QUILTS, the 23rd episode of the PBS series Craft in America, will premiere Friday, December 27, 2019 at 9:00pm on PBS (check local listings).
Craft in America: QUILTS explores the rich history of quilting and highlights the vibrancy of the contemporary quilting community. Through interviews with artists, scholars and quilting enthusiasts, the episode explores the meaning, emotion, and beauty embedded within every quilt.
“Quilts are the textile pages of our shared history.”
Leslie C. Levy, Executive Director, International Quilt Museum
QUILTS opens with National Quilt Day in Lincoln, Nebraska. Through images and interviews with some of the event’s over 700 attendees, the inspiring visit presents a dynamic and multigenerational snapshot of the quilting community.
Viewers then experience the unique and extensive quilt collection at the International Quilt Museum. Curator of Collections Carolyn Ducey and Executive Director Leslie C. Levy enrich the vibrant footage with information about the use, technical process, and cultural significance of each featured quilt, and provide thoughtful insight into the tradition of quilting in the United States.
Additionally, filmmaker Ken Burns, who’s personal collection of quilts is on display in the museum’s galleries, shares his thoughts on the importance of quilts in our diverse American landscape. In the preview below, Carolyn Ducey and Leslie C. Levy share a stunning example of a Crazy Quilt, My Crazy Dream (1877-1912) made by Mary M. Hernandez Ricard:
The program features four quilters from throughout the United States – Susan Hudson, Michael A. Cummings, Victoria Findlay Wolfe, and Judith Content – each of whom have unique personal backgrounds and quilting styles.
The artists address political struggle, tell family histories, and integrate fine art techniques into their quilt making, as well as other distinctive approaches. Shared among them, however, is a dedication to storytelling and an interest in bridging traditional quilting practices with new ideas.
First we meet Susan Hudson, a quilter based in Sheep Springs, New Mexico. Hudson is a Navajo/Diné artist who uses a crossover style, inspired by ledger art, to make pictorial quilts recounting the history of her people. Through her quilts, Hudson becomes an activist storyteller chronicling the pain and hardship endured by her ancestors.
“I tell stories through my quilts – sometimes those stories are joyous and sometimes they depict some harsh realities.”
Michael A. Cummings, Quilter
In the historic Sugar Hill neighborhood of Harlem in New York, Michael A. Cummings, a nationally recognized narrative quilter, lives and works. Self-taught, Cummings brought years of painting and collage skills to his quilt making. Inspired by jazz and the African American experience, Cummings uses his sewing machine to tell stories across historical, cultural, philosophical and mythical realms. In the following clip, Michael A. Cummings describes his unconventional design process:
“Creativity involves risk, so if you don’t take that risk it’s hard to find something new.”
Victoria Findlay Wolfe, Quilter
Also in New York, international award-winning quilter, fabric designer, teacher, author and lecturer Victoria Findlay Wolfe has a fine art degree in painting, but found her life’s passion in quilt making. She is known for making quilts that seem visually complex, but she demystifies the process by teaching fellow quilters to make those same designs. With every new quilt, Findlay Wolfe pushes the boundaries of her art. See Victoria at work and hear a short interview below:
Across the continent, Judith Content also embraces creative risk, using a Japanese resist dye technique, arashi shibori, to create freeform wall quilts in her Palo Alto, CA studio. Judith walks us through her process, so that viewers can visualize the meditative process of dying, arranging, and quilting. These Art Quilts, made to be viewed on walls rather than placed on beds, expand the definition of the quilt and its place in the art world.
In addition to artists and professionals, QUILTS celebrates everyday stitchers – the 11 million quilters across the United States who teach, learn, and build community through quilting. Through filming and conversations with contemporary quilters from diverse traditions, QUILTS hopes to unite and comfort us all under the handmade magic of the quilt.
Craft in America, a Peabody Award-winning documentary series, is dedicated to discovering the beauty, significance and relevance of handmade objects and the artists who make them. For more than a decade, Craft in America has taken viewers on cultural journeys across this nation, honoring the multiplicity of traditions that have come to define our country.
There is a great deal more to share with viewers online at craftinamerica.org and pbs.org/craftinamerica. There will be additional video clips as well as resources, information about quilt guilds nationwide, lists of exhibitions and shows, interviews with quilters, an education guide for K-12 students, quilting projects and of course, a virtual gallery of quilts. And if you miss QUILTS on PBS, the episode will stream on our website after December 28, 2019.