Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Jen Jones- Antique Welsh Quilts

An unlikely location for a magnificent quilt exhibition is perhaps Jen Jones’ museum in Lampeter town hall. Jen Jones is an American lady who has been an avid welsh quilt collector for decades. Her current exhibition is her third after a flannel and a paisley display in previous years. Like bespoke shirt making, quilting is another craft which I really admire for its intense craftsmanship, precision and time -consuming nature.

The current exhibition features a wide variety of beautiful 19th Century and early 20th Century welsh quilts. Many have interesting histories, which give significant insight into historical events and circumstances. I recognized one quilt immediately as it had featured in last years’ spectacular quilt exhibition at the V&A, ‘The Claridges Quilt’. In the late 1920’s the Rural Industries Bureau was established by the government with the principle function to help quilters in England and Wales to survive the hardships of the depression. They encouraged the best quilters by supplying the materials needed and found outlets for the quilts that were made. Customers included the aristocracy, the well-to-do and some of the top hotels in London including Claridges. On display was a stunning stain cotton, finely quilted example made for Claridges in the early 1930’s.

The maker’s of some of the quilts had a fated history which perhaps explains their dedication and extensive knowledge of their craft. An example of which is this double sided Golden Yellow Quilt. The Quilt was made by Anna Davies of Penybont Cwmfelin Mynach, Whitland, Carmarthenshire. Born in 1895, she never married and remained at home after the death of her mother to look after her father who was the village blacksmith. A very young maker, Anna’s quilting was definitely influenced by that of Bariah Adams Lewis, Fanny Lewis and several other exceptional quilters all living in the immediate environs of Whitland. A keen photographer who developed her own films, she was shy by nature and refused to be photographed herself.

Crooked Hearts. This eccentric Welsh patchwork using appliqué hearts for accent was definitely my favourite of the exhibition. The heart motives have been miscounted on the two outside edges, which has led to the quilt hanging askew. It is the sort of thing I would accidentally do but certainly adds to its quirky appearance and uniqueness.

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