Date of this Version
Welcome… to the 2005 Biennial Symposium of the International Quilt Study Center. Like all of the IQSC undertakings, the goal of this gathering is to celebrate quilts and quiltmaking. The focus of this Symposium is “Collectors, Collecting, & Collections.” Selection of this theme made good sense, since the IQSC is built around a wonderful collection. At the same time, selecting this theme was something of a risk since quilts and collecting go together in ways that are undeniable, but not always comfortable. Collecting and quilting are activities that people can find satisfying, even fun. They involve routines and exploration. They usually involve social interactions and networks of people who exchange interests, insights, and things. Both quilting and collecting involve special skills. A good quilter needs developed skills of eye, hand, and mind. A serious collector must know where to find and how to judge potential collectibles. These skills are different, but no less real. Finally, both quilters and collectors are assemblers since both quilts and collections are made up many pieces. Just as quilters decide how best to use individual elements in a quilt, collectors decide what goes together in a collection. Such similarities can’t hide obvious differences that separate collectors and quilters. Quilters decide what to make. Collectors decide what to save. In those processes both quilters and collectors change the meaning–and the value–of individual pieces. Quilters recycle pieces that have had their own histories of use, value, and service. Collectors remove objects from the context of use and personal appreciation. These activities can’t help but change the value of individual pieces. One turns scraps and snippets into functional expressions of gender, class, religion, ethnicity, and aesthetic exploration. The other can elevate some objects to icons, or reduce them to curios or even simple commodities. Sincere collectors will find beauty and celebrate skill and tradition. But are these the same qualities that the quilter drew on? When collectors recognize excellence, quilters can rightfully wonder what makes some works more collectible than others? Both quilts and collections reflect traditions, but rarely the same tradition. In addressing questions like these over the next three days we hope to stimulate collectors, quilters, and scholars to explore basic qualities and quilts and collecting.
Peter A. Bleed
Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
Professor, Anthropology and Geography
University of Nebraska-Lincoln