I had one goal while in Alabama: to find Gee’s Bend, a remote little place where the women have been quilting award-winning quilts for 400 years. I first read about Gee’s Bend in Vogue, oh, maybe ten years ago. They subsequently became the topic of a PBS special. Then the quilt designs were used as a series of postage stamps and I collected them.
They are particularly famous for their abstract quilts, which are so different from most of the traditional quilts you see in the South.
Getting to Gee’s Bend was quite an adventure. We felt as though we were driving to the end of the earth. Jerry describes it as driving into the vortex of the umbilicus of Alabama. You drive round and round and round until you hit the river, where the ferry crosses. But you don’t want to go across on the ferry, so you just keep driving around the area. We finally found a broken down old building with a little sign over the door.
Inside were two other visitors: two French women who I’m sure are interior designers. They were buying quilts like mad.
We met Mary Ann Pettway, manager of the Gee’s Bend Cooperative. Her family, and her community, have been quilting for more than 400 years.
There are piles and piles of quilts of all styles on shelves throughout the building. Of the quilts I saw, I thought Mary Ann’s were the most exquisite. Her abstracts are bold and beautiful. She is not afraid of color! What I read is so true. These women are natural born artists.
Getting to Gee’s Bend, Alabama was a trip worth taking! Thank goodness Jerry enjoyed the art as much as I did because he is doing all the driving! He has the patience of a saint.
– Paula Rath