Ashley Rodriguez Reed

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Gee's Bend Quilters

The sun was finally shining and happened to come out for the first time in days. While visiting our families in Louisiana and Alabama, the weather was gray and there was a lot of heavy rain. However, this didn’t matter because we were enjoying it - rain or shine. Jyune also had a great time. He has been a traveling baby, meeting people all over and loves observing the new sights. Sleeping was rough though! He was not use to all the new sleeping arrangements and we had to accept the non-routine.

The trip to Boykin (Gee’s Bend) was a little out of our way but certainly not enough to pass up! Mary Ann Pettway who runs the collective was there quilting when we arrived and she warmly greeted us with coffee and homemade almond pound cake. She was so kind and welcoming as she chatted with us and showed me a couple of tricks that I can take back to my students at school. You can see there was an overwhelming amount of work that we were allowed to look at. All for sale…we wanted to take at least something and it was hard to choose!

If you’re not familiar with the history behind the Gee’s Bend Quilter’s it’s really a great story. You can watch it here and here. Watching these videos tell their story much better than I can because it comes from their own voice. These woman have been making quilts for generations mostly for function and as something to do together as a community while signing and enjoying their time together. The thing that makes these quilts especially unique is the shear beauty of the compositions. When they started quilting there were no modern amenities such as heat or electricity. The quilts were a part of survival. Now they continue the tradition as an art from a family history. Each quilter has a style and they often improvise going off of instinct like a painter at a canvas. Explore more here and here.

A room full of work! Tables and shelves full of quilts you are allowed to browse through and purchase.

A room full of work! Tables and shelves full of quilts you are allowed to browse through and purchase.

Mary Ann Pettway hand quilting one of her original compositions.

Mary Ann Pettway hand quilting one of her original compositions.

Mary Ann Pettway and Jyune.

Mary Ann Pettway and Jyune.

“Whatever we had, we made the best of it - we enjoyed it.” - Quilter from Gee’s Bend

From one of the large Thames and Hudson art books.

From one of the large Thames and Hudson art books.

At the bend of the river near where the ferry crosses over to the town of Camden.

At the bend of the river near where the ferry crosses over to the town of Camden.

ashley rodriguez reed