Jodi Hays (Nashville, Tennessee): I collect fabrics and textiles. My interest is in rural culture and handiwork, and their associations with the body. Over 20 years ago, I bought this “crazy quilt.” It was in rough shape, so the dealer practically gave it to me. In grad school I pinned it to my apartment wall. Here in Tennessee, I slung it over a sofa.
The “crazy quilt” style blends improvisational piecework and grid-based composition. This particular quilt is less improv, more grid. The ecru top dominates the overall effect, silk threads dangling loose. I have always envisioned the maker a tight-lipped Victorian New England Protestant. There is no fabric in the quilt that I associate with the American South, such as cotton in the form of gingham and seersucker. The outside border is made of pieced cigar ribbons (so my Mom says) laid together to form diagonally striped patterns on not-quite-square fabric supports. The interior pieces are jeweled tones of corduroy and silks punctuated with colorfully embroidered dogs, crosses, moons, stars, flora, wheels, and arrows.
In early quarantine, grateful to be safe and healthy, I answered the collective call to stay home and to make use of the long days. Organizing the studio, I folded stacks of fabrics, lacework, crocheted doilies, towels, letter jackets, and quilts. My working and living spaces benefited from this anxious process.
In May, I became curious about the quilt’s structure, seams, and batting. I carefully separated the quilt top from the paper-bag-tinted backing. The corroded threads disintegrated with the slightest force, revealing my favorite feature: floral linen edging, two inches wide around a cruddy and stunning linen-colored flannel batting with printed pink stripes.
Sometimes paintings are discovered. Object becomes material. Rosie Lee Tompkins said of her patchworks, “I hope they spread a lot of love.” In the slow days of unease, the quilt was a giver. I feel the love.
c. 2021 Jodi Hays