Quilts of Gee's Bend with Loretta & Marlene
  • Gee's Bend, Alabama , United States
  • 30 hours over 5 days

Quilts of Gee's Bend with Loretta & Marlene

Experience the quilting tradition in Gee's Bend, recognized as one of the most important African-American visual and cultural contributions to the history of art within the United States, with master quilters Loretta and Marlene. Learn how to hand stitch quilts in Gee's Bend style while enjoying the slow pace of rural Alabama life and experiencing the legacy of quilt making.
  • Snacks, Coffee, & Tea

Pricing

One Guest
USD $1050
Additional guest(s) (max 4)
USD $450

Accommodation

One Guest
USD $330
Additional guest(s)
USD $330

Meet the Artist

Loretta and Marlene are notable women quilters from Gee’s Bend, Alabama. The quilting tradition of Gee's Bend goes back as far as the early 1800s and recognized as one of the most important African-American visual and cultural contributions to the history of art within the United States. According to The New York Times, it is “Some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced.”

Loretta is a fifth-generation quilter, whose ancestry can be traced back to Dinah Miller, one of the first slaves to have arrived in Gee's Bend. She started sewing at the age of five, and by the age of twelve made her first quilt – A Flower Garden – an advanced design with octagonal shaped blocks, entirely by hand. She is one of the youngest to continue hand stitching quilts in the renowned Gee's Bend style.

Marlene, Loretta’s sister-in-law, also grew up learning the Gee’s Bend quilting tradition from her mother and other family members. When her parents passed away, Marlene made 21 quilts out of their clothing, which provided comfort to her and her siblings.

Loretta and Marlene’s quilts are known for their bold colors and stay true to the characteristics of most Gee's Bend quilts made with used clothing received from family, friends and thrift stores. They believe in using what you have, and that the memories associated with the materials help you appreciate the final product even more.

Loretta and Marlene hope to share their legacy of quilt making with whomever is willing to open their minds and hearts, and to share the joy, peace and happiness of quilt making. For Marlene and Loretta, quilting is therapy, “it's like an ear that listens, listens, and listens.” “If I’m depressed,” Marlene says, "instead of running for a prescription, I run for my needle and thread.”

VAWAA Includes:

  • Learning the Gee's Bend technique of tearing and hand sewing or machine sewing a quilt using recycled fabric.
  • Creating your own piece under the guidance of two master quilters.
  • All tools and materials needed to create your quilt.
  • Visiting the homes of other Gees Bend quilters, learning their stories, techniques, and personal histories.

Stay at Loretta & Marlene's

Lovett's Place is a historic Roosevelt House/Farm Security Administration Project built in the late 1930s-mid 40's. Only 100 units were built, and Lovett's Place was number 96. The original houses included 3 bedrooms and a screen in the back which most chose to turn into bathrooms in the late 1950's. All the houses had a barn, outhouse, smoke house, chicken house and a water pump. Lovett's Place has a total of 5 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, an open concept kitchen, and TVs in the den and dining room. Four of the bedrooms have 1 full size bed each, and one bedroom has a queen size bed. WiFi is also available so you can stay connected while enjoying the peaceful slow pace of rural Alabama.

Explore Gee's Bend, Alabama

Surrounded on three sides by water and located in a bend of the Alabama River, Gee’s Bend is accessible by ferry from Camden and County Road 29 from Alberta. It is a place that is rich with profound cultural history, as the residents of Gee’s Bend are direct descendants of generations of slaves who worked the cotton plantation established in 1816 by Joseph Gee. After the Civil War, their ancestors remained on the plantation working as sharecroppers. In the 1930s the price of cotton fell and the community faced ruin. As part of its Depression-era intervention, the Federal Government purchased ten thousand acres of the former plantation and provided loans enabling residents to acquire and farm the land formerly worked by their ancestors. Unlike the residents of other tenant com­munities, who could be forced by economic circumstances to move—or who were sometimes evicted in retaliation for their efforts to achieve civil rights—the people of the Bend could retain their land and homes. Cultural tradi­tions like quiltmaking were nourished by these continuities.

Take the ferry to Camden, where community members went during the civil rights movement in the 1960’s to register to vote. While there, visit the Black Belt Treasures Cultural Art Center, which features the work of many local talented painters, sculptors, potters, basket weavers, wood workers and quilters found in Alabama Black Belt communities. Take a drive to Selma, about an hour from Loretta and Marlene’s studio, to walk across the historical Edmund Pettus Bridge where Martin Luther King Jr., lead a historic March in 1965, and visit the National Voting Rights Museum. The historical significance of this rural town lends itself to learning the legacy that is this incredible craft of quilt making.

Additional Details

The best time to visit Alabama is early summer and the autumn months of late September, October, and November for mild temperatures and dry weather.

Loretta and Marlene's studio is not wheelchair accessible due to a few stairs leading to the front and back porches.

This VAWAA can also be offered in Huntsville, Alabama.
Loretta & Marlene's Availability 5 days

Guest Reviews

6
  • Kelly M., United States

    My experience was more than I could have ever hoped for. Loretta and Marlene are incredibly gifted quilters and generously shared their time, experience, talents and stories with me. I was delighted with the entire vacation.

  • Katherine S., United States

    This was a dream come true for my sister, Madeline, my friend, Tania, and me. We each came with different levels of experience with sewing and textile arts, and Loretta and Marlene supported each of us in creating something that was the right level of challenge for us and which reflected our personalities and personal tastes - and was beautiful!

    Loretta and Marlene were beyond generous with th
    Read more

  • Halcyon P., United States

    Wow! What an incredible experience in Gee's Bend with Loretta and Marlene. We came in with no quilting experience but they were wonderful, patient teachers who guided us through the process, teaching us so much in such a short amount of time.

    We began the experience touching down in a historic home filled with love and memories. It was well appointed with many bedrooms, living room, sitting ro
    Read more

  • Heather E.,

    The Gee’s Bend Quilters welcomed us into their home. We had a schedule for quilting that would start at 10 am. We worked together, laughing and telling stories as we quilted and did other fiber arts as well. The artists where like family by the end of the week. Gee’s Bend was interesting, historical and the quilters had great pride in their home. I learned about working as an artist in community a Read more

  • Jennifer G., United States

    I was an art major in college but never learned about this amazing community of artists. I'm sure that is not a surprise to most people. However, when I saw "The Quilts of Gee's Bend" exhibit at the de Young museum in San Francisco in 2006 I was blown away. So when I saw Loretta and Marlene's experience listed on your website I jumped at the chance.

    How we created the quilt together was so spe
    Read more

  • Laurel R., United States

    I had the best experience during my week with Loretta and Marlene! Not only did I learn how a quilt is made, I got to know the Gee's Bend area. I have admired Gee's Bend quilts for quite a while so when my sister gifted me a week with the quilters, I was excited. There were no expectations, I just wanted to learn their methods and soak up the area. Loretta and Marlene are so welcoming. I felt rig Read more

  • See all 6 reviews