Sunday, 21 March 2010

V & A exhibition - teatowels (!)

One of the items in the V & A's commemorative gift range that I didn't buy was Caren Garfen's limited edition tea towel (not featured in the online exhibition giftshop either - unfortunately).

‘How many times do I have to repeat myself’ is her contribution to the exhibition. There's a very interesting interview with her here. The quilt is displayed on a bed, though this is one instance where I wish it had been hung, so it would have been much easier to see the detail and read the text on it. It wasn't one of my favourite pieces when I saw the exhibition on Wednesday (perhaps I should point out that's because the eighteenth century pachworks stole the show for me and overshadowed everything else), but one I've thought about since and can remember in detail better than others, so it obviously made a strong impact. I've heard of people using tumble dryer lint before, including as an embellishing or felting material. But in tumble dryer lint from my house wouldn't say much about women's domestic work, as we both wash and dry laundry (well, the machines do it really, don't they?)

I was tempted to buy her teatowel and wish I had, but I wasn't sure I ought to bring something home that stated that women do, on average, over 2 hours of housework a day - that's a fact that would be open to challenge in my house! I mentioned it to the Embroiderer's Guild members at the "Introduction to Shonai Sashiko" workshop I taught yesterday in Dyserth (I forgot my camera, so will blog their workshop when they send me some photos). They were almost universally rather horrified at how that would eat into their stitching time.

Sally Ward went to see the exhibition yesterday and has reviewed it on her blog, Textile Hunter (also listed in my blog links, right). Somehow I missed listening to Saturday Review yesterday, so thanks Sally for adding the link to the i-Player so I could hear it. A couple of quotes from presenter Tom Sutcliffe made me smile. He describes the exhibition's title, "Quilts 1700 - 2010", as sounding like "a recherche mastermind topic" - one that would be perfect for many quilt historians though! :-)

Tom Sutcliffe refers to Caren Garfen's quilt "...Not all of the allusions to women's lives and experiences are subtle. The rubric by one modern piece, stuffed with dryer lint and embroidered with domestic appliances, helfully explains that 'Small pieces of fluff are trapped within the quilt, in the same way as women are trapped." Erm, Catherine Huges, um, mercifully the politics isn't always as leaden as that I've never though of you as a small trapped piece of fluff..." (Catherine laughs) - so it obviously made a strong impression there too, if not quite what the maker intended.

The BBC reveiwers were all surprised by what they found, the exhibition challenging their preconceptions about quilts and quiltmaking. I hope many other visitors experience the same.

1 comment:

Sally Tatters said...

My DD, who has spent most of her life avoiding my quilt obsession, certainly experienced strong positive reactions, except in the case of one of the modern quilts which prompted " ...what's that about? I don't want to be 'challenged' by a quilt, I want to be cosseted". (see your previous post on 18 March re. Grayson Perry) Thanks for this and your previous posts Susan, It is good to read informed debate and this exhibition will keep it going for some time.