New review: Quilts at the V&A

// 20 May 2010

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An exhibition at the Victoria & Albert museum puts the spotlight on quilting, and by extension on the unsung domestic history of women, says Tamasine Pottle

Tracey_Emin_1.jpgSelling its largest ever pre-allocation of tickets, the V&A Museum recently opened an exhibition dedicated to the ‘feminine tradition’ of quilting. As a self-declared feminist with an interest in so-called traditional crafts, I thought I’d take a closer look.

The exhibition spans 1700 to 2010 and explores the development of the craft through several themes: the domestic landscape, private thoughts, political debates, virtue and virtuosity, making a living and meeting the past. It dips backwards and forwards throughout the 300-year time span to join these themes together.

The exhibition centres on the creation of quilts by women, particularly through their use in the home and how they were seen to represent positive aspects of femininity and homemaking. It also includes reference to the quilts as forming part of an education for young women; for example a sampler map of England produced around 1800 by a 10-year-old girl. However, it also highlights the use of quilts to challenge these ideals, particularly to demonstrate political thought or alliances, by inclusion of images of individuals or events.

Photo of Tracey Emin’s ‘To Meet My Past’, @The Saatchi Gallery Gallery, London

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