Thursday, April 11, 2013

Love at First Sight

By Amanda Lensch
UNL Graduate Student

To all my quilt-loving, fabric-stashing, textile-historian friends,

Guess what? I am going to CHINA!! And not as simply a tourist, but as a researcher! How amazing is that!?

I get to go to China. To learn about their textiles. In person.   


I have been extremely fortunate thus far, and have had the opportunity to do some really amazing things over the years. This has included some international travel, but never to an Eastern country. I think I may be in for a bit of a culture shock – but in a good way! One of the reasons why I love to travel, and jump at it almost any chance I have, is that I get to experience something new. Whether that’s the scenery/countryside, entertainment/cultural activities, or the food – it’s always new and different and exciting! (I have to say what I am most nervous about is the authentic Chinese food… yikes.) But this trip will hold something even more special. I get to continue to pursue my passion of textiles in this foreign (to me) land. Who knows what we will find?!

But I can’t wait to find out!

One of the many reasons why the Quilt Studies program is so exceptional is it provides the opportunity to learn about cultures and their textile traditions from all over the world. There are pieces from Italy, France, Turkey, Korea, and many more in the museum’s collection. And sometimes they even let us travel to find these pieces!

Initially, I became interested in this trip because of a recent acquisition here at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum. Last year we procured a Dragon Wife’s Robe from Southwest China. The patchwork is made out of a variety of vivid silks, most of which are sewn into a pinwheel block and placed evenly on a dark navy ground. It is elegant and, quite simply, beautiful! I fell in love on sight!

Helping Exhibitions Assistant Jennifer Graham
build a mount for the robe.

Here we are carefully moving the robe to the mount for display.

(If you took a behind the scenes tour at the IQSCM during the annual American Quilt Study Group meeting last fall you would have seen this piece.) It made me curious about who wore it and why, and what other textiles are out there?

My first love was historic costume, so it’s not surprising that I fell in love with this piece as it combines my newer love of quilts and patchwork. The research trip to China presents an opportunity to find and learn more about pieces such as this. We will be going to a different part of China than where this robe was found, but that means that there may be different traditions and styles to uncover.  And new textiles to fall in love with!  

Great Wall here I come!

P.S. You should really follow along… I’m sure we will have some amazing/crazy/unbelievable stories to share!

Amanda is working on a master’s in textile history with an emphasis in quilt studies at UNL. She has a bachelor’s degree in apparel merchandising, design and production with an emphasis in museum studies and a minor in entrepreneurial studies from Iowa State University. She is a graduate assistant working in collections at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum and previously interned at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Ky., and Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

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