Monday, April 19, 2010

Weekend in Philadelphia

(Above: Examples of kantha embroidery being stitched at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Click on image to enlarge.)

Steve and I headed north on I-95 last Thursday and attended an antiquarian book auction outside DC that evening. We were successful bidders on four shelf lots of mostly art books....but also an amazing collection of ephemera that we have yet to fully explore.

(Above and below: Architecture in downtown Philadelphia! Amazingly beautiful buildings, fountains, parks, and weather! We loved walking around and especially the art museum. Click on images to enlarge.)

On Friday we went on to Philadelphia and visited the Fabric Workshop and Museum. It was a disappointment. The facility was "between" exhibitions. The staff was too busy talking among themselves to engage in conversation even after I said I was considering their post-graduate program. We didn't stay long...and I'll have to reconsider their program....or call for an appointment ahead of time. (I thought about calling before we left but really wanted to get a "feel" for the place from the "outside". It wasn't very engaging....or I'm just too old for cutting-edge people...whatever!)

(Above and below: Steve doing the "Rocky" run up the steps at the Philadelphia Art Museum. Click on images to enlarge.)

Since we didn't stay long at the Fabric Workshop, we had more than enough time to enjoy the city. What a wonderful place! The architecture was so beautifully diverse. We walked from City Hall to the art museum. Steve did the "Rocky" run up the steps and posed with the nearby bronze statue. I'm trying to create a little video....but can't find free "Gonna Fly" music for it.

The museum had a fabulous exhibition of Kantha embroidery and had three Indian women demonstrating their stitching. Kantha was originally a form of quilting layers of older textiles (mainly worn out saris) for continued household and ritual use. The running stitch was dominate.....a way to bind/quilt the layers together. I love kantha. I love the texture and the history and the way clothe was treasured in the remote areas of northern India and Bangladesh. I especially like the the common sense approach to recycling older garments and linens for continued use. There is a preciousness in kantha. The simplicity of the running stitch adds to the beauty. Form and function are married with creativity and individual expression. All my Grave Rubbing Art Quilts are intentionally created using recycled fabrics and are predominately held together with the running stitch....kantha!

Now, however, kanthas are made using newly purchased cotton. They are highly decorated with all sorts of other stitches as decorative motifs. The running stitch is there....but as the background....playing a subservient role to the colorful threads . Most kanthas are sold/exported, never used by the stitcher. The new embroidery is breathe-taking but I still prefer the traditional way to honor the fabric....the feel of "new life" in older material. I asked about using "old saris" but was told that was "old fashioned". I guess everything must become "contemporary" in one way or the other!

After our day in Philadelphia, we drove to Wayne, Pennsylvania. Saturday was the SAQA seminar at the Wayne Art Center and the opening of Art Quilt Elements be covered in the next post!


Elizabeth said...

Recently I ahve read about the kantha stitching on several different blogs! I am with you, I love the honoring of the old and the layering to keep things working , as well!!!

Wanda said...

Very cool. After picking up Hardanger so quickly I've almost convinced myself that I could do just about any sort of embroidery. Well, okay, my chain stitches pretty much stink but other than that....Maybe some day I'll look into the Kantha stitching. I love the colors. Philly look great..I've never been to the city, just the airport which is NOT great.