Entry to the exhibition is by timed ticket which can be bought on the day and whilst entry to the museum and the majority of the exhibits is free, there is a charge of £10 to visit the Quilts exhibition. Sadly, no photography is allowed. We were given a little booklet on our entry to the exhibition and I have taken a few snaps for you of its content.
The very first thing you see straight in front of you is this bed with its rather spectacular hangings and coverlet, made circa 1730-1750. It is patchworked in the "shell" pattern rather splendidly.
The exhibition is arranged as a series of rooms. Broadly speaking, you start at the earliest quilts and progress through to the current ones. However, the quilts are also arranged in broad themes such as "Meeting the Past", "Virtue and Virtuosity" and "Making a Living" so there are a few modern quilts mixed in with the older ones at the start of the exhibition.
Our thoughts on the exhibition are these: overall, we enjoyed the exhibition and we were glad we went as we are, obviously, fairly quilt mad! There are a lot of very old quilts and these are often very beautiful, tell interesting stories of times gone by and feature some amazing handiwork not often seen now which is a privilege to behold. However, we pretty much disliked all of the modern quilts. There was a good section on Durham quilts, most of which were on loan from Beamish, the quilting was stunning, and some interesting quilts produced during the war (one using a blackout curtain as a backing with granny's garden hexagons on top, one made as a charity quilt by Americans for homeless Britons using my fave sort of flowery prints of the era, tied with bright red wool/thread). There was an interesting quilt accompanied by a video, which was recently made by prisoners at HMP Wandsworth. The story of how the men found a purpose and pleasure in quilting was most revealing. BUT my dear readers, there were some shockers!
Some of the modern ones were just, quite frankly, bizarre, made out of very weird materials and rather gloomy in colour with boring quilting. We were also a bit bemused by the declarations by the modern day makers that there were "deep" meanings behind their quilts. Whilst personal thoughts and messages have long been reflected in quilts, for example the historical quilts often reflected thoughts on politics and war in a broad pictorial sense, or celebrated births and marriages, they were generally made as a pleasurable pastime and indeed there were several cute children's cot quilts. The "modern messages" all seemed either contrived or distasteful. There was a bizarre offering by Tracy Emin, the main hanging on the bed emblazoned with the words "weird sex". Make of that what you will. And let's not mention the horrid Grayson Perry quilt featuring unborn foetuses!
The one major exception, in my opinion, was the lovely "Liberty Jack" quilt which took a traditional Union Jack as the design for each block, each being made in a different colour palette of Liberty Tana lawn fabrics. I hope you can make it out on the postcard below.
I realise that art is a very subjective matter so I am only offering my opinion on the exhibition and will be interested to read what others think but really, if that is the face of modern quilting! Where were the stunning quilts of the 1930's, the lovely feedsacks? Where was Kaffe Fassett? I just don't think the modern quilts represented what the majority of us normal folks are making and enjoying, it was just too "arty farty" for my liking. We overheard many mutters which declared that many visitors to the exhibition agreed with us. There were audible groans when people approached the strange modern quilts and we actually overheard someone wondering where Kaffe's quilt was and indeed, his was the book everyone was reaching for in the book shop!
Ah, steam safely let off, let's indulge in a little retail therapy shall we then? Who can that be, not buying more fabric after the last two days, surely? Do Virgin Trains charge excess baggage?
Here in the bookshop, as you can see, there was plenty of the "limited edition" quilting fabric available, though you might like to note that it is more expensive than it is in Liberty, (£10 per metre in Liberty and £11.50 at the V&A). There were some items for sale made from these fabrics, lavender sacks and the like, and the usual notepads, pens and magnets adorned with quilt patterns.
There was a reasonable selection of quilting books (there could have been more).
All "quilted out", we follow our noses to the cafe for lunch. The V&A really is the most stunning building, those Victorians knew how to do a job well, and we admire it as we go along our way.
Now you might think me mad for taking photos of the rooms in which you can eat your nice (but rather expensive) lunch, but have a look...
My favourite is the Morris (as in William Morris) room.
Oh golly, eating at home will never be the same again!
Am-a-zing, aren't they?
Now what is this on the way out? Oh, it's another shop!
Here, there is an eye-catching section dedicated to fashion and in particular, that marvellous British brand responsible for the stunning frocks of the 1940's and '50's, Horrockses.
And there in the display cabinet (making it a trifle hard to photograph with my diddy camera), is a beautiful original Horrockses' dress (in fact there are two of them, one on either side of the entrance to the shop).
Two books came home with the Hen today. I am having a book fest at the moment, it always seems to be the case that books I want appear in clusters. Do you find that?
I was thrilled to find the new Jane Brocket book, "The Gentle Art of Quilt-Making". I've had it on pre-order from Amazon who are now telling me it is unobtainable so I impatiently bought one there and then instead. Oh, but it promises to be a treat - and a half.
I haven't had a chance for a proper look yet, I am saving it and savouring the prospect of it, for after dinner but it looks simply beautiful.
We'll revisit this book for a little review another time, perhaps?
I also HAD to buy the book about Horrockses. It is toooo lovely for words.
As you will know from my purchase at the CL Fair on Wednesday, I am a vintage dress lover so this book was a must-buy, covering my favourite period of the 1940's and '50's.
More of that another time too, when it has been properly digested over the weekend. (There will be an exhibition devoted to Horrockses at the Fashion and Textile Museum starting 9 July. One for the diary.)
I didn't buy these fabrics today, I bought them from Liberty a while back, but thought you might like to see a few of the limited edition fabrics produced by them in conjunction with the V&A.
Phew! I hope you have enjoyed the reports of our trips this week, we are a bit tired but sated, I think. How can I confess that I also have a VERY exciting day lined up tomorrow too. I hope you will join me to read about that soon. A heartfelt thanks to my commenters on the CL post, I did really appreciate your thanks because creating posts like these is a pretty time-consuming job, to be honest! With that, I am going to wave toodle-loo to my sister (until our next get-together in May for a rather special flower show) and go and prepare my Friday night vodka and tonic. Why is it that it always tastes the best of the whole week? Have a lovely weekend, please...
Edit: Bizarrely enough, I received a message from somebody at the V&A stating that they and Liberty both charge the same, £11.50 per metre for the fabric. All I can say is that when I bought the fabric in Liberty about a month ago, it was definitely £10 per metre but maybe they have now changed the price?