American Craft Forum: MOSAIC
American Craft Forum: MOSAIC
Spring 2022 American Craft Forum
Thursday, March 24, 2022, via Zoom
11 a.m. PT | 12 p.m. MT | 1 p.m. CT | 2 p.m. ET
Join us for a conversation with artists from the quilting community in Boykin, Alabama, also known as Gee’s Bend, and fashion designer Greg Lauren as they discuss what it means to highlight the craft in fashion and the beauty of transparency in partnerships. This American Craft Forum is tied to the fashion-themed Spring 2022 issue of American Craft magazine.
From the thousands of handsewn seed pearls on Grace Kelly’s wedding dress in 1956, to Taylor Swift’s head turning, handsewn, floral Oscar de la Renta dress at the 2021 Grammy Awards, to Lil’ Nas X’s golden armor hand fabricated for this year’s Met Gala, craft and couture fashion have been joined at the hip for a very long time. We all remember the clothes and the designer, but what about the fabricators and the inspiration behind those innovative and stunning garments?
In the Spring 2022 issue feature article “Beloved Patches of Orange,” writer and fashion scholar Jonathan Michael Square teases out a story about an amazing community of textile artists in Gee’s Bend and Greg Lauren, the designer who wanted to flip the narrative by putting those artists who inspired him front and center in a collection all about collaboration. Read the article online now and get ready for an inside look into this exciting collaboration through our upcoming forum conversation.
Jonathan Michael Square is the assistant professor of Black Visual Culture at Parsons School of Design. He has taught at the University of Pennsylvania, Fashion Institute of Technology, and most recently Harvard University. He has a PhD from New York University, an MA from the University of Texas at Austin, and a BA from Cornell University. A proponent in the power of social media as a platform for radical pedagogy, he founded and runs the digital humanities project Fashioning the Self in Slavery and Freedom, which explores the intersection of fashion and slavery. While serving as a fellow in the Costume Institute, Square will work on a book manuscript on the same topic, tentatively titled Negro Cloth: How Slavery Birthed the Global Fashion Industry.
Greg Lauren is a fashion designer who, when he launched his eponymous mens and womenswear label in 2011, was on a mission to "create clothing from the perspective of being an artist." Known for artisanal collections, he has been reimagining and redefining classic archetypes and making handcrafted clothes out of damaged and upcycled fabrics since its inception, with his team in Los Angeles. MOSAIC: Gee’s Bend & Greg Lauren is a collaboration between 14 quilters from Gee's Bend and Greg Lauren, celebrating the ingenious artwork by the women of this community.
Gee's Bend quilt makers and their quilts are descendents of craft as storytelling, generational memory, resilience, and beauty. The following are their own unchanged words describing their crafts.
Mary Margaret Pettway
Hello, my name is Mary Margaret Pettway. I’m a third generation quilter, my children are fourth generation quilters. My mother was Lucy Pettway. My grandmother was Mary Ann Pettway. I grew up in Gee’s Bend Alabama, Boykin, now.
I didn’t just learn to quilt, I was made to quilt. My mother used to have a little clique. They would leave home and go to whoever’s house who had the quilt. It would be about 5 or 6 of them sitting around, just quilting and talking. They would finish either that day, or early morning the day after. And then it would be time to go to the next house. Me, I pretty much work by myself now—I’m what my mother used to call, “particular about my stitches.”
My favorite thing about quilting is the end result. You take materials, put them together and the colors just work, nature has the best palette. And when you're done, when you hang that quilt up or spread it out on a bed, it looks so pretty! You just wanna touch it.
Emma Mooney Pettway
Hi, my name is Emma Mooney Pettway and I’m a Gee’s Bend Quilter. My mother is Tanzy Mooney, my grandmother is Lottie Mooney, and my other grandmother is Mary Major. Lottie Mooney’s quilt was used on a postage stamp. So, a lot of my quilting comes from my parents and grandparents. They taught me how to sew at a young age; I found inspiration just sitting under the quilt, threading the needle.
I was born right here in Gee's Bend—now Boykin, Alabama—and I live here today. Back in the day, we made quilts to keep warm. Now, quilting is sort of a hobby. I just enjoy making them. Looking at the pretty material makes me want to do something exciting. Sitting and making quilts relaxes me. I like doing the nine-patch and I love to use cotton—I work better with it.
My favorite thing about making quilts is making people happy. I find beauty in the quilts I make, I hope you look at them and find beauty—it's the love of the quilt. I’m a loving person, someone who cares for others. I think being blessed, being here in this world, makes me want to help somebody else.
Portrait by Steve Pitkin.
Stella Mae Pettway
Hi! My name is Stella Mae Pettway. I'm the fourth out of ten children. My mother is Georgianna Pettway, father is Ken B. Pettway, grandmother is Delia Bennett, and grandfather is Eddie Bennett. My aunt is Ella Mae Irby. I was born, raised, and still live in Gee's Bend. I love it here! My mother taught me how to quilt—I’d work on corners because I couldn't sew. "Stella, stay off!”, she’d say. But I liked it.
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This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.