nothing else, nothing, has changed once you enter the doors; the impressive exhibits were both amazing and completely awe-inspiring!
This is where I started: the School Block challenge is an annual competition and exhibit sponsored by Moda for children nationwide from grades Kindergarten through high school. Three fabrics are provided that must be visible on each block. Students are challenged to design their own original quilt block and the entries are judged in categories K-4th grade, 5th-8th grade and 9th-12th grades.  

These quilt blocks are on exhibit through March of this year.
The quilt block above is this years' grand prize winner, the student is in the 5th-8th grade category. Her skill level and attention to detail is excellent, this little "snapshot" of Khloe's life indoors spoke to me. I stood and examined it for the longest time, thinking about how much has changed in a year and none of us even beginning to imagine what this is doing to our children in the long run. What are they internalizing as a result of isolation, quarantine and a worldwide pandemic? I don't know, but I do know that this absolutely broke my heart.
From that exhibit hall I traveled to the main gallery where some of national quilt show winners through the years, just a part of the Museum's permanent collection, were on display. I'm incuding just a few of my all time favorites in this post.  The quilt, above, winner from 2016, "Arandano",  is by Marilyn Badger of St. George, Utah. 
"Unexpected Beauty", 2004, by Sandra Leichner of Albany, Oregon. 
"Score!", 2013, by Shirley P. Kelly of Colden, New York. 
"Morisco", 1984, by Jane Blair of Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. This quilt was of particular interest to me as it is from the same time era that I began quilting. There was such a different look (and feel) to the fabrics available then. I've included a detail here:
This quilt is hand pieced and hand quilted with cotton and cotton/polyester blends, this takes me back. 😲 The workmanship is exquisite!
And last, but certainly not in any way the least, is "The Beatles Quilt".
This has been one of my very favorite quilts for a long time. Made in 1998 by sisters Pat Holly (Muskegon, Michigan) and Sue Nickels (Ann Arbor, Michigan) it incorporates the most expert and flawless domestic machine techniques of applique, piecing and quilting that have stood the test of time.
And, the back: frosting on top of an already masterpiece creation: the hand-written lyrics to each and every Beatles song! I'll report more in my next post on additional quilts that delighted and inspired me from the exhibits but let's go back to that museum name change and what it was all about. 
This year, 2021, marks the thirtieth anniversary of the museum's opening. This new, commemorative, volume of the museum's quilt collection amassed since 1991 is all contained, with photographs and quilter's artist statements, in this publication honoring the occasion. It's a beautiful book. I bought a copy at the bookstore just off the lobby after my time inside at the exhibits. My interest in the history and name change was only piqued when I found old books (the two on top in the photo above) on a $2 mark-down rack in the bookstore's back room. I picked up the Founder's Collection book (2001, a special edition publication marking the ten year anniversary including profiles of  "Who's Who of Quilting" at that time) and The Judge's Task (1993) from the sale area. Interestingly, no one from the volunteers on the floor in the quilt galleries to those manning the register at the bookstore could answer my question. After I left the museum I sent off an email inquiry via their website and received and almost instantaneous phone call from the CEO, Frank Bennett. He was most cordial and interested in addressing the subject. He explained that the name changed in 2008; while the museum was founded as the Museum of the American Quilter's Society by the AQS in 1991 under the leadership of Meredith and Bill Schroeder, the time had come to separate the museum from the "branding" of the American Quilter's Society and have each entity stand on its own. It was not a hasty or unpleasant decision for either party and it was one that was, and has continued to be, beneficial to both. I was not only happy to have my burning question laid to rest but also encouraged by the quick, personal attention provided by that phone call; so often anymore customer service is only a distant memory!
So, this past visit was actually my third. That initial visit in 1993 had me posing behind the massive MAQS sign on the front lawn. My second time here (fall, 2006, above) shows partial signage placed on the upper right corner of the building: "Quilt Museum"; today, the word "National" precedes that. There's all the history that I can provide. As much as things change in the quilt world, much remains the same. Quilters the world over express themselves creatively through fabric and thread and we're all that much richer for it. But, in closing, I want to include a quote from The Judge's Task: "Judges carry no inbred biases against machine quilting". This made me laugh out loud! If you've been at this as long as I have you know how very much has changed since 1993 in that regard! I'm still poring through those books that I came home with; there's so much to learn along the way from those who've blazed the trail.

Life is Good!

Stay tuned for another post loaded with more quilts from my visit to the museum...


Meredith said...

What a fun trip! Loved seeing all your pictures; look forward to more.

Quiltdivajulie said...

The museum is indeed an amazing place - so much to take in and usually not enough time to truly absorb more than a fraction of the inspiration it offers. Thanks for the history lesson and SCORE for those two $2 books!

cityquilter grace said...

thanks for taking me along on this jaunt...gorgeous quilt....on my someday list to visit!

Tanya said...

What a wonderful place! What a wonderful sample of the exhibit. I wonder if I'll ever get out that way...