Week 10: An Education in Elegant Geometry

Dr. Ducey also directed me to the work of quilt historian Bridget Long, who curated an exhibition of mosaic patchworks at the International Quilt Museum in 2011. The exhibition, called Elegant Geometry, included 16 quilts made in the mosaic patchwork style and discussed themes of Americanness and changes in culture over time. I watched the opening lecture presented by Dr. Long and thoroughly enjoyed her comprehensive work, eye for the unseen, and delightful sense of humor.

In her lecture, Dr. Long explained that, in the 1950s, it was believed that patchworks were a sort of lesser style, meant to be “jumbles of colors” rather than pieces of fine art. In her research, she found that even the earliest known mosaic patchwork (dated to 1718) was a complex, carefully planned piece, made with intention by a very skilled quiltmaker. Complexity and precision increased into the 19th century, and Dr. Long tied this to an increase in the popularity of at home educational materials focused on applied mathematics for young women. She also discussed the physical construction of these quilts and how new technologies, global politics, and fashion trends dictated their popularity over time. For example, though it was not widely implemented, the Stamp Act would have affected the availability of paper in the American colonies during the same period the paper template method intrinsic to mosaic patchwork was all the rage in England.

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