Mount Pleasant Miners
Summer Term, 2008
A snapshot of history, or fine art – Nancy Brown takes us on a journey to Grizzly Flats, California with her 1993 quilt titled: Mount Pleasant Miners. Brown utilizes her skills as a quilter, superb design elements, and the title of the piece to bring life to this cloth masterpiece. The quilt was originally created as a tribute to her grandfather who worked for 17 years as a blacksmith and later a superintendant at the mine. Her grandfather is one of the 15 men portrayed in the piece. The design was based on an 1870s photo of 36 miners. Brown selected 15 of the miners and rearranged them to suit the design of her quilt. Nancy also “buried” a few flakes of gold under a rock next to her grandfather’s right elbow.
The artist was born on February 16, 1960 and currently resides in Oakland, California. “Nancy Brown’s quilts are original designs. They are all hand appliquéd and quilted. The piecing is done by machine. Most are wall size (40” - 60” on each side). Most of her designs fall into one of four categories: pets, wild animals, albums, or family quilts. Nancy loves old family photos and is fortunate to have some wonderful old photos of her family. She has made several quilts using the photos to remember and honor her relatives. She started making quilts over 15 years ago after her mother took a quilting class. Nancy has always loved animals and found that she could create animal portraits with hand appliqué. She makes these quilts because she feels that animals are an important part of this world and should be celebrated and preserved for future generations to witness. She exhibits her quilts around the country and has been fortunate to win several awards. The quilts have been pictured in many magazines and books; and several are in private and corporate collections. Nancy teaches classes in hand appliqué and animals and has a lecture based on her quilts (Nancy S. Brown)”.
This particular piece shows high quality craftsmanship, very intricate. Constructed of cotton, hand dyed and painted, hand appliquéd, machine pieced, and hand quilted. The quilt has been in Paducah since 1996 and is one of over 100 quilts currently being displayed at the Museum of the American Quilter's Society in Paducah, Kentucky.
As soon as I saw the piece, I knew I would write about it. It really grabbed me. I was surprised that the artist was able to capture such detail in the miners’ faces. I previously thought that quality of detail would not be able to be produced with fabric and thread. Her use of color, motion, and pattern are what brought this piece to life. The earth tone colors of the surrounding area help draw one’s attention to the faces of each miner. One can almost feel the struggles and triumphs of the miners by their posture and the expressions on their faces. One instinctively starts at the top left and continues toward the right, and back again in the form of the letter “Z”. The artist may have used this technique to ensure each miner gets his time in the spotlight. One may wonder why these 15 men are posing for this portrait. If it were not for the title of the piece, the strategically placed ore cart, and the intricate