African-American Quilts
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African_American, Quilts, Eli Leon, Improvisational, Afro-American,Quilts,  Rosie Lee Tompkins, Arbie Williams, African American, Eli Leon,

Catalog Excerpts:

"Mistakes" may be acceptable, or not seen as mistakes at all but welcomed as an integral component of craftsmanship.  Wanda Jones says that when she was learning to quilt and would make a mistake, her mother would say, "It's nothin' about makin' it a little different.  It's still the same pattern.  You just added somethin' of your own to it." (Who'd a Thought It: Improvisation in African-American Quiltmaking, page 22)

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West and Central African textile design often juxtaposes unlike motifs or interupts orderly repetition by shifts in texture, direction, pattern or scale.  Improvisational African-American quiltmakers make particujlar use of borders to effect such improvisational juxtapositions and interruptions.  Willia Ette Graham, for example, added an odd border to a quilt in order to "make a little change."  "I decided," she said, "as I had this left over from another quilt, I'd put them together to pick your eye back up again.  If it's just one thing, your sight is just flat, but if you put somethin' in there to break that, well it's kinda like flashing a light in your face in the dark.  And that's the way I go with most of my quilts, tryin' to match the pieces to where it don't just keep your sight beared down on one thing.  You move on the see the next step.  You searchin' for somethin' else to see." (Something Else to See: Improvisational Bordering Styles in African-American Quilts, page 26)

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Practices such as measuring approximately, using scraps as found, incorporating accidents into the finished work and making frequent exceptions to whatever rules may have been established, are all aspects of a vision in which incidental contingencies, accepted as spontaneous offerings, are skillfully managed to contribute to the beauty and individuality of an artist's work.  Accordingly, quiltmaker Laverne Brackens--an eloquent spokeswoman for improvisation--talks of "off-centering the centerpiece," displaying odd selvages, turning printed stripes in different directions, stripping lengthwise and widthwise in the same quilt, enlarging blocks that are too small for the current need with long strips of fabric, and working out the pattern as she goes along, all to effect a "different look," "change it up," or "give that quilt a offset look."
(No Two Alike:African-American Improvisations on a Traditional Patchwork Pattern, page 6)

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Nor are these improvisation-minded quiltmakers unaware of the power of their heterodox, scrap-bag productions.  "I'm going to be up to something real dangerous when I get through with this," Arbie Williams joked to me.  This quilt done killed two people." (Let It Shine: Improvisationn in African-American Star Quilts, page 23)
African_American, Quilts, Eli Leon, Improvisational, Afro-American,Quilts,  Rosie Lee Tompkins, Arbie Williams, African American, Eli Leon,
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