26 Feb

What is it? And does it matter?

This is going to be quick and dirty and kinda rambly because I’ve already wasted enough time on the computer and MUST get back to my knitting. (No really, I’m totally obsessed with knitting a shawl because I’ve already finished knitting it, but knew I could do better so I frogged it and started over and now must play catch-up with myself.)

Portfolio Books
(My portfolio books, because even I can’t define what I do)

I’ve been following blogs, emails, and Facebook posts of reports from QuiltCon this last week and I’m trying to wrap my head around it. It seems that there was a lot of discussion over the definition of Modern Quilting. On the one side was talk about what it isn’t and on the other is very cogent thoughts on what it could be if we’d get beyond the defining. Then there’s reactions to what was shown there: all too similar? too quilt police-y? not enough quilt police? not appropriate for the context?

I wondered then, does all this questioning and defining happen at the “regular” quilt shows? I had to ponder for a moment because I’m closer to that world and therefore a bit immune to it. Yes, there is far too much defining going on at the usual quilt shows too. The big one is whether one came to see art quilts or bed quilts and why are there art quilts anyway? Then there’s the unending discussion online of what is and isn’t art when it comes to quilts. Are photos on fabric art? why isn’t pictorial more accepted in the art quilt world? why are viewers so attracted to the pictorial and don’t “get” the abstract quilts? can one make art quilts with commercial fabric?

I remembered when I followed the crafty blogs and how it seemed that there was a formula for that too (something involving toddlers, robin’s egg blue studios, and book contracts). Is all this defining, labeling, and putting in boxes a female thing? Maybe just a human thing.

Why do I even care? I care because it makes me think about my own work and how I fit in. I am inspired by traditional quilts — that’s where I started. I am inspired by “maverick” quilts (something along the lines of traditional, but wonkier in construction) — that’s where I jumped over to my art brain. I enjoy Modern Quilts — to me they are an extension of the previous two appealing to a different aesthetic. I am inspired by fine craft (I’ll need to post about the Craft Council show we went to) — I always bow down to superior quality. I get a kick out of bloggy craft — give me a good geeky, meme-inspired, pop culture reference and I’m hooked. I’m inspired by conceptual art — why can’t I think of stuff like that? I love textile art of all types. I will always refer back to my art school training — it’s my foundation.

Given all of these influences, I struggle with where to show my work, or even where to go with it. Crafty blogging didn’t go anywhere. My work looks drab and out of place at quilt shows like IQF Houston where it’s surrounded by jewel tones and sparkle. I’m not interested in having a booth and traveling to art fairs (I’d have to change my work drastically if I realistically expected anyone to buy it for over their sofa). Right now I’m trying the gallery route. I’m excited to see where that goes. So, I follow the conversations in these circles I’m tangentially attached to, looking for a deeper connection for myself. Hoping that somewhere the definitions will break down a little and instead of closing doors between them, we can open doors and appreciate things like the foundations of Modern Quilting being in traditional quilts and that art quilts CAN celebrate the fabric at their foundations.

I’d love to see a show that travels between Quilt Con, IQF and the Mancuso shows that includes Civil War era antique quilts, classic Amish quilts, Baltimore Album quilts, Anna Williams, Gees Bend, Gwen Marsten, Jean Wells, Tonya Ricucci, Bonnie Hunter, Luke Haynes, Nancy Crow, Diane Firth, Wendy Huhn, Pamela Allen, Carole Taylor, Joe Cunningham, Sherri-Lynn Woods, Chawne, Victoria Findlay-Wolf, Jaquie Gering, Thomas Knauer, Ashley Newcomb, and you get the idea… I can connect a thread between all of these quilts and quilters, and I’d love to see others make connections too.

7 thoughts on “What is it? And does it matter?

  1. Interesting .. I see your work as being textile art, sometimes quilts, sometimes more. Have you thought of looking into selling some of your pieces as artwork for commercial buildings? Every time that I go to a Kaiser Permanente hospital in different parts of the country they have the most gorgeous textile artwork on the walls.

    I like parts of the modern quilt movement but sometimes I think they have just as many rules (perhaps unspoken) as do the traditional quilters. Bed quilts are good, wall hangings are good and art quilts are good … there’s reason for all of them. I just like it when people use their best skills and eye for color and design to make any of them.

  2. this type of ponderings and questions and answers I observe from the sidelines with limited commentary. It begins to sound like a hierarchy is being established and hierarchies leads to elitism. To keep the outside noise at bay, I shut if off and just do what I do and show up where ever I can and boldly state “I Am HERE!” and then observe the reactions. I do believe in finding one’s tribe(s) though so keep going!

  3. whee, start curating that quilt show – I’m in. I started out traditional, then found Liberated via Gwen and amazing Maverick via Julie Silber’s vintage quilts at Houston. I think I’m finally realizing where I feel best is string/utility quilting. lots of little pieces, no stress on perfection…. I can’t even remember the last time I made a traditional quilt. I’m really hoping that the Modern Quilt guild doesn’t go too perfectionist with it’s judging rules…

  4. You are an artist and a quilter and I have no idea how one is supposed to categorize. There is a need to keep aware of the categories being bandied about and knowing how to direct your work for best chances of viewing. Otherwise, for me, it is a battle for others to fight. Sometimes it is an act of jockeying for superiority, which is quite ludicrous and tiresome. Can’t we all just get along?

    So…when’s your one-woman gallery show? I’m there!

  5. So that show of Modern and Vintage side by side that I want to see? Well it actually was kinda at QuiltCon. There was a lovely collection of vintage quilts there, in the midst of all the Modern ones. True Up has a nice post about it: http://www.trueup.net/2013/textile-tourism/vintage-quilts-at-quiltcon/. I would recommend reading the comments too as there is a good conversation about the qualities inherent in both groups of quilts.

    I’d still want to throw in some art quilters too, but I’d say that Vintage collection, plus QuiltCon, is 70 percent of what I envisioned.

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