Collection Focus: Black Pearl, Laura Kemshall


We are looking forward to celebrating the 2021 Festival of Quilts by showcasing our forthcoming exhibition ‘Quilts and their makers’, taking 10 historic quilts and 10 pieces from our contemporary works. Newsletter readers can take a sneak peek in advance, as over the coming months we explore the variety and skill of our makers both past and present, and celebrate their creativity in a selection of the quilts which will be on display.

This pictorial wholecloth quilt, showing a woman wearing and holding many strings of pearls, was made by artist Laura Kemshall for The Quilters’ Guild Challenge at the Festival of Quilts in 2009. Working to the theme of Pearls – chosen to celebrate the Pearl anniversary year of The Quilters’ Guild – Laura used her fabric painting and free-hand machine-quilting skills to create a visually striking piece. When asked about her inspiration for this design, Laura said she was working on a series of portrait quilts, “so it seemed like a natural idea to do a woman with pearl jewellery. 

Laura Kemshall, Artist.

The model for the woman in the piece was Laura herself, and she took a self-portrait photograph wearing all the pearl jewellery she could scavenge from the jewellery boxes of the women in her family. But this was not intended to be an accurate portrait of herself Although it’s a photo of me for reference, it’s not a portrait of me at all, just a face to work from”. Her fabric painting technique continues in the circles that form the background to the piece – emulating the Pearls of the theme and following the traditional ‘drunkards path’ patchwork blocks without using fabric piecing.

Black Pearl, 2009, Laura Kemshall. The Quilters’ Guild Museum Collection.

We are fortunate to have two pieces by Laura in The Collection; both winners of The Quilters’ Guild Challenges at the Festival of Quilts, sponsored and purchased by our Collection sponsor, Bernina. In addition to this piece from 2009 we also have another piece that showcases Laura’s skill with free-machine quilting, printing and painting. Entitled: “And now the Weather….”, (2008), this white wholecloth quilt uses black paint – and one metallic painted rectangle – to depict a swirling storm over a city landscape, with traditional curving north country style quilted feathers sharply contrasting with the straight sheets of rain.  

And now the Weather…., 2008, Laura Kemshall. The Quilters’ Guild Museum Collection.

Laura is well known in the quilting world, and whilst she often works with quilts, she is, in essence, an artist who often creates wholecloth quilts that involve painting, printing, drawing and stitch, as part of her wider practise. As part of a mother and daughter team, both Laura and Linda Kemshall have been teaching online courses as well as continuing with their own artistic and textile creations for almost 20 years. Over time, this business has evolved into Design Matters Art & Craft School, which offers a huge library of creative workshops and inspirational information to help individuals develop their own skills as both an artist and a maker.

The Quilters’ Guild Museum Collection is sponsored by Bernina, UK

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