A quilt depicting Oakland at night.

The African American Quilt Guild of Oakland has been producing beautiful quilts and teaching the craft for more than 15 years. Recently, the guild turned its attention to creating quilts that tell the stories of its hometown. The results are dramatic works that recall themes as varied as the Oakland firestorm of 1991, fog on Lake Merritt and police brutality. Forum talks to members of the guild about the African American community’s tradition of quilting and its current exhibit, “Neighborhoods Coming Together: Quilts Around Oakland.”

Some Quilts from the Exhibit

"Lake Merritt Foggy Morning" by Alice Beasley

"Oakland, You Are Welcome" by Teri Green

"Hand's Up, Don't Shoot" by Jackie Houston

"Firestorm" by Marion Coleman

"Is Graffiti Art?" by Fran Porter

Marion Coleman, professional quilter; member of African American Quilt Guild of Oakland
Fran Porter, member, African American Quilt Guild of Oakland
Marie DePorres Taylor, president, African American Quilt Guild of Oakland
Patricia Turner, professor of African American Studies and World Arts and Cultures, UCLA; author, "Crafted Lives: Stories and Studies of African American Quilters". member, African American Quilt Guild of Oakland

  • Ben Rawner

    I hope by the time I’m 91 I will be as amazing as your guest. I was wondering do your guests make quilts solely for art purposes or for actual warm? Also do any of them do commission work?

  • Smitha

    How do you encourage young artists to join and love quilting?

    • Ryan R Young

      It’s an issue in local guilds, and in the industry as a whole. Most quilds do some outreach. And explosion of the internet has made it possible to teach quilting to anyone interested, whether they have access to a quild or not. And young textile artists can make a name for themselves, and make a living, via YouTube and Craftsy and Etsy. Google “Leah Day” or “Crafty Gemini” or “ManSewing” for young, charismatic teachers, that broaden the appeal to younger “makers”. There are two big quilt shows coming up soon, Visions In Cloth at the Richmond Craneway the weekend of March 19, and “Stitch Modern” at the Piedmont Art Center opening the weekend of April 9. Seeing a quilt that speaks to you, and you think “I could make that…”, that’s the way in.

    • The Modern Quilt Guild

      At the Modern Quilt Guild, we have youth guilds for quilters under 18 that are led often-times by teachers in local communities. If you know a young person looking to get involved, we invite them to find a local MQG in their area or join the MQG as an individual member. We provide resources like a free monthly quilt pattern and free webinars to members. We also hold an annual modern quilt show, QuiltCon, which appeals to visitors from all walks of life — especially young people looking to get involved.


  • gqccc website

    FYI. Dirty secret of the quilting world:

    Some believe a ‘quaint world of long ago’. Believe it or not, the world of quilting is more than thriving. It tops the US Dept of Statistics in the Craft Industry for Sales! With a 9% increase from the previous year! It the ‘dirty little secret’. Interesting to think about next time you are at Home Depot and you see a guy eyeing a new blade or saw, his wife could be over at the quilt shop outspending him!


    Top Ten Craft Segments by Sales

    1. Quilting $3.588 billion
    2. Woodworking/Wood Crafts $3.322 billion
    3. Drawing $2.078 billion
    4. Food Crafting $2.001 billion
    5. Jewelry Making $1.446 billion
    6. Scrapbooking & Memory Crafts $1.440 billion
    7. Floral Decorating $1.303 billion
    8. Crocheting $1.062 billion
    9. Home Décor Crafts (Non-Sewing $948 million
    10.Wedding Crafts $803 million

  • Ryan R Young

    The Oakland Museum Of California took a beat-down in this segment. I’ll come to their defense a wee bit.
    First, their planning horizon (and I speak from the POV of someone once very close to a employee of the museum) is long – it could have been that they already had shows lined up. This is speculation – I don’t know the particulars of this situation.
    Second point, this fall they opened a show “Yo-Yos & Half Squares” that highlighted improvisational quilts by African-American quilters, from an important collection by a local collector Eli Leon. http://museumca.org/exhibit/yo-yos-half-squares-contemporary-california-quilts I’ve been to it 4 times, drawing inspiration for my own work. It MAY have been in planning when the African-American Quilt Guild of Oakland came looking for a venue. It’s a fantastic show, well worth seeing.
    Finally, at the opening of this show, I had a long conversation with an OMCA museum curator, who acknowledged that textiles are not a strength of the museum (The DeYoung is Epic in textiles, btw), although they have a number of quilts in their collection, too long unseen.
    So, it might have been a Bridge Too Far on several fronts.

    • Jean Quan

      When the Guild did its giant show at Allen Temple a few years ago. i sent some photos to the Museum Director so I hope they are thinking about it. I know the planning framework is long is for exhibits. Maybe we can try to make it an annual community exhibit like our Dia de los Muetros exhibits/community event?

      • Ryan R Young

        My understanding is that this year was the last year the Dia de los Muertos would be annual, and that it was moving to every other year. But, Madame Mayor, the idea is a good one. I think the key might be to find an ally on the Women’s Board.

  • Jean Quan

    The quilters work out of the West Oakland Library. Stop by and ask them your questions and meet new friends. http://oaklandlibrary.org/events/west-oakland-branch/african-american-quilt-guild-meeting

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