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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 16, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 46
Yes, real men do quilt!
Arts & Entertainment
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Yes, real men do quilt!

The cozy delights of La Conner's Quilt & Textile Museum

by Ron Anders - SGN A&E Writer

MATERIAL MEN: INNOVATION & THE ART OF QUILTMAKING
LA CONNER QUILT & TEXTILE MUSEUM
Through December 20


Tucked into the charming town of La Conner is a gem well worth seeking out - the La Conner Quilt & Textile Museum. Housed in the historic Gaches Mansion, the museum showcases this most American of arts. I discovered the museum on a previous trip to Skagit County and revisited it recently to see the fabulous new exhibit, Material Men: Innovation & the Art of Quiltmaking. I recently spoke with the exhibit's co-curator, Geoff Hamada, about the show and how it came to fruition.

Anders: Can you give our readers some background on men in quilting?

Hamada: Despite the modern perception of quilting as so-called 'women's work,' men have a long history of making quilts. Prior to the colonization of the Americas, quilting was one of the trades practiced by both men and women throughout Europe, and tailors routinely learned quilting as part of their needlework training. This was not, however, the case in the colonies, so when fancy quilted bed coverings became fashionable in the mid-1700s, the work of producing them fell to the women (and female servants) of the house. Thus, quilting in the U.S.A. became primarily the realm of women, though not exclusively. With the advent of affordable, mass-produced cotton fabrics in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, quilting became an increasingly popular and practical home craft, one which men practiced for a variety of personal and practical purposes. Today, there are thousands of male quilters throughout North America and Europe, and some of the top professionals in the quilting world are men.

Anders: How did you become involved in quilting?

Hamada: I learned to sew from my mom, and developed an interest in traditional American quilts during the 1970s. After a disastrous attempt to teach myself how to quilt, I abandoned my quest until the 1980s, when a Pacific Fabrics employee put me in touch with Seattle quilt teacher Larry Warrick, who generously took me under his wing and taught me the basics. Shortly thereafter, I became involved with the newly formed Seattle chapter of the NAMES Project, where I met and worked with several expert quilters who willingly shared their expertise and encouraged me to keep honing my skills.

Anders: What was your inspiration for this exhibit?

Hamada: The exhibit was inspired by the ever-growing body of innovative work being done by male quilters. The exhibit is not simply an affirmation of the fact that men do, in fact, quilt, but a showcase of the myriad innovations in design, technique, materials, and subject matter that men have brought to the art of quilting.

Anders: Can you describe the process of putting this exhibit together?

Hamada: Knowing that there were so many male quilters doing extraordinary work, my co-curator (Kathleen Kok) and I decided we would make Material Men an invitational exhibit rather than issuing a call for entries, which would surely have buried us in submissions. We invited a selected group of male quilt artists to participate in the exhibit and received enthusiastic commitments from nearly all of them. The result is the first large-scale exhibit of men's quilting on the West Coast, with 41 works by 15 quilt artists.

The museum is located at 703 2nd Street in La Conner, and is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Monday and Tuesday by appointment). For more information call (360) 466-4288 or go to www.laconnerquilts.com.

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