Once upon a time there was an island in the Philippines called Caohagan. It was a tropical paradise, but poor. Fishing was the main industry. And then....along came Junko Yoshikowa, wife of Katsuhiko Sakiyama who purchased the island in 1986. And life changed forever. In 1996 she started teaching the native peoples the fine art of quilting.
They interpreted what they learned, refined what they learned, and developed what is now a 'cottage industry' that provides more than 1/3 of the island's income. One year after those first 'lessons', the first Caohagan quilt was invited to the International Quilt Exhibition in Yokohama, Japan.
In 2009, a quilt was accepted into the permanent collection of the International Quilt Study Center at the University of Nebraska.
In 2012 a quilt was shown at the International Quilt Exhibition in Nantes, France.
The reputation of these talented folk artists was secured.
Of the 600 permanent residents, over 100 of them are quilters. And I met 4 of them this week at the National Quilt Museum where they are stitching among their quilts hanging on display in the exhibit entitled---A Small Miracle of a Southern Island...the Quilts of Caohagan Island.
The motifs reflect island life....huts, fish, lush vegetation, tropical fruits all done in bright, happy, crayon box colors.
The patterns are all cut freehand, hand appliqued, embroidered, and hand quilted, using no frame.
Often they are hung over a clothesline to be stitched, but the women working while I was there simply had them bunched up in their laps. When complete, the quilt is washed in the salt water of the island to set the colors, rinsed with plain water, and hung outside in the tropical sun to dry. Each is unique, signed by the artist.
Thank you Melisa. I love mine! I'll cherish it always. (EEP! YES! There were some quilts for sale!!!!!)
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The artists will only be working until the end of this week, but the exhibit will hang until October 13th. This is one not to miss!
215 Jefferson St.
Paducah, KY 42001