1951 -

Flora Moore

Alberta, Alabama

Flora Moore took up quiltmaking as a teenager after seeing quilts in the yard of the quilting bee in its earliest years when it was located at Estelle Witherspoon’s home.

I growed up in Rehoboth on the Lyle place. We went to the fields soon as I got big enough; picked cotton and went to school. It was fun in the fields until I got big enough to know what it was about, and then I didn’t want to do that no more. I went far as the eleventh grade down in Gee’s Bend. 

My mother was Creola Young; father, Isaac James. They farmed. I was born in 1951. I used to work for my cousin T. Stella [Estelle Witherspoon], go over there and sweep her yard every Saturday morning. They had start this quilting bee in her house, but by me doing the yard, the only way I got to go in the house was to get my pay. I would see them doing quilts, so I went and started it myself. I was about a teenager, don’t remember how old. I just always liked to form my own opinion about my work. I just put a piece together, see how it look, and if it don’t look right, take it loose and do it over again. Just put pieces together that match. I guess the ideas just pop in my head. If it don’t go right that way for me, I change it.

Peoples used to send old clothes up to the bee for giving out for peoples to wear. Lot of that, didn’t nobody want, and they burn it up. We go up and get some of them old clothes. Most of it was heavy and warm, and I make quilts out of it.

I go by the guideline, If it don’t look good, if it don’t make sense to me, it ain’t going to make sense.

At the quilting bee they had these different materials that they sold, and I bought me some corduroy. ’Long at that time, it was cheap and it was heavy. You didn’t need to put much batting in it to keep warm. They used to put cotton from the field inside quilts, and it taken a lot of them quilts to keep you warm. You didn’t need too much corduroy on the bed to do the job. I had to use a sewing machine on the corduroy, else you couldn’t sew it so good.

Ma Willie Abrams was my auntie. She was real good at making quilts, but she make hers to satisfy her. I made mine the way to satisfy me. Ma Willie was making a quilt one time, and I say, "Ma Willie, I want to learn from you," and she say, "I’m sewing you a block and giving it to you, and I want you to make a quilt from it." It was this "Crosscut Saw" block. Sometimes you sit down and be thinking you going to put it this way, according to how you feel about it. You might know how somebody else do it, but you tell yourself, I’m going to do it different. When you sit, you don’t know how it going to come out, and you don’t think it will come out like that. I made that quilt out of corduroy. I just put it my way; I didn’t put it the way the pattern went. I didn’t do much after that, the last twenty years or so. My intentions is to still do some more quilts, much as all the time I got now to put into it. Except that I got older.

This book and exhibition are part of a growing family of research projects about the African American community of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, and its quilts. Surrounded on three sides by a river, Gee’s Bend developed a distinctive local culture and quilt design aesthetic. In 2002 the inaugural exhibition The Quilts of Gee’s Bend documented these quiltmaking achievements. Expanding upon that initial exhibition and its accompanying publications, Gee’s Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt offers a deeper look into the women and their art, and a more focused investigation into the nature and inspirations—and future—of the Gee’s Bend quilt tradition.

The women of Gee’s Bend—a small, remote, black community in Alabama—have created hundreds of quilt masterpieces dating from the early twentieth century to the present. The Quilts of Gee’s Bend tells the story of this town and its art.

Gee’s Bend quilts carry forward an old and proud tradition of textiles made for home and family. They represent only a part of the rich body of African American quilts. But they are in a league by themselves. Few other places can boast the extent of Gee’s Bend’s artistic achievement, the result of both geographical isolation and an unusual degree of cultural continuity. In few places elsewhere have works been found by three and sometimes four generations of women in the same family, or works that bear witness to visual conversations among community quilting groups and lineages. Gee’s Bend’s art also stands out for its flair—quilts composed boldly and improvisationally, in geometries that transform recycled work clothes and dresses, feed sacks, and fabric remnants.

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
September 6 – November 10, 2002

"The Quilts of Gee’s Bend" celebrates the artistic legacy of four generations of African-American women from a small, historically all-black community in rural southern Alabama. This exhibition of over sixty extraordinary quilts that were made between 1930 and 2000 showcases a body of work that is bold, spirited, moving, and hailed by Michael Kimmelman, in The New York Times, as “some of the most miraculous works of art America has produced.”

The Quiltmakers of Gee's Bend

This uplifting, Emmy-winning PBS film tells the modern-day "Cinderalla" story of the quiltmakers of Gee's Bend, Alabama. Artists born into extreme poverty, they live to see their quilts hailed by a The New York Times art critic as "some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced."