14 May, 2010

"Quilts 1700 - 2010" Exhibition at the V&A Museum, London

If you get a chance to see this exhibition at the V&A Museuem in London before it finishes on 4th July, I highly recommend you go. The exhibition is divided into 5 'rooms':
  • The Domestic Landscape
  • Private Thoughts - Political Debates
  • Virtue and Virtuosity
  • Making a Living
  • Meeting the Past

It is well laid out with a good mix of historical and contemporary work.

I hired the i-touch audio visual guide available at the door and was very impressed with how it increased my enjoyment of the exhibition. It had photos of a selection of the quilts which allowed you to zoom in and see the stitching, which wasn't always possible to do in reality because some items were displayed on beds and you couldn't get close because of barriers. It also included some interviews with the contemporary makers which gave a great insight into their inspirations and methods of working.

I was particularly struck by the video accompanying a quilt made by men in Wandsworth prison which was commissioned by the V&A for the exhibition. I was surprised by how vulnerable these men seemed and their obvious enjoyment in sewing the quilt contradicted my own preconceived expectation that the prisoners would be tough, uninterested and unwilling to express their feelings.

There were plenty of other colourful, imaginative and beautifully constructed quilts all of which I will savour at leisure as I bought the accompanying book to take home!

The V&A is a wonderful museum with so much to see. There are fantastic giftshops, bookshops and tearooms. There is a giftshop immediately as you exit the exhibition, with lots of specially created patchwork fabrics, gifts, books and sewing notions inspired by the exhibition. Resist if you can!

For more information visit www.vam.ac.uk and www.vandashop.com for the quilting fabrics.

(Ester Kiely)

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