Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Interviews and Travels in China

I know that 7 months is a ridiculously long silence in the blog world. Life (and work) do seem to throw off my momentum from time to time. But I'm back. And I'd like to talk about two *huge* things that happened during the last half-year.

First, I completed 18 interviews with One Hundred Good Wishes Quilt makers and/or parents. I am so indebted to these 18 people for sharing their stories with me. I'm a long way off from completing this dissertation (heck -- I'm not even a quarter done transcribing the interviews!), but I already know that there is so much great material in the conversations I've had. I hope that when I'm done I will have fully and adequately explained what these quilts mean to individual makers and families as well as to what they mean in our larger society and culture. My heartfelt thanks to everyone who has contributed to my project so far.

Second, in May, I led a team from our museum to Xi'an, China to do research on patchwork traditions from that region. You can read all about that adventure here. But most relevant to this blog, we met with quiltmakers who call the pieces they make for the tourist market, bai jia bei (百家被)or "One Hundred Families Quilts"! This is the first time I've had a strong confirmation of this tradition occurring in northern China. Here is one of the quiltmakers showing off her handiwork:

And here she is holding up a One Hundred Families Quilt that we ended up acquiring for our museum collection (she is hidden behind the quilt and standing next to it is our colleague, Jack Zhang from the Xi'an Jiaotong University Art Museum, who was instrumental in coordinating our research trip):

Even more exciting, our hosts from the Xi'an Jiaotong University Art Museum donated to us a thirty-year-old example of a bai jia bei! It was made by a woman from Gansu Province (also in northwestern China) for her son. I was so excited when they presented it to us that all I could do was sit and stare at it for several minutes (that's me in the center with the *giant* grin; Professor Li of XJTU Art Museum is on the left, and Dr. Patricia Crews, director of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum is on the right).

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