Earlier this week I had to drop off some paperwork at my new place of employment (I start on Monday! So excited!). As I was sitting in the lobby staring into space I noticed two Gee's Bend quilts on the wall:
|Housetop Blocks, 2007, by Allie Pettway, Gee's Bend|
|Housetops w/ 19 patch, 2007, by Allie Pettway, Gee's Bend|
In Gee's Bend, an African-American hamlet of Alabama, women have been creating modernist quilts with a nod to quilting's history since the 60s. Gee's Bend is located in an isolated area that was further shut off from neighboring communities in 1962 when the ferry service was shut down in an attempt to block residents from registering to vote. (The ferry re-opened in 2006). Originally formed as a off-shoot of the Civil Rights Movement, The Freedom Quilting Bee was formed to give women viable source of income in an area and time where there weren't many options. Isolation coupled with poverty meant that the Gee's Bend quilters had to use re-purposed materials to create modernist quilts. If you look closely at the quilts, you can identify shirting fabric, re-purposed flannel and men's trouser fabric, yet browse any quilting blogs for longer than a few minutes and you will find these very same designs in bold, modern quilting fabrics. I adore this juxtaposition and love the history of these quilts. And I feel very lucky to be employed by a company that owns a couple (or more?) of these historical quilts. They are incredibly inspiring and may just make a quilt using re-purposed fabrics of my own this fall . . .
The Quilts of Gee's Bend, NPR
The Future of Gee's Bend, Deep South Magazine
Freedom Quilting Bee