International Exhibit

Our African American Quilts (see Juneteenth Quilts post) and International exhibit is being held in conjunction with the International Freedom Festival and Juneteenth Festival.  Items will be on display until June 15th.

Iraqui Kililm

This Iraqui Kililm is a mixed geometric pattern embroidery, in vibrant colors, over woven carpet.

Kililms are flatwoven carpets in which the patteRug is formed by the colors of the weft strings being wrapped around the warp.  Kililm rugs are made by the nomadic peoples in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Russia, China, Pakistan, India, and Morrocco.

Paj Ntaub

The Hmong migrated from Southern China in the 19th c. to the mountainous area of Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand.

The Hmong brought with them a rich visual arts heritage.  Paj ntaub or “flower cloth” (pronounced pan ndau) continues to be produced by Hmong artists and dates back over 2,000 years.  The designs and patterns used are symbolic in Hmong culture and often derived from forms in nature.  Paj ntaub is used to decorate traditional Hmong clothing and is also valued as works of textile art.

Vietnamese Jacquard Silk

Vietnam has a tradition of silk weaving and embroidery in villages and have been producing fabrics for nearly a thousand years.  They textiles are made by small family weaving enterprises using traditional methods of thread spinning, weaving, and dyeing.


The Kuna women of Panamá are known for their colorful and intricately sewn mola blouses.  The mola panels of the blouses are hand sewn using several layers of colored fabric.

Many hours of careful sewing are required to create a fine mola. The ability to make an outstanding  mola is a source of status among Kuna women.

Seneca Ribbon Shirt

Post colonial native dress.  After colonization Native American began to adapt some articles of European costume to their own style, decorating cloth garments with characteristic Native American beadwork, embroidery, and designs. These clothes were not original to the Americas, but by the 1800’s they were recognized by anyone viewing them as Native American apparel.

Mexican Serape

Serapes are commonly known as a type of Mexican shawl or blanket.  This traditional item began as a masculine garment that reflected the technological and socioeconomic aspect of its production, distribution, and use, as well as the weaver’s personal experience.  The designs vary tremendously, some that are simplistic and others quite elaborate.  The Mexican serape has a long and interesting history associated with the production of wool and cotton, two materials commonly used for a number of textiles by the Mexican people.  The serape is made in numerous areas of the country, which is why it actually has many different names.  For instance, the serape is also called chamarro, jorongo, cobiga, cotton, frazada, tilme, and gaban.

African Batik Printed Cotton

Batiks origins can be traced back to Asia, India and Africa. Some say the word is of Malay roots and translates “to write” or “to dot”.

Batik is an art medium and methodology for creating design, usually on cloth, by applying wax to portions of the material and then dyeing it, then removing the wax. This can be done to make vibrant colors and incredible designs.

Batik is said to be an ancient art that has been handed down for thousands of years. It is said to be wide spread as the Middle East, Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Thailand, Philippines, India and more.

Log Cabin Quilt

Log Cabin Quilts are characterized by their interlocking geometric shape, and strong use of rectangle (log shaped) elements and swatches. This type of quilt design has been traced back to the period during or just before the Civil War and has remained popular in American quilting for well over 150 years.

Log cabin quilts were believed to have played a role in Underground Railroad, which was the secret network of stations that assisted African Americans fleeing from slavery. It is said that log cabin quilts were hung on laundry lines to indicate a safe haven for those who were running north. Log cabin quilts used by the underground railroad usually contained a black center square to indicate safety.

Other stories suggest that some log cabin quilts contained a hidden map in their patterning with encoded information about railroad way stations along the northern journey.

Polish Plate – White Eagle (Orzeł Biały)

Polish Proverb: “Piękna miska jeść nie daje.”  English Translation: A beautifully decorated plate won’t feed anyone.

The Coat of Arms of Poland consists of a White Eagle on a red shield. The Eagle is wearing a crown. In Poland, the Coat of Arms is usually called simply White Eagle (Orzeł Biały), always capitalized.

The eagle is thought to be the White-tailed eagle, although the highly stylised depiction does not connect the White Eagle with any specific species of eagle.

French Jacquard

The Jacquard Loom is a mechanical loom that has holes punched in pasteboard, each row of which corresponds to one row of the design. Multiple rows of holes are punched on each card and the many cards that compose the design of the textile are strung together in order.

Developed by Joseph Marie Charles in the early 1800s, the Jacquard loom played an important role in the development of other programmable machines, such as computers.

Froebel Stars

This star is called Fröbelstern in Germany. It is a popular decoration for Christmas trees, although not many people know how to fold it from four strips of paper.

Misc. International Goods

Polish painting on glass – Vistula (Wisla) River in Warsaw

The painting can be realistic or abstract. Realistic reverse paintings are more challenging to create as one must, for example, in painting a face, to put the pupil of an eye on the glass before the iris, exactly the opposite of normal painting. If this is neglected the artist will not be able to correct the error as they will not get in between the glass and the paint already applied. No such care need be taken with the abstract form, but with this form there is not a good idea how the piece will look like until it is finished. This process is not like stained or leaded glass work in that it is not intended to hang in a window with light coming through the piece. Hanging on a wall, framed or unframed, with a lot of light directed towards the piece provides best viewing.

Russian Lacquer Pin

The techniques of production for these miniature works of art include the application of several layers of paint, each fully dried and then coated with a transparent lacquer, before the final steps of polishing occurs. Translucency is a hallmark of the style. In the hands of an expert, the colors are rich, and the finished piece glows as if alive. Mother-of-pearl, both fresh water and river, lends a wonderful stylistic quality. Gold, silver, bronze, and aluminum powders are frequently mixed with the oils. Painting is on papier-mache, mother-of-pearl, wood and can be inset into a handmade metal surround. Many times the clasp is a safety pin embedded into the papier-mache. Each piece serves multiple functions: first, as affordable wearable art, second, as frameable art, and third, an heirloom to passed on to younger family members.

Russian Spoons (painted in the traditional folk style)

This painting technique emerged in the 17th century in the Nizhny Novgorod Region, near the trading village of Khokhloma, to which it owes its name. The technique of Khokhloma painting has hardly changed to this day: fine cut articles made of teil or aspen trees are covered with a special base, smeared with aluminum powder, and painted with heat-resistant dyes. When the objects are covered with lacquer, their silver patterns become golden in color. The traditional decorative motif combines entwined grass and flowers painted in fiery cinnabar, as well as black and sparkling gold hues; these designs decorate mugs, serving spoons, ladles, and small barrels. The wooden articles are resistant to both water and organic acids. The Khokhloma technique is used not only for decorating pottery, but for souvenirs, furniture, and household items as well.

Sicilian puppet

The fate of puppets and marionettes in Italy took an upward turn in the 16C, when the aristocracy took an interest in marionettes. The spread to a wider, paying audience came about in the 18C. But it was not until the mid-19C that the puppet show became a genre, complete with shiny armor, swords and agile movements in fight scenes.

Puppets are made of wood and are jointed with metal hinges (the warriors, at least); their manipulation is controlled by lengths of wire connected to the head and right hand. The embossed armor is usually made of bronze or copper. There are two main schools: Palermo and Catania (associated with the school of Acireale), which builds puppets to different criteria.

Chinese Knot (all tied using one thread)

Like Christmas trees and wreaths in the west. the Chinese knot is the most favored ornament for most Chinese families during the Lunar New Year celebration. Almost every shopping mall in Beijing has a special counter to sell Chinese knots of various sizes. shapes and colors.

No matter how different the knots are the messages the ancient craft delivers are similar: offering blessings of happiness, prosperity, love and good luck.

The major characteristic of the Chinese knot is that every one is tied from a single thread (at least 1 meter long) but looks the same from both the front and back. A typical Chinese knot is red but it can also be gold, green, blue or black. Flowers, birds, dragons, the phoenix, fish and shoes are the most common patterns used in the Chinese knot.

Drawing of Tiger on rice paper

Chinese painting mainly uses the following tools: brush, ink, xuan paper (rice paper), and water.
Chinese paintings are much more like drawing.  Contour drawing is the basis of most Chinese Ink brush paintings.  It consists of the drawing of the outlines, and some internal lines, to define the form of the subject.  The lines can vary in thickness to express shadow or strength.  Also, painting with an ink brush on rice paper is much more difficult than drawing.

In Chinese culture, the tiger is considered to be the king of all animals (in much the way we see the lion in western culture).

Russian Wooden Chickens Swing Toy

Toy and sculpture-making of Bogorodskoye is based on the ancient principles of medieval Russian art. Its cultural origin is connected with Trinity Monastery of St. Sergius (Moscow Region), a large centre of national arts and crafts. The detailed hand-decorated figurines of people and animals, either painted or unadorned, are based on fairytale characters or legendary heroes. Local craftsmen do their work with much imagination, humour, and extraordinary attention to detail. Many museums in Russia have their own collections of toys in this style.

Scandinavian Drawn Thread Work

Drawn thread work is a form of counted-thread embroidery based on removing threads from the warp and/or the weft of a piece of even-weave fabric. The remaining threads are grouped or bundled together into a variety of patterns. The more elaborate styles of drawn thread work use in fact a variety of other stitches and techniques, but the drawn thread parts are their most distinctive element. It is also grouped as whitework embroidery because it was traditionally done in white thread on white fabric and is often combined with other whitework techniques.

Crucifix made from Lava from Mount Etna

Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is in an almost constant state of activity. The fertile volcanic soils support extensive agriculture, with vineyards and orchards spread across the lower slopes of the mountain and the broad Plain of Catania to the south.

Sicilian Scarf hand painted with the triskelion.

The three bent legs are supposed to represent the three points of the island Sicily itself.  The triskelion is a symbol of Sicily.

The word Triskelion comes from the Greek “τρισκέλιον” (triskelion) or “τρισκελής” (triskeles) and means “three-legged”. The Triskelion symbol appears in many early cultures, including on Mycenaean vessels, on coinage in Lycia, and on staters of Pamphylia (at Aspendos, 370–333 BC) and Pisidia. The symbol dates back to when Sicily was part of Magna Graecia, the colonial extension of Greece beyond the Aegean.

African Mud Cloth

Bogolanfini, which translates as “mud cloth,” is a long established tradition among the Bamana, a Mande speaking people who inhabit a large area to the east and north of Bamako in Mali. The origin of this cloth is believed to lie in the Beledougou region of central Mali. Hand woven and hand-dyed mudcloth uses a centuries old process using numerous applications of various plant juices/teas and mud to dye hand woven cotton cloth.

Each piece of mudcloth tells a story. No two pieces are alike and each pattern and color combination has a meaning. The symbols, arrangements, color as well as shape of the mudcloth reveal secrets. The mudcloth is also used to define a person’s social status, character or occupation.

Japanese Indigo Dyeing

The Japanese discovered that cotton was a difficult fabric to dye except with indigo. Consequently, organic indigo dye was widely used throughout Japan as a coloring and designing agent for cotton textiles and became especially important in the Edo period (1603 ~ 1867). The indigo fabric dyeing process lasted a week orJapanese Indigo Dye Vats more and required individual cotton pieces to be immersed & removed from the indigo dye vat more than 20 times so as to firmly fix the dark blue color into the material. Over time, use and washing, the dark blue appearance gradually faded, producing a visually striking variegated indigo coloring, a unique feature of indigo favored among collectors.

In addition Japanese peasants preferred indigo blue shades for their textiles because they felt the color mirrored the hue of the oceans surrounding the Japanese islands, culturally & economically important.


Washi (和紙) is a type of paper made in Japan. Washi is commonly made using fibers from the bark of the gampi tree, the mitsumata shrub (Edgeworthia papyrifera), or the paper mulberry, but also can be made using bamboo, hemp, rice, and wheat. Washi comes from wa meaning Japanese and shi meaning paper, and the term is used to describe paper made by hand in the traditional manner.

Washi is generally tougher than ordinary paper made from wood pulp, and is used in many traditional arts. Origami, Shodo, and Ukiyo-e were all produced using washi. Washi was also used to make various everyday goods like clothes, household goods, and toys as well as vestments and ritual objects for Shinto priests and statues of Buddha. It was even used to make wreaths that were given to winners in the 1998 Winter Paralympics. Several kinds of washi, referred to collectively as Japanese tissue, are used in the conservation and mending of books. Washi was developed from the traditional Chinese paper-making process.


Juneteenth Quilts

Quilts made by African American women (and possibly a few men) can vary in style just as much as those made by any other cultural group during a particular time period. But with the national discovery some 15 years ago of the quilts of the women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama and the subsequent major museum tours of these quilts, a particular look has been popularized. This look often mixes traditional West African stylistic elements with 20th century American ones. This look can also translate some minor African elements, such as certain asymmetries, into major focal points.

The six quilts of the show were selected specifically because they reflect this purposeful blending of traditions. Their makers remain anonymous. They were purchased at antique shops across New York and Pennsylvania. Only the history of one can be guessed at. The others must stand solely on the merits of their own vibrant integrity.

Double-sided Strip Quilt

cotton and cotton blend fabrics machine stitched to an inner muslin
some plain machine quilting
ca. 1955-1965

The vertical stripes of horizontally pieced fabrics on the one side echo the West African aesthetic of what is called “strip cloth” – cloth made from sewn together strips of cloth woven with narrow horizontal bands.  Double sided quilts are fairly uncommon in any quilting tradition.  This one mixes the log cabin motif with the West African style.  Both design styles combined in this quilt use pieced narrow strips of cloth as a unifying element.

“Union Made” Strip Quilt

cotton, cotton/linen, and cotton blends, hand stitched
interior material – cotton batting
backing – stripped cotton flannel
hand quilted in concentric arcs
ca. late 1950s – early 1960s

The fabrics for this quilt are comprised mostly of scraps from heavy-duty work clothing.  The prints may be from dresses, the heavier ones from draperies.  Union labels still survive on many fabrics from a clothing manufacturer in Florida.  The use of recycled clothing is not uncommon in African American quilts from the South.  This may be a continuation of the tradition set during the Great Depression by quilt makers all across the country.
This quilt was purchased from an antiques dealer who had bought it at an estate auction.  The auction was of the contents of an old farm/orchard located close to the south shore of Lake Ontario east of Rochester.  The quilt had been in an outbuilding for a number of years and was very dirty.  It is a good educated guess that the quilt was made in Florida by a women who worked for the clothing factory – Headlight Mfg. Co.  It is a very heavy quilt; heavier than one would probably ever need that far south.  It would be a good possibility that she made it for her husband who was a migrant worker, who came north to pick fruit, probably apples, in the fall.  The quilt remained at the orchard where he worked.

Tied Strip Quilt

cotton, wool, and blends, machine stitched
no interior material
backing – black cotton
tied with wool yarn
ca. 1955 – 1965

The asymmetry in the pieces of fabric themselves as well as that of the long pieced strips and their occasional interruptions with narrow and more horizontal fabrics is a continuation and magnification of such asymmetries found in West African cloth.


rayon crepe de Chine, rayon corduroy, and cotton, hand stitched
no interior material
backing – cotton blanket
hand quilted in concentric arcs
ca. 1935-1945

The name “Housetops” for this pattern comes from the women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama.  The term is now used universally for this design.  Although the pattern may have evolved out of log cabin, the asymmetrical aesthetic which is common to so many African American quilts is very much present here.  Pieces of fabric aren’t of equal size or shape; lines don’t always meet; and color placement is irregular.

Housetops variation

cotton and cotton blend fabrics, machine stitched.
interior material – cotton batting
backing – cotton print
quilting – hand stitched
ca. early 1960s

As is common with African American quilts, the backing folds over the front and is stitched down.  Also common is hand quilting in broad, somewhat uneven, concentric arcs.

This quilt demonstrates the stylistic elements of discontinuity and asymmetrical quality also common to so many African American designs.  Some housetop squares are not quite completed and the patterns are occasionally interrupted with shapes that seem out of place.

Stripes in Squares

machine stitched pieced cotton and cotton blend fabrics
interior material – cotton and wool blanket
backing – striped nylon
quilting – machine zigzag
ca. 1955-1965

As is stylistic for many African American quilts, the backing is folded over the front and stitched down.

Much traditional West African cloth is constructed by first weaving long narrow strips which are then sewn together side by side.  The strips themselves are woven with narrow horizontal stripes and other designs so that when sewn together, they create a grid of vertical and horizontal interest.  In this quilt, the maker has used this aesthetic to eye-dazzling effect.