Attributed to Thomas Mack
Beaufort County, SC
McKissick Museum Collection 1999.23.00.01
Machine-sewn of rectangular, alternating pieces of burlap and handmade indigo prints made by Arianne King Comer. Burlap is from Idaho potato bags. The green fabric has several different sized grids in which each square has diagonals, diagonals plus a circle or arcs like a petal of a flower. The backing is a heavy white material. The edging is a strip of short pieces of alternating fabrics, the green and blue of the quilt plus denims (plain and patterned) and a black and green print. A thin polyester batting is used, and the three layers are knotted with blue and pink heavyweight yarn.
Thomas Mack, St. Helena Island, 1995.
Thomas Mack (1922-2017) 1999.23.00.01
Thomas Mack of St. Helena Island recalled that his entire family learned how to quilt under his mother’s close supervision. Quilting is generally associated with women, but men have also practiced the craft. He noted that during his childhood, quilting among family members was common. As he fondly remembered, “After supper, the entire family would assist in putting the scraps together to create a quilt.”
Mack created traditional African-American patchwork quilts. Assorted pieces of fabric were cut into small squares or rectangles and sewn together to obtain the desired length and width. He used scraps of ladies’ garments for a useful, artistic purpose.
Delving deep into a rich traditional quilting repertoire, Mack created quilts with dynamic designs and vibrant colors. Driven by market demands and a desire to retain traditional elements, Mack made quilts reminiscent of those used to signal enslaved Africans that the time to escape had arrived. Mack exhibited his quilts at festivals throughout South Carolina. An indigo quilt he made for the annual Penn Center Heritage Days celebration was exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution and he often participated in educational workshops highlighting male African-American quilters.