As a young woman, Joanna Rose began collecting the red-and-white quilts which were made up and down the East coast of the United States from the mid-eighteenth century. By the 1950’s and ’60’s, they were folded up in corners of old houses and used for the most mundane purposes.
Most of the quilts were made primarily after 1868 when red madder dye was replaced with a cheaper red aniline dye and red cotton became affordable along with patterns for this kind of quilting.
In March 2011 for her 80th birthday, Joanna Rose’s husband leased the Armory on Park Avenue, New York for six days to display the 650 quilts which she donated to the American Folk Art Museum in NY.
Entry was free. People came from near and far.
Women circulated, bending over this quilt or that, discussing…..Some men also.
The quilts were mounted back to back on circular steel towers so that you felt enveloped in soft red and white light.
Thousands of years of work and decades of community built stitch by stitch to functional and aesthetic ends.
Devotion and skill and conversation and friendships.
Slow work. As slow as it needed to be.
To be there was the greatest pleasure.