Though the Quilts 1710 - 2010 at the V&A seems exceptionally timely, it's been six years in the making, and curator Sue Pritchard initally had to prove the viability of an exhibition centred around the museum's vast collection of patchwork and quilted objects. It's certainly something for guild members and enthusiasts - it will be interesting to see if it draws in the new generation of fabric junkies and make-do-menders.
The works on show have been created in community projects, by inmates at Wandsworth prison, transported female convicts, contemporary artists, and unknown artisans. The exhibition opens with bed hangings made from 1730-50 and moves through thematic collections to finish with Tracey Emin's To Meet My Past. The museum has carefully placed the works in situ, so many are displayed on beds though this does sometimes make it difficult to see details and identify pattern repeats which are integral to the design.
The contemporary artists who've been chosen to represent the art today are firmly in that camp - artists rather than crafters or enthusiasts which is evident in Sue Stockwell and Caren Garfen's work, as well as Tracey Emin's To Meet My Past. It's quite different to the US or Australian scene but this is intended to focus on British work. Whether it will entice younger crafters to pick up the needle is yet to be seen but traditionalists will be thrilled by the glimpse into V&A archive, as well as the specially commissioned Liberty fabrics that accompany it. They're available in the gift shop, along with one of the best selection of quilting books in the city and some of the most expensive thread you'll ever find.