I was definitely thinking of the Gee’s Bend quilts when I designed Peaceable Bedlam. Mostly about the way they intentionally disrupt a traditional quilt design by changing a pattern just enough so you can still recognize the pattern but it’s not quite right.
In all the interviews I’ve read from Gee’s Bend, the women say it’s a way of making the quilt their own. The idea of individuality, of no quilt being the same, is a driving creative force.
I’ve read in other sources that braking up quilt patterns is seen in a lot of quilts made by African American women (and a few men). It’s a tradition based in the idea of the quilt as protection. The belief is that evil spirits would be confused by the design and would get “stuck” trying to figure it out, keeping them from bothering whoever is sleeping under the quilt.
It’s like painting your front door red to keep out the evil spirits or the belief that winding streets in cities keep the evil spirits wandering so they aren’t able to settle in one place.
This is just the quality I love about the Gee’s Bend Quilts, that they keep me looking at them. I’m forever trying to figure them out, trying to understand how the quilter made the decisions she did. From what I’ve read, those decisions come mostly from intuition. Intuition is also the driving creative force when I design my quilts.
I see now that my quilts are influenced by my life long issue with decision making. Since they are intuitive, I get to decide what looks good where. Right or wrong comes solely from me. Anyone can disagree with me, or not like my quilts, but that doesn’t make them “not good” in my mind. I know what each individual quilt should look like. I’m the authority, the only voice inside my head and heart when it comes to my work.