When I was first asked to present a proposal for a quilt exhibition, I was adamant that the V&A should seize the opportunity to showcase its collection. Textiles are, by their very nature, fragile objects which are susceptible to damage, particularly from excessive exposure to light and pests. For this reason, access to textile collections generally is limited and the problematic issues of how to display historic objects a very real impediment to mounting major displays and exhibitions. The V&A is often criticised as being elitist or only concerned with ‘posh’ things however every museum has a collecting policy which dictates what it can and should acquire. The collection reflects the great diversity of fabrics available during three centuries of textile trade and production: from the fine silks and velvets of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, through to the explosion of cheap cottons brought about by the industrial revolution.
Quilts 1700-2010 will also feature a number of quilts which have strong regional connections, and for this we thank all the Museums and private collections who have so generously given of their time and expertise. I spent most of 2009 travelling around the country, researching objects which would help to tell our story. One of the collectors I visited was Jen Jones whose shop in Llanybydder, Wales has been on every quilt enthusiast’s itinerary. During the course of my visit, Jen shared her vision of a new quilt museum – one which would celebrate Welsh heritage in the refurbished Town Hall at Lampeter.
I travelled down to Wales again on Friday, and had the honour to open the Jen Jones Welsh Quilt Centre. It was an amazing event with a stunning display of Welsh flannel quilts which illustrated the breath of Jen’s collection and the breathtaking skills of the makers. It was an occasion which gave me renewed energy for the task ahead!