PELL CITY -- The Alabama Humanities Foundation will bring Road Scholar and curator Sarah Bliss Wright to the Pell City Public Library at noon Wednesday to present the story “Alabama Cotton and Bemis Bags, Pieced into History,” according to a press release.
Wright’s presentation will “trace the evolution of cotton bags from a rural-household convenience, to a Depression era necessity, to a wartime way of life, to an urban repurposing fad.”
American women found a special form of artistic expression between 1930 and 1960, when colorful patterned fabrics, originally fashioned for flour and feed sacks, were repurposed into lovely bed quilts.
During this distinctive textile era, many of these flour and feed sacks had their beginnings in the cotton fields of Alabama. During the first half of the 20th century, Bemis Brothers Bag Company, the largest textile bag manufacturer in the United States, operated a cotton mill and textile bag plant in Bemiston.
Extensive research and development within the textile bag industry sparked improvement in the quality of the cotton bags, in marketing and advertising strategies, and ultimately, in the progression experienced.
Bemis led the way as the largest textile bag company, capitalizing on marketing strategies that would boost sales and profits and promoting textile bags as a viable choice in the packaging industry.
Thus, millions of yards of free fabric became available to creative women, who used the lively prints to create pieced quilts.
By placing these quilts in the historical context of the textile industry, Wednesday’s presentation explores the role of Alabama cotton and Bemis Brother Bag Company in history by providing feedsacks and feedsack quilts for the nation.
Wright spent 30 years of her career in the performing arts before turning her attention to textile arts.
In 2006, the desire to create a crazy quilt from her late father’s neckties led to the addition of quilting to her creative pursuits. Meeting Mary Elizabeth Johnston Huff, a fellow Alabamian and well-known author of numerous books about quilting, sparked Wright’s interest in quilt history and the extensive research that followed.
Wright earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Samford University in Birmingham. She also studied at the University of Exeter, England, as a Rotary International Fellow.
Her research of quilt history was published in “Uncoverings 2013.” She is a member of the American Quilt Study Group and resides in Mobile.
Pell City Library Assistant Director Susan Mann said Wednesday’s program is made possible by the Alabama Humanities Foundation (AHF).
Mann said the AHF fosters learning, understanding and appreciation of our people, communities and cultures.
As the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, AHF supports humanities projects through grant-making and conducts statewide programs, including the Road Scholars Speakers Bureau, SUPER Teacher institutes and PRIME TIME Family Reading Time.
For more information on AHF and its programs, please visit alabamahumanities.org or call 205-558-3980.
Wednesday’s noon event at the library is free and open to the public. Light refreshments are served afterwards.