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Labours of Love: Australian Quilts 1845 - 2015

8 Aug 2015 - 5 Oct 2015

An exhibition featuring over 30 stunning hand crafted textiles made in NSW from the mid 1800s to the present day.

Presenting some of the finest examples of quilts made in Australia including spectacular heritage quilts on loan from the National Gallery of Australia, the Powerhouse Museum, the National Trust of Australia (NSW), Australian War Memorial and the National Museum of Australia as well as select examples from regional museums. The quilts and patchworks have been created for comfort and show, commemorate historical events and family occasions, and reveal social histories and personal stories. Made by women and treasured in families as objects of value, the heritage quilts have been handed down through the generations before they were acquired and preserved in public collections.

Throughout the exhibition Louise Mitchell will run a reguarly updated Curator's Blog. Be sure to check it out! A copy of the sold out exhibition catalogue can be downloaded below:

Download a copy of the exhibition's Labours of Love Catalogue.

Labours of Love explores the history of quilting in Australia with exhibits dating from the mid 1800s to the mid 1900s in chronological themes: Traditions from Home (Identity, domesticity and gentility); A Virtuous Past Time (Skill and taste on show); Patriotic Voices (Nationalism and participation); Remember Me (Family, friendship and love); Utility and Thrift (The beauty of making do); and Best in Show (Honouring and maintaining the craft). Interspersed within these themes are contemporary works by 11 artists to illustrate current engagement with quilt making. Artists include Judy McDermott, Jan Irvine-Nealie, Judy Hooworth, Pamela Fitzsimons, Carolyn Sullivan, Lucas Grogan, Adrienne Doig, Emma Peters, Paula do Prado, Gillian Lavery and Belinda von Mengersen.

The earliest quilts in Labours of Love are made out of fashionable printed cottons pieced in geometric patterns. Patchwork quilts remained popular in the late 1800s and into the 1900s as quilt makers combined and recombined squares, rectangles, diamonds, and triangles to make highly complex and decorative textiles that were often more for show than function. Carefully planned and made from costly fabrics, often embellished with intricate embroidery and appliqué, heritage quilts made for display were showcases of the maker’s creativity, skill, taste, hard work and perseverance.

Quilts in the exhibition reflect changes in technology, textiles, and fashion. They commemorate enduring relationships and family occasions. Labours of Love include quilts made to celebrate weddings, births, love and friendship. Quilts in the exhibition also reveal an engagement with a wider world such as those with patriotic messages or a signature quilt created to raise funds during World War 1.

Many quilts were made as functional objects to provide comfort and warmth. These quilts were prevalent during the Depression, being made as part of a thrifty ‘make do’ tradition, utilising scrap material that would normally serve no useful purpose. Often crudely made, they represent a bold and original aesthetic revealing the maker’s eye for colour, shape, and composition.

Although quilt and patch working went into decline after World War II, the tradition of competing and exhibiting quilts has helped to maintain the tradition. In the late 1900s the craft movement stimulated a revival in traditional crafts and interest in the heritage of quilting blossomed.  Artists were drawn to the subject and quilt making became a vehicle for ideas as well as processes.

Labours of Love: Australian Quilts 1845 - 2015 is a Hazelhurst initiative with guest curator, Louise Mitchell. It is supported by a Museums & Galleries of NSW grant and the Gordon Darling Foundation.

During the exhibition, the Quilters Guild NSW will also present a contemporary quilt exhibition in Hazelhurst Community Gallery from 29 August to 8 September 2015. The exhibition will display entries from a national competition showcasing the expertise of the Guild members and quilting groups from across Australia. 

Don’t miss these beautiful exhibitions which will delight viewers with the level of skill, intricate detail and workmanship presented.

This project is supported by Arts NSW’s Curatorial Support Initiative grant, a devolved funding program administered by Museums & Galleries of NSW on behalf of the NSW Government.

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Principal Exhibition Sponsor:


Image: Aunt Clara's quilt (detail), textile, hand embroidered patchwork, made by Clara Bate, Ginkin, New South Wales, Australia, 1890 - 1915. Collection: Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney. Photo: Sotha Bourn.

More Information: 02 8536 5700

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