Saturday, November 21, 2015

Visit to the Michener Art Museum: "Blanket Statements" by Kaffe Fassett and "Pattern Pieces"

 I had the pleasure of visiting the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, PA today with my mom. We were in the area to drop off a sample at Byrne Sewing Connection (where I'm giving a lecture and workshop in February), and decided to make one big day out of it. The museum is small but mighty and an absolutely lovely place to spend the afternoon (or indeed, several afternoons, as the exhibits change). Plus, Doylestown, PA is a cute, walkable small town with tons of restaurants and shopping. You won't be disappointed if you visit the town, quilt shop, or museum! Promise!

Far wall left: traditional quilt; far wall right: "Bright Squares" designed by Kaffe Fassett 

 Cool, quilty arch inside the museum.

I heard about the Michener Museum through my guild. The "Blanket Statements" exhibit by Kaffe Fassett and his team just opened, and several guild members are involved with it (plus, Liza Lucy used to be part of our guild). In fact, some will be doing handwork at the museum in January as part of the museum's welcoming of the exhibit.  I saw some of Kaffe's quilts at Lafayette College earlier this year, but this exhibit seemed especially intriguing; he redesigned 15 traditional quilts held by the Quilt Museum and Gallery of York, U.K.

 "Candy Zig-Zag Ribbon" designed by Kaffe

Traditional quilt made of satin (if I'm remembering correctly). LOOK! Orange peels!

The traditional quilts varied from 1700s to early 1900s - they were masterpieces within themselves. Some were unfinished, and if they were quilted, it was all by hand (as you might imagine!). While Kaffe's quilts retained traditional layouts, his bright, bold, modern colors made the exhibit come alive. I have to admit that I rarely use his fabric (exception: the shot cottons!), but I do admire his color mastery.

Left: "Church Window Hexagon Top" (traditional - my favorite one in the exhibit) and "Pastel Donut" designed by Kaffe
From a quilt design perspective, it was a majestic exhibit to view as a whole. I really enjoyed looking over the traditional quilts (those TINY, HAND-PIECED, SUPER PRECISE wonders) and admiring how Kaffe restructured and modernized them.

Left: Traditional quilt; right: "Organic Radiation" designed by Kaffe

My favorite moment in the exhibit was listening to a group of 8 or 9 year old kids who seemed to be attending a birthday party in the museum's education center (apparently they were building their own quilt color stories! I wish I had had a birthday party making quilts when I was a kid!!). Anyway, they sat down in front of the two middle quilts in the below picture. The museum educator asked the students to talk about how the quilts' color stories made them feel. Here were some of the answers:

Left: Traditional quilt; other three were designed by Kaffe

"The one on the left makes me feel sad, and this one makes me feel happy." "This one looks like a city at night, but this one is daytime." "This one is nighttime and this one is a river." I silently applauded how the educator asked them to explain their answers further and her willingness to give as many of them a turn to talk as they wanted. Dream job much?!

There are 20 quilts made by Kaffe and his team, plus the fifteen traditional quilts. It will be overwhelming - you have been warned! Make sure you see this exhibit if you live in the Pennsylvania area - it's open until February 21, 2016.

 "Big Deal" by Laura Petrovich-Cheney
Do you see the door lock?

An unexpected delight of this trip was a visit to the nearby exhibit, "Pattern Pieces: Can You Make a Quilt Out of Wood?"  Best of all, I found a new artist to follow: Laura Petrovich-Cheney, whose work with salvaged wood from the shores of NJ was the focus of this exhibit. I took pictures of some of my favorites, which reminded me very much of modern quilting and especially of my own improvisational piecing tendencies. All I can say is, wow. You have to go see the exhibit to get the full effect.

"Washed Up" by Laura Petrovich-Cheney (my favorite one)

"A Meadow of Delight" by Laura Petrovich-Cheney

 "Untitled" by James A. Michener (painted on oil paper)

This exhibit runs until January 31, 2016, so hurry up and catch it! Wait until you see how the room is laid out. It's just beautiful.

All in all, I came home raring to sew. What an inspirational day. Thank you, Michener Museum!


  1. Oh the woodwork is really a fantastic touch. It sounds like you and your mom had a lovely day. I hope that the sewing afterwards was as inspired as this collection. :)

  2. I saw the exhibit too, it is wonderful. I wrote a blog post too! I enjoyed it a second time on your post. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Thank you Jess for sharing! Must have been fantastic show! I love also those wood works. x Teje

  4. Thanks for sharing. The darker traditional quilt that looks like night is still pretty "modern". The Indiana State Museum did a similar exhibit this year but a focus on stars.

  5. Jessica, we are so pleased to know you enjoyed the Blanket Statements and Pattern Pieces exhibitions! Thank you for taking the time to come to the Michener Art Museum and to write about your visit. We look forward to welcoming many other quilters this holiday season and beyond!

  6. Jessica, thank you sooo much for sharing these adventures with us.
    I adore everything you shared.
    So cool. I love it. This makes me want to make quilts from wood too.
    As if..... like we have so much spare time to pick up another exciting hobby. :-P

  7. Very cool! Thanks for sharing :) I especially like that the original quilts are displayed right next to the reproduction designs, it's neat to see the contrast.

  8. Thank you for sharing your experience with us! We are so glad you enjoyed your time visiting.


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