Friday, March 22, 2013

Patchwork and the Art of Quilting

Who would have guessed that the art of quilt making is not just doing well but it is thriving in Paris. Life is certainly full of surprises. 

Heading to the musée d’Orsay for the latest exhibit, I was with my good friend, Marie, meandering along rue Saint Dominique looking in the lovely display windows. At number 18 we noticed 5 woman quilting at a round table; not something that you often see, so, of course, we stopped to watch. As soon as these woman noticed our watching them, we had an invitation to enter and to take a tour. Serendipity once again smiled upon us.  

These woman are part of an organization devoted to the art of quilting. This art of mixing cloths is a technique that had evolved as a uniquely American tradition, but here it was very much alive in the heart of Paris. Quilting in the United States was particularly popular in the Midwest where quilting circles thrived and annual town fairs included quilting bees. Part of this patchwork tradition included using remnants of cloth that commemorated events as the piece of a wedding dress. 

These French woman are practicing the art of quilting exactly as it evolved in America and they are making extraordinary quilted items. On the walls were hung finished pieces of art using this technique of working with cloth. Each piece of art was unique in design and presentation using a mix of fabrics and other found materials with the common theme to remember times past. Some of these woman had memories of their own and others had memories passed down from their families of World War II. So many of the designs and fabrics represented this era that bound France and the United States together. Others focused on the personal and their family history. We found these thirty piece of art to be so personal and moving that it would have been impossible to choose a favorite. 

There was the front room that we noticed from the street but our guided tour took us to a large back room with at least twenty more woman busy creating in their quilting circle and happy to recount the stories behind each of the pieces of art hung on the walls.

It just so happens that the Mona Bismarck American Center for Art and Culture is featuring 25 quilts from distinguished collections of the American Museum in Britain. The Mona Bismarck Center is open from Wednesday to Sundays from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm. and this special exhibit will run until the 19th of May 2013.

For those of you who quilt there is a vast network of supply shops and boutiques within Paris. Elizabeth Byrom, an American living in Paris, has a beautiful website where she has put together an excellent summary of information for all of you quilters. Enjoy her site at:

Happy quilting!

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