Self-Taught Genius spotlight: Original Design Quilt

By | May 23, 2016
 Carl Klewicke, 1835-1913; Original Design Quilt, Corning, New York, c. 1907; pieced silk, faille, taffeta and satin; 60 x 72 ½ inches; American Folk Art Museum, Museum purchase, 2012.1.1 Photo by Gavin Ashworth, courtesy of American Folk Art Museum/Art Resource, NY

Carl Klewicke, 1835-1913; Original Design Quilt, Corning, New York, c. 1907; pieced silk, faille, taffeta and satin; 60 x 72 ½ inches; American Folk Art Museum, Museum purchase, 2012.1.1 Photo by Gavin Ashworth, courtesy of American Folk Art Museum/Art Resource, NY

Some of the more dazzling silk quilts made at the turn of the twentieth century are the work of men in the tailoring trades, often emigrants from Germany or Eastern Europe. Strip constructions, such as the Log Cabin pattern, enabled the quiltmakers to utilize bits of silk that were left over from vests and other clothing items fashioned as part of their profession. Carl Klewicke was one such immigrant to Corning, New York. It was recently discovered by Jacquelyn Oak at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont, that the quilt he made in 1907 as a wedding gift for his daughter, Laura, received acclaim in more than one newspaper article, each describing it as “wonderful in many respects,” and containing 31,085 pieces. Klewicke labored at this quilt for twenty years or so, but the story is even more extraordinary. As recounted in the March 18, 1879, edition of the Corning (NY) Journal: “On the evening of March 1st, an infant girl about three months old, was left on the door step at the house of Carl Klewicke…. The child was well dressed, and an extra pair of shoes was in the bundle of clothing left with it. Mr. and Mrs. Klewicke, having no children, adopted the foundling, and are already quite proud as well as happy in its possession.” It is this adopted daughter for whom the extraordinary quilt was made.