Bill Volckening did not give two hoots about quilts until he dated a girl who did. In 1989 she encouraged him to a personal quilt series in New York with renowned quilt collector Shelly Zegart. He immediately fell in love with an elaborate quilt, a rare New York Beauty pattern.
This first quilt was destined for wall artwork, but Volckening researched and purchased more over time. As his collection grew, so did his enthusiasm. Today he owns more than 250 quilts, a lot of which he exhibits on his home’s walls. “Every home should have a quilt,” he states.
This summer and fall, 35 quilts, designs and other ephemera from Volckening’s collection will be on display at the San Jose Quilt Museum in San Jose, California. The exhibit concentrates on the growth of the picture and complex New York Beauty pattern — the first quilt layout Volckening ever bought.
Info: Collecting New York Beauty Quilts: Bill Volckening’s Fireplace, San Jose Quilt Museum, through October 27, 2013. Open Wednesday–Sunday, 10 a.m.–5 pm (closed on major holidays); $6.50–$8.
What’s the New York Beauty Pattern?
“The foundation of quilt designs is quite difficult to pin down, since there’s typically no written history of the use and development,” states Carolyn Ducey, curator of collections at the International Quilt Study & Museum. Ducey notes that patterns historically traveled from quilter into quilter, or through agricultural fairs.
But many believe that the New York Beauty was first seen in the 1840s or 1850s, although it wasn’t officially named until 1930. The pattern’s name stems from the spikes that radiate out in the curved seams on each and every piece, much like the spikes on the Chrysler Building and Statue of Liberty. The high level of difficulty in piecing the small triangles together is what makes this pattern so rare.
6 Quilts From the Exhibit
This is the first New York Beauty quilt Volckening bought from quilt dealer and specialist Shelly Zegart at 1989. The 1850 Kentucky quilt is among the earliest renditions of the pattern.
This more modern rendition was created in 2008 from the Buda Bee Quilters of Buda, Texas. The Cinco de Mayo pattern is among the most complex varieties of New York Beauty.
This 1860s Kentucky quilt additionally passed through Shelly Zegart’s palms and looked in her documentary, Why Quilts Matter: History, Art & Politics.
The main colour scheme on this Mountain Mist New York Beauty follows among the pattern’s more conventional colour combinations: red, blue and white.
A dark blue backdrop makes this 1865 Kentucky quilt especially uncommon. Most quilts done in this time had a white backdrop.
The Springtime Rockies pattern is a rare New York Beauty version. This specific quilt was created during the Depression era. Volckening fell in love with its fan-edge finish; a stunning however little-seen detail.
Tips for Budding Quilt Collectors
Thinking about starting your quilt collection? “The thing that most people need is some patience,” states Julie Silber of The Quilt Complex. “Like collecting anything, you wish to get some advice under your belt first.” Here’s what else you’ll have to understand:
1. Buy what you love. “Collecting seems to grow from a comprehension of what gets your heart pumping and your curiosity intrigued,” states Ducey. “Most enthusiasts I know start out by obtaining on a random basis.”
2. Consider quality. Smaller stitches, more complex patterns and thinner quilts (without hefty batting) raise the worth of new and classic quilts.
3. Look for quilts in fantastic condition. “‘Old’ does not mean ‘completely ruined,'” states Zegart. Buying quilts in good shape is extremely important. It does not need to mean that it’s perfect, but avoid quilts with major holes, stains and tears.
4. Stick to your budget. After performing your research on quilt costs, place a realistic budget and stick with it unless you discover that one amazing quilt you can not live without, such as Volckening’s first-ever New York Beauty. Silber suggests buying coasters from reputable dealers to get the most value. “You won’t get a fantastic deal, though, since they know what they’re doing,” she states.
5. Educate yourself. Quilts are one of a kind; as with artwork there’s a wide variety in condition, value and quality. “There’s no guidebook,” says Silber. “You need to educate yourself.” Read, visit museums, talk to other collectors and even peruse the quilt auctions on eBay to learn more about different patterns, eras and worth.
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