Friday, April 23, 2010

Nancy's Most Excellent Adventure

I have a wonderful friend named NancyShe is one of my oldest friends.  We met doing a school charity quilting project while ours sons were in elementary school.  It's hard to believe it's been 16 years.  With the advent of Spring and after being cooped up for a snowy winter, I thought I would treat her to a day of fun in the city of Philadelphia to celebrate her upcoming birthday.
We started at The Magic Garden.  This building was a project started by Isaiah Zagar, a mosaic mural artist.  The walls and the floors both inside and out are adorned.  Almost every nook and cranny, creating little passages, is covered with mosaics made from tiles, broken mirrors, toys, bottles, bicycle tire rims and many found objects.  It is really sensory overload.  You don't know where to look first.  It is still a work in progress, with Isaish, now in his 70's, still being the creative director.  The tiles with designs on them, like the faces and words,  are made on the premises in their basement kiln.

Here are a few photos to give you an idea of the enormity of the project.  It is truly mind boggling.

We headed down to Penn's Landing and had lunch on the Mosholu, a tall ship built in 1904,  sat alongside the window and had a wonderful view of the Atlantic Ocean and a delicious meal.
Our final stop was the Perelman Building at The Art Museum of Philadelphia to see the embroidered Kantha quilts of Bengal.  I chose this day to go, because there were 2 women who came all the way from Kolcutta  to demonstrate how they do their stitching.  

The quilts on display at the museum are from the late 1800's and early 1900's and were solely made for family members.  Photography without a flash was allowed.  Nancy's camera did a much better job than mine with the low light.  Most of the quilts had some sort of a center medallion, with the other designs surrounding it.  Many of the edges were finished with a blanket stitch.  Some of the edges had no stitching at all.
We then went to watch the women stitch.  There has been a movement to  teach  this art of embroidered quilts  to contemporary women so that they can earn money by selling the finished embroidered pieces.  Some of the larger pieces can take them up to a year to make.  The amazing thing about the embroidery is that almost all of the designs are made with a running stitch.  In making the quilts, the first step is to draw their design onto the  background cloth.  Then it is outlined and then filled in.  After that the background is quilted.  One of the ladies used a hoop and the other did not. Instead og the silk sari thread that they used in the late 19th century, the women were using Anchor floss - 2 strands.                 
The motifs in these quilts  are so simple and naive - truly folk art.  Of course I am mesmerized by their many tree interpretations.  There are lots of peacocks, birds, elephants, circular medallions and paisleys.  They depict what is common in everyday life.

The quilts, which are part of 2 private collections, will be in Philadelphia through July.  It is definitely worth the trip if you love folk art and embroidery.

Hope you had a great birthday adventure Nancy! 


  1. Great post, I loved loved loved the Magic Garden. How fun to have such a wonderful UFO!

  2. My oh my....I want to do this road trip!!! Sounds like a great day. Thanks for sharing photos. ck

  3. It was a most excellent birthday adventure!!!!! I had a great day that I will never forget, and want to publicly thank Cheryl for her thoughtfulness. Just spending the day with her is fun, but going to all these wonderful places was really special. She is a most excellent friend!

    Has it really been 16 years??????? WOW!!!!


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