Learning to Quilt From the Masters in Nauvoo, Alabama
The idea of the "folk school"—a precursor to today's continuing education—has its roots in 19th-century Scandinavia—which makes finding one thriving in the woods in rural Alabama a bit surprising. Alabama Folk School (along with others like the John C. Campbell Folk School) was founded to keep arts and crafts alive in the local community. Adult campers learn banjo, woodturning, medicinal uses for native plants, pottery, basketry, and a whole host of other traditional creative endeavors, but it is the quilt-making workshop that draws folks from far and wide. Alabama is famous for its avant garde quilters, the Gee's Bend Collective. The works of these ladies are much closer to abstract textile collages than cozy blankies and have hung in prestigious museums around the world. Eager to share the vision and techniques that have been passed down through generations, Gee's Benders Mary Ann and China Pettway run workshops teaching not only design, color composition and sewing techniques, but also the traditional songs and stories that fostered the addictive communal experience of quilting in their small town.