The very best examples of a traditional art form handed down through the generations and seeing a huge resurgence in popularity today are on display in a new exhibition at The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle.
North Country Quilts: In Celebration of New Acquisitions will run until 9 January 2022.
This exhibition is testament to the living tradition of quilting and marries the past and present of the craft bringing together exquisite historic and contemporary quilts, with fascinating stories, from across the North of England that have been acquired by the Museum in the last 20 years.
Curated by The Bowes Museum’s Curator of Fashion and Textiles, Joanna Hashagen and the Author and Exhibition Consultant, Dorothy Osler, it follows on from the hugely successful North Country Quilts: Legend and Living Tradition exhibition in 2000.
Visitors will be able to see more than 25 stunning wholecloth, pieced, strippy and patchwork quilts as well as templates and wholecloth quilt tops.
Some of the stand out quilts in the display include a charming strippy quilt made by Hannah Hauxwell’s grandmother, Elizabeth Bayles in the 1880s. Hannah Hauxwell rose to fame when Yorkshire Television made a documentary about her life working alone on a remote Upper Teesdale farm with no running water or electricity in the 1970s.
Another is a beautiful block patchwork coverlet of Single Irish Chain Design that bears the words ‘ Isabella Peacock own work age 14 1855’ in the centrepiece.
There is a breath-taking Pink Star-pieced quilt in the Sanderson Star design, that last wowed visitors in Japan, when it was displayed during International Quilt Week in Yokohama in 2008. It was acquired by the Museum in 2020 and has been recognised by experts as one of the very finest examples of the style. This iconic design takes its name from the woman who designed the pattern, Elizabeth Sanderson from Allenheads in Northumberland.
There are also contemporary examples of the craft with Leila Anderson’s hand-painted silk quilts making up a series of the seasons. They have echoes of North Country strippy quilts in their rectangular fields of colour and pay homage to the landscape of Teesdale where Leila grew up and to the paintings of Mark Rothko who inspired her collection. Leila will complete the final work in the collection during a series of working demonstrations in the gallery.
One of the most striking quilts in the exhibition is ‘Plantforms’ designed by the Berwickshire based contemporary textile artist Pauline Burbidge. Pauline draws inspiration from the natural world but also references the North Country quilting tradition in her work. She created ‘Plantforms’, a black and white monochrome work, so that the pattern on the back is every bit as important as that on the top surface, where you can clearly see the link to nature and landscape in the finished design.
The Museum’s textile conservator, Cecilia Oliver, prepared all the quilts for the exhibition by gently cleaning them and carrying out intricate repairs where necessary before advising the exhibition team on the mounting and display of them in the gallery. Cecilia catalogued some of this painstakingly delicate work in a series of six behind the scenes vlogs that can been seen on the Museum’s YouTube channel: Behind the Scenes: North Country Quilts - Episode 1 - YouTube
People are able to get a taste of the exhibition in a sneak peek at some of the quilts ahead of visiting in an introductory 3D online tour that is on the Museum’s website North Country Quilts: In Celebration of New Acquisitions (thebowesmuseum.org.uk)
A wide ranging and exciting events programme complements the exhibition, which includes demonstrations, workshops and talks, featuring a variety of textile artists including the internationally revered multimedia artist Kaffe Fassett, who opened the 2000 show, accomplished quilter Leila Anderson and the renowned textile artist Pauline Burbidge. See the Museum’s website for full details: thebowesmuseum.org.uk
A fascinating and beautifully illustrated 68-page catalogue written by Dorothy Osler, with foreword by Joanna Hashagen, delves into the details of the individual quilts on show, their history, provenance, construction and pattern to accompany the exhibition. North Country Quilts: In Celebration of New Acquisitions by The Bowes Museum is available from the Museum shop priced at £7.95.
The book that accompanied the 2000 exhibition, North Country Quilts: Legend and Living Tradition by Dorothy Osler is also available to buy priced at £11.95. This superb book has been reissued as it gives a thoroughly detailed insight into the tradition and history of the art of quilting in Northern England.
The Museum’s education team is also working with artists in schools, care homes and craft groups as well as the wider community with the creation of numerous kindness quilts, to complement the exhibition, based on the book The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace.
Christopher Wilson-Tate of the Antique Textiles Company has kindly sponsored the 2021 exhibition catalogue, Castleacre Insurance have generously sponsored the re-print of the 2000 exhibition book and Kaffe Fassett is providing sponsorship in kind, delivering an online workshop on 16 September at 7.00pm. The Friends of the Bowes Museum have also enthusiastically supported the exhibition.
Entry to the North Country Quilts: In Celebration of New Acquisitions gallery is by a separate timed entry ticket that must be booked, at no extra cost, prior to visiting the Museum to avoid disappointment.
The Museum is open every day from 10.00 until 5.00. All admission tickets must be booked in advance by calling 01833 690606 or via the website: thebowesmuseum.org.uk
Notes to Editors
- The Bowes Museum was created over 100 years ago by an extraordinary couple, John and Joséphine Bowes. Together they built up the greatest private collection of fine and decorative arts in the North of England and constructed a magnificent building to house them in. The collection contains thousands of objects including furniture, paintings, sculpture, ceramics, textiles and many other items covering an extensive range of European styles and periods.
- The Bowes Museum receives a core funding grant from Durham County Council and as a National Portfolio Organisation receives support from Arts Council England. Arts Council England is the national development body for arts and culture across England, working to enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to visual art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2018 and 2022, we will invest £1.45 billion of public money from government and an estimated £860 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country. www.artscouncil.org.uk
- The Bowes Museum has undergone major redevelopment, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, One NorthEast through the County Durham Economic Partnership, English Heritage, Northern Rock Foundation, The Monument Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Foyle Foundation, The European Regional Development Fund, DCMS/Wolfson Museum and Galleries Improvement Fund, Designation Challenge Fund, The Shears Foundation, The Richard and Suzanna Tonks Family Fund at County Durham Foundation, Durham County Council, The Friends of The Bowes Museum, The Headley Trust, Sir James Knott Trust, Catherine Cookson Charitable Trust, Fenwick Ltd, Mercers Charitable Foundation, Welton Foundation.
- The Bowes Museum is a member of the Discover Durham partnership of attractions. Our commitment is to promote Durham as an exciting and vibrant group travel destination and to provide the travel trade with a professional and knowledgeable service: hotline number 03000 262626, www.discoverdurham.co.uk