STEPHENVILLE, Texas — Tarleton State University and the Cross Timbers Fine Arts Council (CTFAC) present “A Quilter’s Day Out,” April 6-May 25, with two exhibits, one at the W.K. Gordon Center for Industrial History of Texas in the historic ghost town of Thurber and the other at CTFAC in Stephenville.
“If Quilts Could Talk: Orr Family Quilts Across Five Generations” at the Gordon Center (off IH 20, Exit 367) features an inspiring collection of the Orr family’s heirloom quilts created and handed down across five generations spanning 150 years.
The earliest quilts were created by Lucinda Morgan Orr circa 1870 in Silver Run, Ala. The Orr family second generation moved in 1898 by train to Hill County, settling near Brandon, Texas, where the women continued to create quilts for several more decades.
The collection of hand-pieced and hand-quilted treasures includes traditional patterns of Grandmother’s Fan, Double Wedding Ring, Crown of Thorns, Flower Basket, Periwinkle, Dove at the Window and many others. Notable fabrics include 1870s poison green with dye containing arsenic, 1930s feed sacks and 1940s men’s work shirts and overalls. Some individual quilts contain scraps dating over periods of 20, 30 and up to 50 years.
Visitors will enjoy seeing notions from the family’s sewing cabinet, including wooden spools of thread and Lou Orr’s left-handed scissors. Handwritten postcards, excerpts from family journals and photographs of the quilters capture the essence of rural life. Bessie Orr wrote in a journal Aug. 15, 1945, “Lou and Bess sunned the quilts. Sunned 140 in all.”
A short video demonstrates how conservation work was completed by Lucinda Orr’s great-great-granddaughter, Sue Goodman, who thought it her mission “to do everything possible to prepare the Orr family quilts for their next 100 years and share this remarkable legacy with future generations of quilters.”
The CFTAC exhibit, “Cloth as Community: Hmong Textiles in America,” showcases 28 flower cloths and embroidered story clothes created by Hmong women in the U.S. that connect their experiences in America with the native culture. The exhibit highlights needlework skills and cultural knowledge passed down in cloth for generations.
Hmong flower cloth (paj ntaub) is one of the world’s great textile traditions and an excellent example of cloth as community. Despite its roots in Hmong culture, this complex art was not widely known outside Asia until after the Vietnam War, when Hmong refugees arrived in the United States. The works illustrate the profound relevance of textiles as infrastructure in the Hmong culture, an art form that shifted as it adapted to fit new realities.
This national, traveling exhibit is made possible by a grant from Mid-America Arts Alliance, Exhibits USA and the National Endowment for the Arts.
“The Cross Timbers Fine Arts Council is thrilled to collaborate with Tarleton State University’s ‘A Quilter’s Day Out’ at the W.K. Gordon Center. Even though the techniques and patterns may vary between the Orr quilts and the Hmong quilts, these exhibits parallel one another in telling a rich story about history, family and community,” said CTFAC Executive Director Christine Newton.
The Cross Timbers Fine Arts Council is at 204 River North Blvd., Stephenville, 254-965-6190, https://www.crosstimbersfinearts.org/.