Stunning quilt artistry captures Czech motifs in textile

A new exhibit now running at the Czech Center New York features classic Czech styles and figures incorporated into quilt tapestry. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 05.07.2022 09:34:00 (updated on 05.07.2022) Reading time: 2 minutes

A new exhibit opening this week at the Czech Center in New York features patchwork quilts created by Czech artists over the past 20 years. The quilts incorporate motifs from Czech culture such as blueprint as well as depictions of prominent figures including author Božena Němcová.

Though common in America, the art of quilting is relatively unknown in the Czech Republic, says exhibit curator Jana Štěrbová. She says that only one in 100 people in the Czech Republic know the word "quilt."

But the story of Czech quilting is a fascinating one, despite it only being present on the world stage for less than 20 years.

"To fully grasp this phenomenon, we must travel back to the period following World War II when Western Europe discovered patchwork and quilting as an interesting hobby, and female European artisans saw the quilt as an expressive means of artistic creation, all thanks to the American presence in the region," says Štěrbová, who is also the director of PPM Brno, an international quilt show held in the Czech Republic annually.

"The root causes of the quilt's later success: a sewing machine in almost every household, domestic seamstresses with increasing skill, the art of making something interesting and different out of ordinary textile pieces, and the ability to improvise."

She goes on to say that Czech women managed to do all of this despite the total lack of patterns and templates.

“The Velvet Revolution in 1989 not only brought forth a new era of freedom but also signaled a significant turning point in everyday, practical life. In the first few years after the revolution, the selection of modern apparel and home accessories as an accompanying phenomenon of the country's shift towards a more Western lifestyle was dazzling, but it eventually wore off after a while."

"Czech women began to miss the joy of having something hand-made, and longed to return to the sewing machine. After the year 2000, they were suddenly given an answer to their woes: patchwork and quilting.”

The first Czech quilts were purely classic in nature complete with patchwork tops, but very soon some of the more creative artisans switched to modern quilts.

A wave of organized courses across the Czech Republic brought up both new artisans and trainers in a matter of a few years. Czech women began traveling to foreign exhibitions and gradually discovered a whole range of quilts from traditional to more modern styles.

The new collection presented by the Czech Center showcases quilts from thirteen female artisans from across the Czech Republic.

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