I’ve only been blogging for a few months, now, and intermittently at that, so I feel a little like a party crasher linking up to Amy’s Blogger’s Quilt Festival. But there’s no time like the
present very last minute, right?
When I learned that Modern Quilts Unlimited would be sponsoring a challenge for QuiltCon that featured “modern quilts in miniature,” I couldn’t resist. Like many others, I’ve always been fascinated by miniatures. (As an aside, I would love to do an exhibition one day that explores the prevalence of and attitudes towards miniatures in different cultures and time periods, but that’s a different art history tangent….)
I’ve been working on quilts that use silhouettes to create larger composite images or patterns, and the thought of applying that idea in miniature was compelling. I’m also a bit of a dish maniac, so I decided to attemp to translate the style and palette of Sèvres porcelain into a silhouette-based quilt. (I’ve two companion quilts in mind, featuring Wedgewood and Meissen,because I like to make things more complicated for myself.)
For those who aren’t material culture fanatics like myself, Sèvres was one of the early manufacturers of true porcelain in France. Established in 1740 at Vincennes, it was patronized by the crown from an early date and within five years attained the honor of becoming official porcelain producer for the French court. The factory used the monogram of King Louis XV–two intertwining L’s, as its hallmark during this period, and I embroidered this mark in some of the empty spaces in the arrangement of silhouettes. In 1752, Louis moved the factory to the town of Sèvres so that it would be closer to the seat of the court at Versailles.
Sèvres porcelain was known for its brilliantly colored grounds, of which the deep lapis blue known as “beau bleu” was the most prized. I have most frequently encountered Sèvres porcelain with turquoise, pink, and emerald grounds, and so I chose a palette of turquoise, blue, pink, and green for this quilt. I’m very happy with how the result reminds me of the breathtaking gallery of Sèvres porcelain and furniture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Because, as royal porcelain factory, Sèvres had the additional privilege of using gold to decorate its wares, I also incorporated embroidery in gold satin floss in the form of the company’s hallmark and to outline the design on the back of the quilt.
The concept for the back grew from my desire to use the selvages of the fabrics I had used on the front. When I had sewn them together, the resulting piece was not wide enough to back the entire quilt. I had first been inspired to use Sèvres porcelain as a theme for this quilt by this watch at the Metropolitan Museum Store, which showcases the fanciful swirls and flourishes, outlined in gold, that framed the white figural areas on many pieces. Cutting the selvage fabric into a similar flourish allowed me to solve the problem of oddly-shaped backing material while also incorporating another aspect of characteristic Sèvres decoration into the quilt.
The silhouettes on the front of the quilt are taken from a beautifully illustrated book on Sèvres porcelain by Edouard Garnier, published in 1892. Grouped together, they form the composite silhouette of a particularly rococo example of the factory’s works–a shell-shaped plate from the late 1700s (shown at top left in the print above).
I hand quilted it using a simple crosshatch, meant to evoke the lattice pattens that also often appear on Sevres productions.
To be honest, I’m ambivalent about the results with this quilt. I’m very happy with some things, like the hand-quilting and the palette, and not so happy with how the composite silhouette reads and how the crinkly texture, which I usually love, kind of distracts from the overall design. But, as always, it was a great learning opportunity, and I’m so glad to be able to join the Festival with it.
Here are the details:
Quilt Measurements: 22″ X 22″
Special Techniques: Hand appliqué; hand embroidery
Quilted by: Casey York
Best Categories: appliqué; hand quilting; miniature quilt
In the spirit of my once wanting to be a professor, here is some recommended reading if you are interested in learning more about Sèvres and its wares:
The Soft Porcelain of Sèvres with an historical introduction by Édouard Garnier. London: John C. Nimmo, 1892.
Pinot de Villechenon, Narie-Noëlle. Sèvres: Porcelain from the Sèvres Museum, 1740 to the Present Day. Translated by John Gilbert. London: Lund Humphries Publishers, 1997 (first published in French in 1993).
Préaud, Tamara, ed. The Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory: Alexandre Brongniart and the Triumph of Art and Industry, 1800-1847. New York: Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, and New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1997.