I’m a bit quilt obsessed. I have a linen closet steeped with antique quilts made by my grandmother and aunts, and I sleep with a worn purple number given to my as a gift by my mother (garage saled!). I lie with them on the couch, I buy them anywhere I can find them, and I keep diminutive quilt remnants on the edges of drawers as little reminders. JB, thoughtful as always, found a book on quilts — The Quilts of Gee’s Bend: Masterpieces From a Lost Place — and knew that I would love it. These functional art pieces are all kinds of beautiful, as you can plainly see; however, there’s also a fascinating back-story to the Gee’s Bend community.
“Gee’s Bend is a small rural community nestled into a curve in the Alabama River southwest of Selma, Alabama. Founded in antebellum times, it was the site of cotton plantations, primarily the lands of Joseph Gee and his relative Mark Pettway, who bought the Gee estate in 1850. After the Civil War, the freed slaves took the name Pettway, became tenant farmers for the Pettway family, and founded an all-black community nearly isolated from the surrounding world. During the Great Depression, the federal government stepped in to purchase land and homes for the community, bringing strange renown — as an ‘Alabama Africa’ — to this sleepy hamlet.
“The town’s women developed a distinctive, bold, and sophisticated quilting style based on traditional American (and African American) quilts, but with a geometric simplicity reminiscent of Amish quilts and modern art. The women of Gee’s Bend passed their skills and aesthetic down through at least six generations to the present.
“Throughout much of the twentieth century, making quilts was considered a domestic responsibility for women in Gee’s Bend. As young girls, many of the women trained or apprenticed in their craft with their mothers, female relatives, or friends; other quilters, however, have been virtually self-taught. Women with large families often made dozens upon dozens of quilts over the course of their lives.”
[I'd forgotten about this book until I saw these beautiful photo on Cursive Design. Thanks for the reminder, Sarah!]