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.