My friend April regards herself as something of a quilter. Whenever I'm at her house, she asks me to poke through Big Coffee Table Book Of Quilting (or something like that) and tell me what patterns I like. She usually thinks she is being subtle enough to make me believe that she's asking me for no specific reason. All the while I realize that she is asking because in case she wanted to make me a quilt for a present, I might possibly give her some indication of what kind I like. To foul up her plan, I always tell her I like the most complicated and labor intensive looking pattern possible. I try to pick the ones that look well beyond her skill or patience level. I figure, I'm either saving her the trouble of making me a quilt or giving myself the opportunity to get a totally awsome one.
She, however, got the last laugh. She gave me a quilt for my birthday, that on one side was a piece of fabric that had cards and dice on it (people always think I'm a gambler for some reason). For the other side she took one of the quilts in the book that I liked which had like 50 small squares of a complicated pattern. She made one square of that pattern and then made the rest of that side some very basic patten, saving herself much time (maybe years) trying to emulate the entire pattern from the book. This way she was able to say she gave me a quilt like the one in the book (but not really).
April called early last week wanting to know if I was free on Sunday to hang out. I was, so she said she would pick me up at 10:30 am. She wasn't too specific about her plans, but they usually involve some type of antique shopping (I call it buying other people's crap at the Salvation Army Store), a movie, and a meal of some sort (I supposed lunch for this day, based on the time that was chosen). Because April is from Monterey, about an hour and a half from me, we usually meet in San Jose (approx. the middle), but for some reason she wanted to come all the way here this time.
Yesterday when she got to my house she asked if I knew how to get to the De Young Museum and if we could go there. "Why do you want to go there?", I asked.
"It just sounds like a fun place to go," she replied.
Knowing she couldn't play dumb for too long, she confessed "There is a quilt exhibit there I want to see. It's a bunch of old black ladies from Alabama that make these awesome quilts. They're really old, like from Civil War times and they still get together all the time and make quilts. Isn't that cool?"
"Wow! They are old!" I said, knowing I was the only one in this conversation that realized it was not possible for anyone from the Civil War times to still be making quilts, giving her a look that made her aware something about what she just said was ridiculous.
She giggled..."Shut up! Do you know how to get there or not? How far is it? Let's go."
I did know where it was. I explained to her it's right in Golden Gate Park and it's about 15 minutes away. I agreed to take her there and made her go with me to get my car washed and have breakfast as punishment. When we finished, I headed for San Francisco, but before we even reached the freeway, April asked "Hey! Is that Golden Gate Park?"
"No. That's a playground," I said pointing at the swing set and slide we were passing. "Do you know how big Golden Gate Park is?" She didn't answer.
We reached the De Young, went inside and bought audio tours. It really was a neat story. Over the last century or so, the women of Gee's Bend, Alabama have become famous for quilt making. Gee's Bend is a very poor community, separated geographically from neighboring communities, it's always been the kind of place where people make due for themselves any way they can. The women would not let old clothing go to waist. They would take any scraps of old fabric they had and make beautiful quilts for warmth in the winter. The tradition has been handed down from generation to generation and is still going strong today.
One might argue, that their low education levels prevented them from following traditional patterns, which led them to the distinctive style they are famous for. Then again you can say that anyone with any artistic sense finds a way to reinterpret and reinvent estabished forms and makes original work in spite of tradionals styles, and that's all these women were doing. Either way their style is fantastic. See here.
While the exhibit was pretty neat, I couldn't help thinking the entire time that I really like sleeping. And I was woken up very early this morning (10am is early for Sunday morning). And the quilt that April gave me is my most comfortable blanket. So....while April is walking around checking out all these quilts, I should just rip one of these very comfy looking blankets off the wall and go curl up in the corner with it and catch up on some much needed Z's. However, every time I got close enough to touch one, the Museum Nazi's would lurk over me and make sure I didn't fuck with the precious blankets. Its almost like they knew I'm not the type to show up at a quilt exhibition.