FRIDAY 3 MARCH – SUNDAY 23 APRIL 2017 // New Quilting is a new exhibition that will challenge perceptions of quilt making, revealing a strong and vibrant contemporary craft form that is just as likely to be found hanging on a gallery wall or urban loft apartment as it is in a rural farmhouse. Quilts by national and Cumbrian makers have been selected for their quality of craftsmanship and design, use of colour and innovative approaches. The unique story behind each piece will also be told in the exhibition, either through accompanying sketches and material revealing how each quilt came to be or through the storytelling ability of the quilt itself.
The Exhibition includes some Quilts from the Hellbeck Collection, by kind permission of Charles Blackett-Ord and a special collaboration piece by Maddi Nicholson and some members of the Levens Quilters.
Even against the backdrop of a digital age, new audiences and new generations are constantly rediscovering this traditional handmade craft form. As technology has developed, quilting has developed with it, creating new techniques; inventiveness and creativity are hard-wired into this traditional skill. The technological advances of the 20th century have seen an explosion of new techniques and tools available to the quilter.
In the centre of the gallery, in a small exhibition space, there is a special exhibit of four quilts from the Hellbeck Collection, kindly loaned by the Blackett-Ord Family. These quilts were originally collected by Rosemary Blackett-Ord from 1950 onward, and the quilts themselves date from as far back as the 18th Century. In a time when quilting had fallen out of fashion, she found a deep fascination in historical quilts from Cumbria and beyond, and the stories that they told. As quilts once again found popular favour, this collection of quilts became more well known and exhibited numerous times. Several of the quilts are now in the collection of the Bowes Museum.
In a new commission, artist Maddi Nicholson has used quilting as a way of researching and recognising the traditional country sport of Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling. She has worked with members of the Levens Quilters Guild to create new artworks for the exhibition. Last year, the first ever women’s world championship for Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling was held at Ambleside Sports. In response to this, and to her own childhood memories of attending matches at county fairs, Maddi has produced richly decorative wresting costumes, similar to those traditionally worn by wrestlers for important matches.