Life's journeys stitched up in London quilt show

Fri Apr 16, 2010 8:20am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Sue Kerr

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Jockey's cap, clam shells and velvet rhombuses stitch together the tales of 19th century women convicts sent to Australia, modern-day male prisoners, the persecuted and the privileged alongside a couple of Britain's most famous artists in a new show.

"Quilts: 1700-2010" at London's Victoria and Albert museum reveals the shape of history in a quilting display that tells the stories of struggle, loss and longing over a timeline that stretches back to before America threw off its colonial masters and when crooks were packed off to the far side of the world.

Turner Prize-winning artists Grayson Perry and Tracey Emin have both provided thought-provoking contributions, but one of the gripping highlights of the show is the floor-to-ceiling "Rajah Quilt" on loan from Australia.

The quilt is named after the ship on which 180 British women convicts sailed to Tasmania in Australia in 1841 after they were sentenced to "transportation."

The women used sewing provisions and textiles donated by Elizabeth Fry's social reform initiative to create what is now the only transportation quilt in a national collection, never before shown outside Australia.

When the Rajah arrived in Hobart on July 19, 1841, the textile supplies had been turned into an inscribed patchwork, embroidered and appliqué coverlet, which was presented to the governor's wife as evidence of the women's industry.

Made using the pieced-medallion style common in the late 18th century, its central panel is worked with broderie perse, a term used to describe appliquéd chintz, probably because of its supposed resemblance to Persian embroidery.

The V & A show is popular and has attracted interest across Britain and from across the Atlantic in America, where quilting remains a popular activity.   Continued...