Some incredible quilts pieced with thousands of hexagons from the inventory of Laura Fisher’s FISHER HERITAGE in NYC have been chosen for the exhibition: 'Hexagon, Eternal Piece' at the Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival on view through January 28, 2012.
The exhibit displays antique American quilts and also new quilts by Japanese artists that incorporate the hexagon shape. Fisher has provided classic masterworks like a complex Grandmother’s Flower Garden Six Point Star variation, Mosaic and Honeycomb designs, and some unique examples like a Spider’s Web and Diamond Mosaic.
Hexagons are the most difficult geometric shape to cut and piece, because four of their six sides are cut on the bias rather than being straight grain. Any irregularity in the cut size, or if a side stretches in sewing, multiplies over the development of the quilt surface to end up in a skewed shape quilt top. Fisher finds hexagon-based quilts compelling because they take so many steps to piece and to join; their makers work more like sculptors to create design.
The earliest examples of hexagon quilts date from the late 1700s in England, and were wildly popular throughout the 19th century in the US too, despite being hard and time consuming to make. To accurately size and piece the hexagon shape, a special technique for construction was used called template or paper piecing, in which the shape was achieved by first basting the fabric atop a hexagon shape paper, then whip stitching the units together, sometimes removing the templates to finish a quilt. Examples have been found with the original paper templates left in the top to add body to the finished quilt.
Examples can be found containing many thousands of pieces joined with no apparent internal geometric design. If the print on each fabric was cut out identically and placed to create design, this is termed ‘fussy cut’ piecing. The 1930s colonial revival era in the U.S. gave rise to the ubiquitous Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt in which hexagons were grouped first in a series of 7, the center hexagon often yellow to represent pollen and various prints sewn around it to portray a flower, then the groups sometimes joined with a solid color ‘garden path’. The hexagon size has been seen as small as ½” or 1”, producing some awesome multitudinous pieced quilts.
Chosen from Fisher are a Blocks Mosaic, Grandmother’s Flower Garden Baskets variation, Double Hexagons, Diamond Mosaic, Spider’s Web, Hexagon Bars and Friendship Stars. Stateside in her NYC gallery now are others including Challis Honeycomb, Hexagon Field of Diamonds, Amish Grandmother’s Garden, Expanded Seven Sisters, and an extraordinary cattywampus English Hexagon Rosettes.
The quilts will be seen at the Fabric, Needles, and, Thread Exhibition section at the Tokyo Dome (1-3-61 Koraku, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo), from 10:00 am to 6:30 pm daily, Organizers: Executive Committee for the Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival (NHK; Yomiuri Shimbun; the Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival Organizing Committee); Curator Shelly Zegart. Planning and Operation: NHK Art, Inc.; Tokyo Dome Corporation.