Qunnie Pettway (1943–2010), "Bricklayer" variation (detail), 1975
Corduroy, 83 x 74 in.; New Orleans Museum of Art, Museum purchase and gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
In 1972, the Freedom Quilting Bee, a sewing cooperative based in Alberta, Alabama, near Gee's Bend, secured a contract with Sears, Roebuck to produce corduroy pillow covers. Production of the Sears pillow covers left little room for personal creativity, as labor at the Freedom Quilting Bee was divided to maximize daily output. Yet despite the standardized and repetitive process involved in producing the pillow covers, the availability of corduroy, a fabric seldom used before by the Gee's Bend quiltmakers, stimulated a profound creative response. Leftover lengths and scraps of corduroy were taken home by workers at the Bee. Given to friends and family or bundled for sale within the community, the scraps were transformed from standardized remnants into vibrant and individualized works of art.
Qunnie Pettway (1943-2010) was taught how to quilt by her mother, Candis Pettway, and after she got married in 1960, she started making pattern quilts herself. Her first paying job was working for the Freedom Quilting Bee, and she frequently brought home ornate fabric scraps from the bee and made improvisational versions of traditional patterns. A frequent collaborator with her daughter, Loretta Pettway Bennett, a “Pine Burr” quilt they made together was designated the official quilt block of the state of Alabama by the legislature in 1997.
Qunnie Pettway’s work is in the permanent collection of the New Orleans Museum of Art.
Learn more about Qunnie Pettway here.
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