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Thread: Gee's Bend Quilts

  1. #1
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    There are several sites that show images of quilts made by some of the women of Gee's Bend.

    Many of them are bold and beautiful. Very dynamic.

    Many of them are extremely wonky.

    Some of them are being shown in museums and selling for high prices.

    http://www.quiltsofgeesbend.com/
    http://www.philamuseum.org/exhibitions/311.html
    http://www.auburn.edu/academic/other...show/index.htm

    These can help provide a different perspective/viewpoint/thinking about "the proper way" to make a quilt. These makers did not appear to give half a hoot about perfect points or HSTs or straight lines or following a pattern.

  2. #2
    Super Member Rebecca VLQ's Avatar
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    I love that one housetop variation by Ms. Pettiway, orange and red. The wonk of the blocks/strips make it that much more endearing!

  3. #3
    Super Member brushandthimble's Avatar
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    I saw the exhibit in Boston a few years ago. It was really moving to read the stories that go with each quilt. I think it will be a shame to spilt them up. I tied to get a group of the ladies I quilt with to go with me, ended up going with DH and foster daughter and was near the end of the exhibit, otherwise I would have gone back for a second visit.

  4. #4
    Super Member janRN's Avatar
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    I saw the exhibit in Pittsburgh and was blown away--they take every quilting "rule" and ignore it; "quilt police"?--forget them!! They used everything from wool to thin cotton to a tape measure in their quilts.

    I bought the book and the ladies tell their stories individually. It was great but difficult reading. They speak in dialect (gulla?) and sometimes it's hard to decipher. I loved it.

    Have you seen the GeesBend Quilt Kits? What a joke!! They make perfect seams, matched colors, points, etc. That's not a GeesBend quilt.

    If anyone has the opportunity, go see these quilts. Even if you think they're ugly or a joke (some comments I heard at the exhibition) you'll come away with great admiration for these ladies.

  5. #5
    Power Poster BellaBoo's Avatar
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    I saw the exhibit in Boston. I loved the stories of the quilts. The original quilts are what they are, made from whatever was available to use. I was impressed with the women's creativity.

  6. #6
    Super Member janRN's Avatar
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    I've been looking for more follow up on this thread.

    Why is it in Links & Resources?

    I think these quilts are worthy of discussion, pro and con, and would have liked to hear what others think about them.

  7. #7
    Power Poster twinkie's Avatar
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    My friend and I went to Gee's Bend, Alabama to see what all of the talk about their quilts was. We came away with very mixed emotions. Some of the women were very nice and we visited with Mary Lee Bendolph (Quiltmakers of the Quilts Gees Bend) in her home for about an hour (her health is failing) Perhaps we went with a higher expectation than we should have. Most of the quilts were very primitive and not what our Grandmothers and Great-Grandmothers made. As stated, there was never any "quilt police" in the area and straight lines were not important. We came away with the idea that commercialization of the quilts had taken over and they were very overpriced. (A baby quilt of polyester squares that were not square, $150). I am glad that we went, however, we would not go back. We felt the visit was enlightening. The book had some great stories. I have several pictures if anyone wants to see them. Thanks for listening to the story of our visit.

  8. #8
    Super Member janRN's Avatar
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    Thanks, Twinkie. I guess I was looking for someone else who shared my feelings. I have great admiration for the quilters but I wonder about over-commercialization, too. I really enjoyed the show and glad you did too.
    Thanks again.

  9. #9
    Google Goddess craftybear's Avatar
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    thanks for sharing the links

  10. #10
    Super Member brushandthimble's Avatar
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    Remember, these quilts were made in the poorest part of our country many many years ago. They were made with whatever was on hand, and made to keep warm. Today they are Folk Art.
    No, they are not perfect and certainly what we consider art quilts today, but they are Folk Art of their time.
    The ladies themselves did not go out and promote their quilts for high prices, someone else commercialized and promoted them.

  11. #11
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    Currently Gee's Bend has a booth at the Sharonville Creative Arts Festival is Sharonville, Ohio. Tomorrow (June 26) is the last day from 10:00-4:00. It is at the Sharonville Convention Center, Chester Road. (North of Cincinnati, south of I-275.

  12. #12
    Super Member janRN's Avatar
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    BrushandThimble: I wasn't questioning the integrity of the quilters. I recently read an article about a "rift" in the group of quilters regarding money. I guess that happens in a lot of families when large sums of money is involved.

    I repeat, I really admire the women and they used what they had and thankfully made a living out of it. My real question is who "owns" the rights to these kits? Who came up with the idea to package their quilting style but make it more in line with what others see as "real" quilting (not MY definition)? I agree that they, and our grandmothers, used what they had and would never be having the debate about Walmart vs. LQS fabrics as is going on on another thread here.

    Thanks for continuing this thread and your thoughtful responses.

  13. #13
    Senior Member merrylouw's Avatar
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    My husband and I saw this exhibit in Houston several years ago. We, too, were blown away by the use of fabrics at hand: work pants of denim, twill and corduroy; work shirts of all kinds. These ladies made quilts for warmth and comfort (utility quilts), but the finished quilts are so much more. They are truly works of primitive art.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by janRN
    BrushandThimble: I wasn't questioning the integrity of the quilters. I recently read an article about a "rift" in the group of quilters regarding money. I guess that happens in a lot of families when large sums of money is involved.

    I repeat, I really admire the women and they used what they had and thankfully made a living out of it. My real question is who "owns" the rights to these kits? Who came up with the idea to package their quilting style but make it more in line with what others see as "real" quilting (not MY definition)? I agree that they, and our grandmothers, used what they had and would never be having the debate about Walmart vs. LQS fabrics as is going on on another thread here.

    Thanks for continuing this thread and your thoughtful responses.
    Jan, the day after I wrote my response, I spoke to the two ladies manning the booth. They both are within the group that "founded" Gee's Bend. They explained to me that the money from the quilts goes back into the community (Gee's Bend is in Alabama). A person connected with some of the members and convinced them that they would get more by working through that person. That person is the one who profits from the kits (this person is from Atlanta ...Georgia...get it?). I guess the women who moved in that person's direction were flattered and that is where the difficulty came in. The original group, still working with whatever is available is GeesBend.net. I hope this clarifies what went on...at least according to the ladies I spoke to. They informed me that they were the family...mom, daughters, aunties, etc. that began the movement. They were very calm in telling me about it, and were probably more hurt that the original idea had taken a partial turn to kits.

  15. #15
    Super Member TexasGurl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brushandthimble
    Remember, these quilts were made in the poorest part of our country many many years ago. They were made with whatever was on hand, and made to keep warm. Today they are Folk Art.
    No, they are not perfect and certainly what we consider art quilts today, but they are Folk Art of their time.
    The ladies themselves did not go out and promote their quilts for high prices, someone else commercialized and promoted them.
    EXACTLY ... and that is what I have a problem with too. We first saw these quilts at a Houston guild mtg some yrs ago. These quilts are Folk Art - primitive, made of whatever they had on hand, and sewn together haphazardly.
    What was really FUNNY was the local quilt "expert" who gave the "lecture" on these quilts. She presented them, VERY seriously, as high works of art - of complex construction, deep meanings, technically amazing, ground-breaking etc yada yada yada ... Ad nauseum
    It was all the audience could do to keep from laughing - as quilters, WE all saw them for what they WERE - scrappy, messy, utilitarian quilts !!
    I'm afraid those like her in the quilt world have gone on to commercialize (& profit) from the Gees Bend quilts.

  16. #16
    Super Member janRN's Avatar
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    Eimay: that was so neat that you got to meet those ladies; I'm afraid I may have sat down with them and never left!! I love the original story-the book is fantastic. I love the originality and innocence of the quilts. This is my complaint about the kits. The kits are the antithesis to the original quilts. As TexasGirl said when "experts" get involved commercialization soon follows. I'm glad they're making a living and supporting themselves and their community and they seem to still like to quilt. How important is that? TexasGirl I don't think I'd have been able to keep quiet if I was in the audience with you!!
    My all-time favorite of their quilts has an actual tape measure used as a spacer to join 2 blocks. Deep meaning? I don't think so--it was the right size so she used it!!

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