Sunday, June 25, 2006

Some Thoughts on Quilt Trends

I have just spent 10 days at my mother's and have done no sewing or quilting. However, I have looked at some interesting magazines and books, and thought I'd share some thoughts. This is going to get philosophical.

I read Ruth McDowell's book, Fabric Journey, which I found fascinating. There are no patterns in this book, and not even any explanation of how she does her very complicated piecing, (although I believe that is found in some of her other books). It's only an explanation of design and fabric choices. Her quilts are wonderful, truly works of art. I found her fabric choices amazing--they are so unexpected, bearing no obvious resemblance to the object they become in the finished piece.

But I was particularly struck by the way she makes subtle, or maybe not-so-subtle digs at quilters who applique pictorial style quilts rather than piecing them as she does, and those who use painted fabric or fabric printed with appropriate designs (leaf-print fabric for leaves, etc.) instead of meeting the challenge of using commercial fabric in unexpected and creative ways. She says the "structure of the piecing process gives integrity to the surface with an underlying connectedness that may not be apparent at first glance," and "...the process gives a depth and strength to my work that is not present in most other ways of working with fabric." (p. 8) Not everyone would agree with this, but I think I do. To me her quilts resemble some of Cezanne's paintings--both break objects into shapes, or blocks, instead of using a more flowing technique of shading. (My art terminology is weak here.) But isn't it interesting that she seems to feel the need to defend or justify her technique?

I thought I detected the defensiveness again in an article by Harriet Hargrave in the latest edition of The $100,000 Quilting Challenge. I can't quote this because I passed the magazine on to my sister, but to paraphrase, she seems to be defending the use of the short armed home sewing machine for beautiful machine quilting--quilters should perfect their technique and make the quilts "entirely their own"! Take that you people who send your work out to the long arm quilters!

Do both these established quilting greats feel that their position is being threatened by a new generation of quilters with new techniques who are pushing them aside? If so, are they right to feel endangered? An interesting question to think about.


QuiltingFitzy said...

To me, to "create a quilt work" is to create it from beginning to end. To quilt it (no matter how badly I do, lol) is all part of the process. It cheapens my whole experience to think of sending it off to the longarmer for quilting. I'm NOT knocking the longarmer by any means, I wish I had one and took in business to support my habit!

I don't know about commercial vs. created fabrics, etc...something for me to ponder.

Kay said...

I agree with you, although I do send some things to long arm quilters. That happens when I "bite off more than I can chew" size-wise :) And HH's comments made me think about trying to do even large quilts on my machine--I should be able to manage straight line work.

My Brain on Quilts said...

I remember visiting the quilt show in Paducah in 1998 and the winning quilt was The Beatles Quilt (machine pieced, machine appliqued, machine quilted). I stood and looked at that quilt in total wonderment. It was one of the first quilts that made me realize I didn't need to make one more traditional quilt. It launched me into the possibilities of art quilting.

But the point of this is to say that the women that surrounded this quilt were horrified and shocked that something MACHINE made had won. They thought only hand quilted quilts were worthy of the prize.

I do think my grandmother would have machine sewn her quilts if she could have. After all the origins of this process were practical. If a machine did it more efficiently, then it would have been utilized.

I do all my own quilting on my Janome 6500. When something is too big for that, I drive to Louisville and use my Aunt's mid-arm which is about 15 years old.

We should embrace technology available to us. We should decide if we want to quilt our own, or send our beautifully pieced work to someone who specializes in quilting, on a home-machine or a long arm. One of my friends is a mediocre piecer, but man can she quilt.

Thanks! I love this discussion!!

Deb H said...

I've had opportunity to sit & talk to Ruth McDowell. She is a gracious lady. I really enjoyed her, & her wonderful quilts. She really is an artist, & I found it fun to examine her work close up & delighted in the surprise pieces of fabrics, like odd barkcloth, or upholstery fabrics. I don't feel compelled to piece the way she does, because I don't enjoy it that much. I will do it if I feel the need for the integrity of a piece, but if I can find a more FUN
way I'll do it.
I do feel that if I don't do the quilting myself, then it really isn't my quilt, but then the quilting is my favorite part. I never met Harriet, but it was her book that taught me how to machine quilt, & by the way, that Beatles quilt was made by my friend Pat Holly & her sister Sue Nickles. It is a spectacular piece, & I think most of the Best of Show winners at AQS since Caryl Bryer Fallert's quilts won, have been done by machine. Those hand only people are just going to have to get over it. There is a place for both! & I think it's ok for some to hand off to a longarm quilter, if they don't like to quilt themselves. After all, I hope to be one of those longarmers soon!

Debra Spincic said...

In one of Nancy Crow's early books she makes the statement that her quilts will never have anything but 100% cotton in them. She was not going to get into the idea of using lames, velvets and such. It was almost as if she forget to add the rest of the statement that would say something like. . . like Katie Pasquini does (in the 1980s). I thought at the time that it was a very narrow-minded statement on Nancy's part. Both she and Katie have gone on to very successful careers in the quilting arts.

In a very early workshop with Nancy I was chastised for mentioning the rotary cutter and ruller. Nancy was still making plastic templates. Imagine my horror when I saw her line of Rulers for sale a few years later.

She quickly learned the value of marketing to make her art pay for itself.

There is plenty of room at the table for all styles. I am simply so sick of everyone's EGO about quilting that I have dropped out of reading certain people's blogs and websites because of their quilt angst and oneupmanship.

I think it is our responsibility to share ideas and encourage newbies to learn about the needlearts; to keep them alive and continuing. Aaargh! Who gives a flip how the piece was made, really?