Words: Elisha Kennedy
Quilting. It’s a craft that is in more ways than one, a labour of love.
The NGV’s exhibition Making the Australian Quilt: 1800-1950 contains over eighty quilt works (including patches and pieces) that have been sourced from all over the country. Curated by renowned quilt historian and collector Dr Annette Gero and Katie Somerville, Senior Curator of Fashion and Textiles at the NGV, the exhibition focuses on telling stories of ‘Origins’, ‘Home’ and ‘Making Do.’ They have chosen pieces that speak of broad social and historical significance, like the Rajah Quilt which was made collaboratively by female convicts en route from England to the colony of Tasmania in 1841.
Paired with anecdotes and a series of symposiums that demonstrate process, the quilts on display offer a lesson in the resourcefulness of our forebears. Pieces are comprised of salvaged materials such as flour bags, dressmaking scraps, flannelette samples and squares of velvet and taffeta.
There are quilts, such as those by Mary Jane Hannaford, that are inscribed with poems and letters. Others are heavily embellished in rich textures – like the ‘crazy patchwork quilts’ (as they are officially referred to) of Marianne Gibson.
Each of these textiles are heavy with the imagined stories of their past. They act as windows into family life – in all of its seasons. All at once they speak of functionality and a desire to create something beautiful; quilts made for loved ones, for new life, for grieving and out of sheer necessity.
The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
Federation Square, Melbourne
Exhibited until 6th November 2016