REVIEW by Anne Jeater
AS GOOD AS IT GETS. The Rural Industries Bureau Quilts of Wales 1921 – 1939.
On a cold and very wet Thursday morning at the end of March the Old Town Hall in Lampeter proved the perfect refuge. After a warm welcome from Jen Jones and her volunteers in the shop, the short climb up to the galleries was instantly rewarded with three magnificent Welsh wholecloths hung in the stairwell. The main gallery was as ever packed to the rafters with quilts made in Wales between 1921 – 1939 while several more were laid out on beds around the room. Beside each was a storyboard with details of date and maker along with interesting facts about the quilt. An undoubted highlight for me was one of Jen’s own quilts made by Jessie Edwards of Porth for Claridges’ Art Deco Wing which featured Welsh quilts on every bed when it opened in 1932. Not all the quilts on display were made for the RIB scheme but all were made in the same era and by several of the known RIB quilters. To give a mere taste of what’s to be seen I can mention just two. I loved the pure white, heavily-quilted winner of the Neath Eisteddfod in 1934, made by Irene Morgan with truly breathtaking skill. Very different but equally fascinating was the brilliant blue wholecloth made by Magdalen Price of Aberdare to mark the coronation of George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1937. A small area at the bottom of the staircase features more storyboards with potted biographies of the quilters. Finally, yet another bonus is the display of winning quilts in Gallery 2 from the Jen Jones Challenge – beautiful small pieces inspired by vintage Welsh quilts, including entries from BQSG members Vivien Finch and Pippa Moss.
To accompany the exhibition the shop is offering for sale copies of Quilt Studies 17 which carries Clare Claridge’s paper “The Quilt Wives of Aberdare” – Clare’s research informed many aspects of the exhibition. The shop also very kindly has on display some of BQSG’s leaflets with information on the Group and how to join.
If, like me, you are passionate about great Welsh quilt design and exquisite hand quilting you will not want to miss this exhibition. And it was definitely enhanced by a tasty lunch in the next door café-deli and a visit to nearby Calico Kate’s. The sun came out in full force in the afternoon as we left Lampeter – a fitting end to a very special visit.
Photo ©Anne Jeater, reproduced with kind permission of the Welsh Quilt Centre.