When asked that favorite question, "If you could invite anyone from history to your home for dinner, who would you invite?" most of us would list famous actors, musicians, writers, politicians, or athletes. Quilt collector and historian Shelly Zegart would invite the makers of quilts in her collection.

Messages and Memories: Antique Quilts from the Shelly Zegart Collection

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American Quilter, Summer 1998, Vol. XIV, No.2
Online source: http://www.shellyquilts.com/resources/articles/Messages_and_Memories.php

 

When asked that favorite question, "If you could invite anyone from history to your home for dinner, who would you invite?" most of us would list famous actors, musicians, writers, politicians, or athletes. Quilt collector and historian Shelly Zegart would invite the makers of quilts in her collection.

For over 20 years, Shelly has been collecting quilts whose messages and memories fascinate her--quilts that maker her wish she could meet their makers. Shelly's collecting began in 1977. Raised in Western Pennsylvania, she had moved to Louisville, Kentucky , her husband's hometown, in 1968. There she and her husband raised their two daughters, and in 1977 built a contemporary home with spaces that needed large artwork. Shelly discovered that quilts were perfect, and thus began her continuing connection with quilts.

As Shelly's collection has evolved over the years, it has come to focus on two types of quilts, pictorial and wool everyday, remarkable in both their differences and similarities. Pictorial quilts are often about very specific events or themes, such as recollecting a Sunday school picnic, or paying homage to the Settling of the West. Often they are also accompanied by letters and other documentation that help clarify the messages conveyed. In their time, these quilts were frequently centerpieces for women's social gatherings, perhaps even the chief work of one or several quilters' lives, and they have often been entered in community and church competitions. Both pictorial quilts and their makers were frequently very visible in their communities.

On the other hand, wool everyday quilts have a very different story. They are often very abstract, a hodgepodge of lines, shapes, or bizarre variations of patterns. Though they often resemble resplendent pieces of modern art, wool everyday quilts were frequently stuffed into duvet covers, taken by hunters for warmth, or even used for dog beds rather than being displayed and regarded with praise and prizes at church and community fairs. The lack of community visibility may have released their makers from typical quilting conventions, allowing them an expressive and highly original artistic freedom. In that case, pictorial quilts and wool everyday quilts have much in common.

April 4 through July 18, 1998, visitors at the Museum of the American Quilter's Society in Paducah, Kentucky, will have a chance to view fine examples of both types of quilts in the exhibit "Messages and Memories: Antique Quilts from the Shelly Zegart Collection", enjoying first-hand the unique and personal messages and memories that inspired Shelly to select each quilt for her unique collection.

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