"“Blending the Old & the New: Quilts by Paul D. Pilgrim""
Developed by the National Quilt Museum
August 14 - October 11, 2015



"Blending the Old & the New: Quilts by Paul D. Pilgrim", Developed by the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY, as a tribute to quiltmaker and quilt collector Paul D. Pilgrim of Oakland, CA, who died of cancer in November 1996, this exhibit is being traveled to museums around the country.

Paul Pilgrim, together with Gerald E. Roy, played an important role in the development of the Museum. Pilgrim/Roy assisted with the interior design of the building, loaned many beautiful quilts from their extensive antique collection, and assisted with the exhibit design for many important NQM exhibits.

In partnership for 33 years with Gerald E. Roy in Pilgrim Roy Antiques & Interiors (San Francisco and Oakland), Paul Pilgrim developed one of the foremost collections of antique quilts in the country. As Paul and Gerald traveled around the country purchasing quilts and other antiques for their business and their own collection, Paul found he just couldn't leave behind many of the stacks of "orphan blocks" he found in shops--the quilt blocks that had been completed but had never found their way into any quilt.

Among his many other talents, Paul was a quiltmaker. He began making the "orphan blocks" he acquired into quilts, coming up with some wild and wonderful combinations of new and old. Exhibit curator Gerald E. Roy comments on Paul's quiltmaking: "After completing a quilt from blocks left by his grandmother, he stretched the custom of using inherited pieces to include many unfinished projects from former unrelated generations. Convinced he was not only preserving by completion, but celebrating the efforts of anonymous quiltmakers from the past, he began incorporating antique blocks and fabrics into his own work."

Quilt blocks from the 19th and 20th centuries are found in the fascinating quilts of this exhibit. A sampler quilt boldly combines contemporary fabrics with a wide range of c.1860-1880 blocks Paul had collected over a five-year period in Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Kentucky. Text with each quilt in the exhibit indicates the source and dates of various blocks and fabrics, as well as information about Paul's inspiration and thoughts on the design. With their labeling, these quilts become a wonderful compendium of textile and block design history.

Exquisite 19th century pieced and appliqued blocks are among those used, as well as some less successful patchwork endeavors. "Bear's Paws with Personality" includes 1890-1900 Bear's Paw blocks that made Paul smile when he saw them. Someone had obviously had a great deal of trouble constructing them. Viewed in the midst of Paul's quilt, their technical shortcomings are easily overlooked.

"Who Cut the Lilies" features a beautiful row of North Carolina Lily blocks--cut in half by a previous owner. Both the top and bottom halves of the row are cleverly integrated in Paul's quilt. One can only surmise why the strip of beautiful patchwork blocks was ever sliced through the middle. Paul liked to think it was the work of a "second wife" jealous of the needlework skills of the first, a scenario similar to actual family history connected with a quilt on display in 1995 at the NQM.

"Shoo Flies, Toads and T's," which integrates a wild assortment of 1870-1880 blocks collected in North Carolina and California, is among the other quilts blending the old and the new. Exhibit curator Gerald E. Roy comments: "It is reassuring to know that the quilting tradition provides not only a broad opportunity for self-expression but also a built-in recycling system for unfinished projects, especially those projects unappreciated during their time but re-evaluated and re-assessed in another time by fresh and enthusiastic eyes." Through his quilts Paul’s humor, his artistry, and his great love for antiques can be enjoyed for many years to come. This exhibit has been developed by the National Quilt Museum, the world's largest quilt museum, located in Paducah, Kentucky. Dedicated to honoring today's quilter, the museum offers changing exhibits of new and antique quilts, workshops, quilt contests, and other activities.

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