LECTURE The Quilters of Gee's Bend

by - Monday, May 16, 2011

2011 Maiwa Textile Symposium Lecture

Thursday October 20 - 7:30 pm and Friday October 21 - 7:30 pm
Net Loft Granville Island, Vancouver, Canada

“Few other places can boast the density of Gee’s Bend’s artistic achievement, which is the result of both geographical isolation and an unusual degree of cultural continunity.”
- Alivia Wardlaw
from the introduction to The Quilts of Gee’s Bend

For generations the women of Gee’s Bend have been producing quilts of unique and exceptional beauty. The bold patterning and geometric designs are unlike anything found in the quilting world.

Descendents of African slaves who worked cotton plantations on an isolated bend of the Alabama River, the women of Gee’s Bend have survived some of the hardest economic and social times of the twentieth century, from the great depression, when their stores of food and possessions were repossessed by white creditors, to the civil rights upheavals of the 1960s. Each night the women of Gee’s Bend have quilted when the day’s work was completed. In 1937, the federal government commissioned photographic documentation of Gee’s Bend. These photos have become some of the most famous images of Depression-era life in America.

In 2003 the quilts of Gee’s Bend came to world-wide attention with the publication of two large-format books and a travelling exhibition. This success was soon followed by a documentary which aired on American and Canadian television.

The Quilters of Gee's Bend

In 2005 the quilters of Gee’s Bend arrived in Vancouver for the first time as part of the Maiwa Textile Symposium. The lecture and workshops were a huge success, leaving audiences clamouring for more.

The women consider the process of piecing the quilt top to be highly personal. In Gee’s Bend, the top (the side that faces up on the bed) is always pieced by a quilter working alone and reflects a singular artistic vision. The subsequent process of “quilting” the quilt, sewing together the completed top together with the batting and the back, is then done communally.

Join publisher Matt Arnett and three of the members of the Gee’s Bend quilters as they present their history, stories, challenges, and accomplishments.


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