New York City antiques dealer Laura Fisher will present visually distinctive antique quilts pieced from menswear suiting in an autumn exhibition and sale “MALE ENHANCEMENTS: Suit-able Quilts." The collection pays homage to the design inventiveness of quilters who turned woolen menswear fabrics into powerful American textile folk art. They will be available at FISHER HERITAGE, 305 East 61st St, 5th Floor (the Hayes Warehouse), October 11 - December 31, 2010; Monday-Friday, 11:00 am - 4:00 pm.
"This year both in fashion and home furnishings, menswear is suddenly 'hot" say editors who seem unaware of the history of menswear in America. For over a century in NYC’s garment industry, for example, manufacturing had flourished in every aspect of menswear production from fabric to finished garment. Sadly today most of that industry has disappeared overseas. These suiting quilts are thus a unique legacy and a powerful link to that heritage," Fisher notes. And, to thank the American Folk Art Museum for designating NYC's “Year of The Quilt", these antique suiting quilts are a cheeky acknowledgement to the good news that despite its financial issues, the Museum remains open for business.
Wool suiting, work clothing, or military uniforms make up these darker, some nearly monochromatic, quilts. They are unfamiliar to and had been dismissed by a collecting public for whom the quilt stereotype is one fashioned from pretty calico prints. But according to Fisher "menswear quilts are a new discovery for collectors, and at last are accorded respect across the globe as an indigenous textile art."
These materials were typically salvage -- what would be hailed as 'green' today - because they recycled waste woolens such as: suiting swatches from which the clients of tailors and fabric houses chose material for coats and pants; or cutting room remnants left from clothing manufacture; or no longer wearable family garments. Resources for the twills, tweeds, serges, gabardines and scotch plaids were outdated swatch books, or sacks of scraps from clothing construction that factories offered to workers and quilters. In some droll examples we can recognize the shape of the pants cuffs or sleeve ends that a tailor removed when shortening garments! And of course quilters used worn clothing, including even sturdy khaki from military uniforms no longer in service.
Often suiting quilts are a symphony in texture and weave rather than color contrast. The rectilinear compositions in charcoal gray, navy, black, camel or olive call to mind the modernist art work of painters like Sean Scully. While many antique ‘swatch’ quilts were simply set in rows without any design plan that might capitalize on the scraps' color variations, examples in this exhibition are dramatic graphic exceptions.
The menswear quilt phenomenon had a brief but historic presence in the U.S. It paralleled the emergence of the ready-made clothing industry across the country during the Industrial Revolution, and ebbed about a century later. Today because nearly all textile and clothing manufacturing operations have moved overseas, this menswear quilt style can never again reemerge here as it had proliferated from the mid-1800s through the mid- 1900s. As a result, this historic quilt bounty is newly appreciated. Transcending their utilitarian origin, thanks to their handsome palette and tonal sophistication they are a studied aesthetic with a fascinating back story.
Among the choices available are:
‘Roman Stripe’ variation - a center medallion framed with zigzag pants cuff strips
‘Concentric Rectangles’ - menswear suiting strips cheerily framed with pink coat tweed
‘Alphabet’ quilt - wool flannels and twill work clothing
‘Log Cabin’ two-sided quilt - one side wool suiting in grey and navy, the reverse side of rayon lining and vest back fabric
‘Bowtie’ pieced quilt - brown and charcoal tweeds, ivory diamond inserts that appear to float above the quilt surface
‘One Patch Leaves’ - navy suiting squares appliqued with leaves of linen summer suiting
Double Stars swatch quilt - embroidered with the same colorful yarns seen in Pennsylvania Amish and Mennonite household goods
'Signatures' swatch quilt - narrow rectangles inscribed by an Alabama African-American church group, among them members of the Dial family
‘Basketweave’ -- an elegant interplay of olive and navy strips
Nine-Patch One-Patch Diamond - squares from Canadian Mountie uniforms in geometric patterns
For more information: www.laurafisherquilts.com
305 East 61st Street,5th floor
New York, New York