by Suzanne Labry
Should any of us question the way in which quilts can inspire across time, continents, and cultures, we would need to look no further than quilter Brigitte Morgenroth to dispel our doubts.
Photo Right: Brigitte Morgenroth shows admirers some of the quilts in her one-person exhibition at the 2015 International Quilt Festival in Houston.
Brigitte is a German quilt artist who, while living in Africa, was influenced by Amish quilters in North America and who now works primarily interpreting a pattern that traces its origins back at least to Egypt during the era of the Pharaohs.
Brigitte began making quilts in 1990 while living in Bophuthatswana (a former republic now incorporated into South Africa) where her husband was working as a doctor. She had done a bit of home sewing for her family before that time, and in fact was volunteering at a hospital sewing pressure garments for burn victims, but she had never before made a quilt.
It was a magazine article featuring Amish quilts from the United States that caught her attention and ended up changing her life. “In the loneliness of the Bophuthatswana outback, I taught myself to quilt,” Brigitte says. “I’ve now made 120 quilts, and I’ve had exhibitions of my work both in Germany and in many places abroad.”
Two of Brigitte’s quilts were included in Karey Bresenhan’s book, 500 Traditional Quilts, and she was invited to have a one-person exhibition at the 2015 International Quilt Festival in Houston. On display were 24 of Brigitte’s spectacular quilts in an array of the Log Cabin pattern’s numerous variations.
Her choice of that particular pattern speaks to the ability of quilts to connect ancient traditions with a modern aesthetic. Quilt historians have long marked the relation of the Log Pattern quilt pattern to designs found in ancient times, including such antecedents as those on the wrappings of Egyptian mummies, in Mesopotamian architecture, and even in agricultural crop production.
Photo Left: Geteiltes Rot (Divided Red), 54"x78"
It is, of course, impossible to know the precise point at which the design began being rendered in fabric, but there are examples in England as early as the 1700s. With regard to the Log Cabin pattern’s appearance in North America and its iconic association with pioneer settlement there, historian Barbara Brackman traces the earliest known signed and dated Log Cabin quilt to 1869.
Brigitte is drawn to the way in which color transforms the appearance of the Log Cabin pattern, even though the underlying structure remains the same. “I like to achieve my perception of colors and arrangements in strict, geometric patterns of the Log Cabin in one of the many variations: triangular, undulating, the pineapple, and others,” she explaind. “Silk and polyester satin are my favorite materials, sometimes combined with patterned cotton.”
Photo Right: Goldener Oktober (Golden October), 48"x65"
Brigitte usually produces large quilts, and all of them are pieced using a paper-piecing method and quilted by hand. To produce the precise patterns demanded by her work, her husband, Albrecht, uses a vector drawing application. The pattern is then printed onto thin paper.
Brigitte’s beautiful Log Cabin variations are an inspiration to all who see them. They represent the timeless, global ability of quilts to communicate across all barriers.