Posted by: Cathy and Len
We recently had the chance to watch a very interesting nine-part series called: Why Quilts Matter. Hosted by Shelly Zegart, the series of half-hour programs covers the history, art and politics of quilts and quilting, primarily in the U.S., as well as collecting quilts and the market for them. There is a segment devoted to the quilts of Gee’s Bend, which we were first exposed to several years ago through an excellent documentary film of the same name. Why Quilts Matter is informative and well worth watching. We checked the DVDs out from our local library; PBS stations in the U.S. have rights to air the series through 2014, so it may be broadcast where you live — check your local listings or ask your local PBS station. You can also buy the DVDs online.
We knew from our research for Threads that there were more than 20 million quilters in the U.S. Why Quilts Matter goes into detail on the numbers and economic impact of quilting. It was also interesting for us to learn more about how quilt shows in Japan attract huge numbers of attendees. Going back to our research for Threads, some of the first customers for the “nakshi kantha tapestries” that Surayia designed were Japanese, and throughout her career Japanese customers were consistent buyers of her work. Reflecting the strong interest that people from Japan have shown in her, about 10 years ago the Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh interviewed Surayia on video about her life and work.
Not long after we watched Why Quilts Matter, Cathy had the opportunity to have a conversation with Shelly Zegart. Shelly is even more engaging and interesting in person than she is on film.
Why Quilts Matter got us thinking about the many quilting traditions around the world, including nakshi kantha in Bengal. Quilts in North America are now being documented and valued as both historical objects and art. Will that happen for other quilts before the traditions are lost?