Exquisite Welsh Quilts from 1921-1939 at The Welsh Quilt Centre
As Good As It Gets this year’s main exhibition at The Welsh Quilt Centre, is a celebration of magnificent Welsh Quilts made especially for a luxury market. These fine quilts were produced in Wales from 1921 to 1939 during a time of hardship in the socially and economically depressed areas of South and West Wales
Quilts were made to order and sold in the luxury markets of London, Cardiff and other large cities. This was a post-war government initiative and the Rural Industries Bureau was set up to keep traditional skills alive and to provide employment. The quilters involved were carefully chosen by Mavis Fitz Randolph, a craft adviser appointed by the RIB in 1928. She would travel around South Wales looking for skilful quilters by asking around the villages, even checking quilts on washing lines for clues! Quilters were chosen, classes were set up and teachers appointed. These women were now part of a scheme whose aim was to provide work in South Wales. The areas chosen included Aberdare, Abertridwr, Merthyr Tydfil and the Rhondda.
Prestigious orders during the 1930s came from the Royal Family, aristocracy, and distinguished hotels. Most importantly, Claridges Hotel in Mayfair, London commissioned quilts for their new Art Deco wing and when it opened in 1932 there were Welsh Quilts on every bed. The opulent fabrics used in the quilt-making process came from mainly Liberty and included silks, satin, taffeta and velvet, and each quilt was filled with Welsh lambs-wool.
Jen Jones is the proud owner of a ‘Claridges’ Quilt, which will be exhibited along with many more marvellous Welsh Quilts from this era in the main courtroom gallery.
As ‘Good As It Gets’ a highly original exhibition designed by Gwenllian Ashley opens on the 10th of March and will run until the 4th of November at The Welsh Quilt Centre, Lampeter.
Some examples of quilts from the period
More about the RIB in Wales
Claire Claridge has described this in more detail in her book "Making Welsh Quilts":
In the early 1900’s, influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement, the Welsh Rural Industries attempted to promote cottage-based industries such as hand-quilting in West Wales, but without much success. Then in 1921 the Rural Industries Bureau was set up as part of a wider post-war government reconstruction scheme intended to encourage a range of rural-based crafts. The intention was to keep traditional skills alive and provide employment in socially and economically depressed areas.
In 1928 the Bureau appointed Mavis FitzRandolph as Craft Adviser. She toured South Wales looking for professional village quilters and their work, mainly by word of mouth, but also by hard evidence in the form of quilts on washing lines!
A highly successful exhibition of the quilts she found, at the Little Gallery in Sloane St., London, produced so many orders that the established quilters were unable to fulfil the demand. So in 1929 the RIB decided to set up classes in areas of extreme hardship in the South Wales coalfield to train young women to make quilts for sale in the luxury markets of London, Cardiff and other large cities. A much better price could be obtained for high quality work in these markets than locally - and desperately needed income could be earned. The areas chosen in South Wales were Aberdare, Abertridwr, Merthyr Tydful, Porth in the Rhondda, Splott in Cardiff and Blaena, Gwent.
Claire Claridge - author of Making Welsh Quilts