Curating and collecting, and a quilter’s (beader’s) will

Earlier this year, I enjoyed “Curating Your Life,” a salon at the American Craft Council Library, where I work. It was a conversation with sociology professor Marybeth Stalp, art history professor Gabe Weisberg, and artist Harriet Bart. They talked about collecting and curating from their points of view: Marybeth is particularly interested in traditional quilters, typically a married woman who carves out time from her family to create quilts, which she usually gives as gifts. She wrote the book Quilting: The Fabric of Everyday Life. Gabe and his wife Yvonne collect realist drawings done by artists working in France and Belgium in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, fragile objects that were sometimes studies for paintings. Harriet uses everyday and found objects including bronze, stone, wood and books to create art; collecting objects for her pieces (her working studio looks like a beautiful gallery). Read more about the speakers on the post I wrote for the American Craft Council blog.

One thing that I found interesting and applies to me was Marybeth’s discussion of a quilter’s “stash,” which is the word I use to describe my bead collection — my curated selection of beads, beads that meet my criteria for purchase. In the role of this traditional quilter, Marybeth spoke of how quilters can downplay or disguise the extent of their fabric palette to their families, but compare their stash size with other quilters. I know beaders who do this as well. After the discussion, I was speaking with two other creative people, and we were gesturing dimensions with our hands, and Harriet approached and asked if we were talking about our stash. Why yes, yes we were….

Marybeth also brought up something she called a “quilter’s will,” a phrase I hadn’t heard before. This is something that I think all creative collecting types could consider: who do you want to get your stash when you die? Who would enjoy and appreciate your beads? Who would take responsibility for removing your collection from your house, so your family has one fewer detail to consider in a difficult time?

As a bonus, below is Harriet Bart’s approximately 8 minute segment shown on Minnesota Original, a wonderful PBS television series funded by the State Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. I enjoy this use of my tax money!


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