The first 1970s quilt I bought reminded me of my childhood, especially summers spent at the community pool. As I accumulated more quilts—many made from polyester double-knit fabrics—the critics had plenty to say. People would actually make faces when I talked about polyester quilts. I didn’t care. I was enthralled. When I started bringing the quilts to show-and-tell with the local quilt guild, they were better appreciated. Part of that was generational—the group had a sense of Modern art, and the quilts’ aesthetic prompted a certain nostalgia in people who had come of age in the 1970s.
The quilts were inexpensive and the collection grew quickly. Today, it includes more than 150 quilts that represent a pivotal period in the history of American quiltmaking. My role as a collector is to get people looking, which, of course, is an easy job with such eye-popping, jaw-dropping quilts.
- Bill Volckening
Bill Volckening was born in New Jersey, and has lived in Oregon since 1998. He calls himself a “quilt magnet” because of his uncanny ability to find great quilts. When he bought his first quilt in 1989, he planned to display it on a wall in his home. When he realized that the quilt was too old and valuable to hang year-round, he found a second quilt and rotated the two. As his home decor evolved, he collected more quilts to fit in with furniture or paint colors. When he bought his first house, he had more walls. So he bought more quilts.
Over a period of 20 years, Bill built his collection steadily, buying many quilts online, and having little involvement with either quiltmakers or other collectors. He occasionally exhibited his quilts, or shared them with local quilt guilds and women’s groups in Oregon. The knowledge and perspective of these audiences made him realize the significance of his collection, and that his hobby of collecting quilts had become a vocation. Bill’s blog, Wonkyworld, details the thrill of the collecting hunt.