Quilts: Hidden Histories, Untold Stories

Quilts – Hidden Histories, Untold Stories was the curator’s blog for the V&A’s Quilts: 1700 – 2010 exhibition

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‘Tis the season…

to count our blessings. Before I sign off for the Christmas holidays I would like to share with you some very poignant and extraordinary stories. The first revolves around a young girl of 15, exiled from her family for stealing a length of printed cotton and sentenced to seven years' transportation.Grace Stevens set sail forVan Dieman's land on board HMS Rajah in 1841. In contemporary accounts Grace was described as a housemaid, or nurse girl; a red head with florid complextion and light blue eyes. She had a scar on the thumb of her left hand. The nineteenth century prison …

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Is Home where the heart is?

Apologies for the rather patchy postings – a combination of technical hitches and label deadlines. It's been a stressful couple of weeks – culminating in my 30 second appearance on Newsnight. I'm not sure what was worse – coming face to face with my various facial tics, the ums and aahs or realising that my comments about new domesticity made no sense as a sound bite. I've been waiting for the fall out – it's bound to be out there somewhere, who can forget 'the article that dare not speak its name…..' Of course the point I was trying to …

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The Presence of Absence

Nipped up to Manchester the weekend before last (if you can actually nip anywhere on the rail network at weekends) to spend a couple of hours at ‘See, Sew and Chat with Jenni’ at ManchesterArt Gallery. I first saw Jennifer Vicker's work when judging ‘Quilt 2005’ at the NEC in Birmingham. Jennifer’s machined stitched newspaper quilt ‘Yesterday’s News’ was a potent commentary on the throwaway sentiments used by the tabloid press to discuss the ‘War on Terror’.

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‘Give up your secrets…’

I love reading the various posts on this blog – and was particularly intrigued by Julie'ssuggestion that I was the Poirot of the V&A!Of course I am not alone in carrying out my research, over the last 18 months I have been joined by the amazingly resourceful Claire whose research skills are extraordinary.Less like an Agatha Christie sleuth we’re probably more akin to Cagney and Lacey – Claire the glamorous blond with the racy lifestyle: ‘So what are you up to tonight?''Not sure, might make the pub quiz if I leave now.’ Me the slightly manic brunette with the chaotic …

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Dearest Nelly…

It has been an emotional week on many levels. The pain of separation and loss, broadcast daily in the papers, and on the news channels cannot fail to resonate with mothers everywhere. My youngest daughter made a flying visit home from university – time only for lunch, for a hug and lengthy admonitions: ‘don’t forget to wear your bicycle helmet’, ‘never leave your drink unattended’, ‘remember to lock your door – and check it twice’. My own mother always warn

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Pink Champagne and Violet Creams…

Sometimes you need to get out of the office – away from the nuts and bolts of exhibition planning. You need to gain some perspective, remember not to take things too personally, keep the vision (and the faith). You need to remind yourself that there is a world beyond the confines of your desk and computer; leaving for work in the dark and going home in the dark can narrow your field of vision, you become blinkered. You suddenly crave adventure. I decided to hop on a train and visit the American Museum in Britain, Bath. I've been so focused …

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One for the Boys…

I'm in trouble … again. It was a simple enough comment; I described Quilts 1700-2010 as an exhibition by women, for women. Of course I don't mean to be exclusive but I don't think it's much to ask, one little exhibition which celebrates the feminine. I've just re-read Richard Dorment's top five exhibitions for 2009 – Baroque (Bernini, Borromini, Tiepolo); Futurism (Boccioni, Severini, Carra and Balla); Palladio;Van Dyke; and Constable. I might be wrong but aren't these all blokes? Anyway enough of my feeble feminist ranting… here is a story for the boys. One of the joys of working on …

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Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

I love this time of year – I've been fortunate enough during my career to travel widely to exotic climes. Over the past two years I have spoken at conferences in Sydney and Honolulu and have missed the onset of autumn. Last week I travelled to York to attend the opening of Japanese Sashiko Textiles at York Art Gallery. I looked forward to spending two hours on the train revisiting Mavis Fitzrandolph's book 'Traditional Quilting'. Within 20 minutes of leaving London, however,I was engrossed in staring out of the window watching the pasting scenery – the glorious sight of the …

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Volunteeers Wanted!

This week I was going to share with you my meditations on my journey to York to see Japanese Sashiko Textiles however our design team have asked me to put outa call for volunteers. Ever mindful of the needs of our audience we would likethree volunteers to join us at the V&A for a Focus Group session to test the prototypes for ourlabels and graphic panels for theexhibition. For very practical reasons you will needto live within the Greater London area andbe able to travel to South Kensington. We will imburse reasonable travel expenses. The date set for for the …

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A Rollercoaster of a week…

What a week! Suddenly everything is starting to come together which is exhilarating – the adrenalin rush of careering from one meeting to the next, pitching ideas one minute and listening to pitches the next is intoxicating. At the back of my mind I know there will be this terrible crash once the exhibition opens – when the baby is delivered, the flowers received (hopefully) and the visitors have come and gone. Everyone knows that exhibition blues happen around about a year before the show opens and inevitably once it has closed – you need to start preparing yourself for …

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