Wednesday, August 4, 2010

'Modern' Quilting

Recently, the Milwaukee-Madison Modern Quilt Guild split, due to geography, and became the Milwaukee Modern Quilt Guild, while someone separate from the existing guild founded a Ning group called the Madison Modern Quilt Guild.  I've gone and joined the Madison group.

The founder of the new group started a discussion on what makes a 'modern' quilter.  I couldn't resist throwing my two (thousand) cents in, especially since this is a topic that just keeps percolating in the back of my mind.  This is what brownbuilt posted:

I have been asking myself what makes someone a "modern" quilter and I came up with this:
You Might be a Modern Quilter if... consider Deniye Schmidt your own personal hero wander around a quilt show, wondering where all the "cool" fabrics are. You leave a quilt store with a suspicious feeling that all those quilts are beautiful, but not quite your style have no interest in making a traditional Christmas stocking or anything from most traditional quilting books. love fabrics from designers such as Amy Bulter, Heather Ross, Heather Bailey, Tula Pink, Erin Micheal, and Anna Maria Horner, to name but a few.
.... you go online to search for fabric, find techniques, and read other quilting blogs
Any more you can think of?

And this is what I wrote in response:

I had to have a chuckle when I read this, because I just don't match any of these, besides the second and last ones.  Keep in mind, though, that I started quilting in the most traditional manner possible.  I checked out a book from the library, and followed its instructions for making cardboard(!) templates, traced around them, cut my fabrics with scissors, and then hand sewed(!!) everything for about six years.   (One of my first quilts was a hand-stitched Double Wedding Ring Quilt.)  Then I discovered the sewing machine...  'Nuff said.

Maybe I'm way old school, but for me, throwing the word 'wonky' or 'improv' in front of a block or quilt name doesn't make it 'modern' to me.  I'm not much for abstract art either though.  

I don't particularly go ga-ga over any designers, though I do admire the aesthetics of Joel Dewberry and Tula Pink.  And most 'modern' quilters think the following statement is blasphemy:  Kaffe Fassett's prints and quilts look like Technicolor vomit.  I think it's a crime that he re-colored some of Liberty of London's prints.

I've only ever purchased several prints within a fabric line twice in my life, and I have never made a quilt using only the prints from a single line.  I find it boring and not at all challenging.  Quilting is expressing my vision, and I feel like confining myself within a single fabric line serves to only express the fabric designer's vision.  

For me, being a 'modern' quilter is about working beyond the barriers of 'traditional' quilting, even if it's as simple a barrier as working a traditional block in a different value or color scale.  It's about embracing the things that make us unique as creative individuals and allowing those things to help us thrive as artists.  It's about being unafraid to follow my own vision, rather than copying someone else's pattern (and really, how many freaking four-patch patterns can there be out there?!?).  It's about letting the materials at hand speak to me, and letting my intuition guide the final project.  It's about being unafraid of color, and working outside of my comfort zone.

I guess, really, for me, it comes down to being true to myself and not becoming entrenched in what others think a quilt should look like.  Sure, I'll use traditional blocks and settings, but, then again, so did the Amish, and 'traditional' Amish quilts are as modern as you can get!  Such strong use of color and line, married with technical expertise - I can only hope to achieve such beauty in my quilts.


Valerie said...

Lovely post! I heartily agree throwing around 'wonky' and 'improv' does not make someone a modern quilter. I love what the gals are doing over at 'Modify Tradition' --- to me, that speaks volumes for modern quilting. I don't understand the attitude that tradition must be shunned in order for a quilter to be modern. I enjoy the liberated tones of Gwen Marston, but find it comical that what she's been doing for 20+ years is just now gaining attention and praise as 'modern'. Wow. I love the color and print of modern fabric, and the freedom I find in thinking outside (and inside) the box. I keep reminding myself there is nothing new under the sun, and that goes for quilting, too. I appreciated your closer: " comes down to being true to myself and not becoming entrenched in what others think a quilt should look like."

The_Grey_Cat said...

Thank you for the lovely comment! I actually debated even putting this mini-essay out there for public consumption. I don't want to deliberately antagonize anyone, but I love the discourse as much I love the hobby!

I absolutely love 'Modify Tradition' as well! I adore the harmony of brighter, modern fabrics with traditional blocks. I was lucky enough to participate in their recent swap and received a quilt made by Crystal!

Lisa said...

Oh, I just stumbled across your blog and had to leave a comment. I totally agree with your answers here! So much of what is considered new and modern can be found in some of my "vintage" quilting books or magazines. There really is nothing new under the sun. Take a square in a square block- which is one of my favorites BTW- it is just one version of a log cabin/courthouse steps block. (Only one of the most traditional blocks EVER!)

I do have to say, though, I kinda love Kaffe Fassett's fabric. Some of the newer fabrics are so colorful. I am not a big fan of Thimbleberries type fabric so I am happy that there are other choices available now, even if I am limited to buying them online.

But I will see your blasphemy and raise you one- I don't get the Gee's Bend thing at all. Those are just utility quilts IMO.

The_Grey_Cat said...

Honestly, I don't mind some of Fassett's prints, taken individually. I just can't look at quilts which use his prints exclusively - they're far too busy.

As far as the Gee's Bend quilts, I totally agree with you. Actually, I tend to say that about a lot of 'modern' quilts that I see out there. So many quilts with a modern label on them are just utility quilts to me, utility quilts with pretty fabrics. A lot of Denyse Schmidt strikes me that way.

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