Ever dedicated to bringing new and diverse works of art into east Tennessee, The Knoxville Arts & Culture Alliance will be presenting "Legacy: The Quilts of Georgia Bailey", a new exhibition celebrating 40 creative quilts by Georgia Bailey (1922-2008).  The quilts will be displayed for sale at a silent auction at the Emporium Center on August 1 at 5 p.m.  Bidding ends at 8 p.m.

Georgia Bailey was born in 1922 in Morganton, NC, and remembered spending many summers at her grandmother’s house in North Carolina to quilt with the family.  Bailey’s mother fastened quilts to a large frame so that many people could work on them. 

In an auto-biographical memoir of the history of her quilts, Bailey recalled playing “cave” or “castle” underneath the frames, where her presence was forgotten and she would hear the neighborhood gossip.  The extraordinarily heavy quilts were vital for staying warm since there was no central heating. 

Because the quilts could not be washed, they had to be hung on clotheslines and beaten during summer months to get rid of dust mites. Bailey joked that “the dust mites probably fertilized the next year’s tomato crop”. 

While quilting proved a vivid memory of childhood, Bailey did not quilt on her own until she was older.  She attended Roane State Community College and worked several jobs while raising four daughters with her husband, Jack.  In her mid-50s, she attended the University of Tennessee, ultimately receiving a Bachelor of Fine Art with a major in drawing in 1979.

Bailey suffered an attack of appendicitis in 1980. A resulting accident in the operating room caused severe health issues and kept her bed-ridden for four years.  During that time, she crocheted large afghans and created eight quilts by hand.

Leaning over the quilt frame caused her back pain, so she began to piece and complete quilts using various sewing machines.  Bailey worked tirelessly and completed 116 quilts from 1981 to 2006.  Some of her methods included: strip piecing to create quilts, appliqué and reverse appliqué method, drawing, embroidery, beading, coloring, spray paint and transfer iron-on method. 

She most enjoyed working with color ideas, and many of her quilts depict butterflies and birds.  TVA commissioned one of her quilts to be presented to a group of men from China who were working in Knoxville in 1985 to learn how to build dams.

Over the years, Bailey’s work showed at the Candy Factory as part of the Knoxville Arts Council and Art Market Gallery (including two solo exhibits), the Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge, the Oak Ridge Art Center, the Oak Ridge Playhouse, Pellissippi State, the Knoxville Mayor’s office, Lawson McGhee Library, Market Square Mall, the 1982 World’s Fair, Emory Valley School, Regency Hyatt House, the Burke County Arts Council Jailhouse Gallery (NC) and more.
Bailey died in February 2008, leaving 116 quilts, 40 of which will be on sale at the Emporium Center.  A reception and silent auction held on Friday, August 1, from 5 to 9 p.m., is free and open to the public and features complimentary hors d’oeuvres.  Bidding ends at 8 p.m. 

“Legacy: The Quilts of Georgia Bailey” is on exhibit August 1 through 29 at the Emporium Center, 100 S. Gay Street, downtown Knoxville.  Gallery hours are Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  For more information, contact the Arts & Culture Alliance at (865) 523-7543 or visit the Web site at www.knoxalliance.com.

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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