Posts tagged ‘quilt police’

Did I Just Make A Modern Quilt?

I made this quilt for my youngest sister’s baby boy, who is expected any minute now:

IMG_6242Eleanore isn’t a quilter, but she has a very good eye for color and design; the fact that she’s decorated the nursery in mushroom gray with accents of orange testifies that the standard blue, green, and cream baby quilt wasn’t going to cut it for her. I found the big border stripe (aptly named “Big Stripe,” from Michael Miller) at Smile Spinners‘ booth at Quilt Odyssey and used it as the source for the overall color palette. The solid orange, the gray and aqua ant farm print, the border, and the back were the only new fabrics purchased for the project; the rest were all pulled from my stash, demonstrating that a) I have a fantastic stash, especially where orange, taupe-y gray, and cute little animal prints are concerned, and b) that I have wa-a-a-ay too much fabric.

IMG_6202It wasn’t till I finished the top that it occurred to me that this quilt, moreso than any other I’ve ever made, looks an awful lot like the quilts I’ve been seeing in books and magazines described as “modern” quilts. Which leads me to a bit of a sticking point for me over the past few years:  I’m not exactly sure what a “modern” quilt is.

[From this point forward in this post, I've decided to capitalize the word Modern when referring to this concept because part of my problem with the term up to this point is the ambiguity of it:  no matter what my quilts look like, I myself (and all my quilting contemporaries) are modern quilters, in that we are definitely 21st century women who choose to participate in a fiber art form that dates back several hundred years, but we do so not as historical reenactors, but as full participants in our culture as it exists now, using the tools and technologies that would have been science fiction to our foremothers. I realize this is a matter of semantics; after all, some "modern" art is now well over 100 years old, yet we still use the term. But I admit it rankles me to potentially exclude myself from the umbrella of modernity because I choose to make quilts, albeit on a computerized sewing machine with all the latest in gadgetry, that follow a more traditional structure. And using quotation marks makes me look snarky or sarcastic.]

In search of a definition, I went to the source. Here’s what the Modern Quilt Guild has to say on the subject:

“Modern quilts are primarily functional and inspired by modern design. Modern quilters work in different styles and define modern quilting in different ways, but several characteristics often appear which may help identify a modern quilt. These include, but are not limited to: the use of bold colors and prints, high contrast and graphic areas of solid color, improvisational piecing, minimalism, expansive negative space, and alternate grid work.”

From this definition, I get the impression that even self-described Modern quilters tend to differ a little bit in what they call Modern.  I definitely recognize that Modern quilters may somewhat be separating themselves out as a generational or attitudinal divide, especially as Modern Quilt Guild chapters spring up around the country. I’ve heard enough horror stories about quilters who are younger or new to an area that has a very rigid, insular quilt guild being frozen out or run off by Quilt Police types; if the solution to that is to start your own chapter of quilters who share a wish to breathe some fresh air into that environment. then more power to them.

But ultimately, I guess I’m too much of a quilting generalist to want to limit myself to one label, whether it be traditional, Modern, art, etc. I guess I’m a big tent quilter:  I believe quilting is big enough that there’s room for whatever you or I like to do, even if we wouldn’t want to trade projects with each other. I’m reminded of the saying, attributed to Louis Armstrong (among others), that “there are only two kinds of music, good and bad.” So while I’m not willing to place a label on what I like, I know when I like it.

And I like this quilt, that I made for my nephew. It has some Modern elements, with the solid orange. negative space, and large graphic prints, but it uses the Tumbler shape, which is very traditional. I used my Accuquilt Go cutter with the Mini Tumbler and Baby, Baby dies, which definitely sped up both the cutting and piecing process. Those precise shapes and engineered corners meant everything went together beautifully with very little pinning. So far, the cutter continues to live up to its “better cuts make better quilts” hype and I continue to be very pleased with the purchase.

IMG_6243I got a little fancy and fussy with the Big Stripe border. I knew I wanted those gorgeous mitered corners, but with a rectangular quilt, it took some doing to make the same spot in the repeat show up in the corners. I had to very precisely measure and invisibly piece the stripe so the corners reflected properly, but it was worth the effort and I get a little thrill of pride looking at it.

IMG_6244The quilting was fun:  I knew nothing would really show up in the pieced areas, so I just used Wendy Sheppard’s Jester Hat texture. Considering this was the first time I’d stitched it, it flowed very naturally and I only got “stuck” a few times. I used Superior Threads Rainbows #812 Western Sunset, which coincidentally contained most of the colors in my palette, for that and for the little serpentine/sine waves I quilted into the colored stripes of the border. I used orange Bottom Line to quilt the solid orange section behind the duckies in waves and circles; I wanted it to look like a bubble bath.

IMG_6245And I had the quilt finished for the baby shower! It almost made me look like one of those organized quilters who thinks ahead. However, I’m not quite done with the baby quilt for my sister-in-law’s baby girl who was born last month, so I don’t have to worry about that reputation sticking.

For a happy dance, here’s a ducky video I shot at the York Fair a few years ago. It seems apropos:

October 25, 2013 at 2:45 pm Leave a comment

AQS Lancaster, Part II: The Quilts!

Get ready to gaze upon the pretty…

"Wedding Rings for Mavis and C.J." by Fran Kordek

"Wedding Rings for Mavis and C.J." by Fran Kordek

This was truly an international show.  The quilts came from all over the United States, plus Canada, the U.K., Australia, Germany, and South Korea, and the quality threshold was extremely high.  The winners list is practically a who’s who of quilting greatness, and has professional pictures of all the ribboned quilts.

The Best of Show ribbon went to Marilyn Badger, who longarm quilted the 2008 Quilter’s Heritage Celebration and 2009 Quilt Odyssey Best of Show quilt, “Awesome Blossoms.”  This year’s quilt, “Filigree,” is an exquisitely pieced Judy Niemeyer design, but what takes it to an entirely different plane is the quilting.  Marilyn is from the same town as Superior Threads, and she’s certainly supporting that local business:  the quilt contains over 15,000 yards of thread, including all that gold metallic quilting:

Quilting detail, "Filigree" by Marilyn Badger

Quilting detail, "Filigree" by Marilyn Badger

While my personal preference is not to see quite so much dense overall quilting on a quilt, I have to say this is done absolutely masterfully.  Plus, the gold metallic thread makes the quilting simultaneously pop yet not compete with the fabric choices and precision piecing.  I have used very little metallic thread in my own quilting, so I will have to keep this in mind.

There were only five categories in this show:  Bed quilt – pieced, bed quilt – appliqued, wall quilt, wall quilt – pictorial, and “Grand Geometrics – The Amish Way,” which I think was kind of an awkward nod to the fact that we were in Lancaster.  The small number of categories meant that group quilts and solo quilts were judged together, and that wall quilts were judged together regardless of technique.  There were no miniatures, which was disappointing; I have no intention of ever, ever making a miniature quilt, but I always enjoy looking at them and saying, “yeah, I’m never going to do that.”

Detail, "Ships at Sea" by Thomas Eugene Smith

Detail, "Ships at Sea" by Thomas Eugene Smith

There were twice as many applique bed quilts as there were pieced bed quilts (note to self:  make a pieced bed quilt before next year’s show) and the level of the applique quilts was glorious to behold.  It was immediately obvious that several of the entries were magnum opus quilts, the kind of life’s work projects that represent years of loving effort.  “Ships at Sea” by Thomas Eugene Smith impressed me with its masterful execution of unusual subject matter (and by a man! I could hear viewers exclaiming — I suppose it is still unusual, at least in traditional quilts,) and “A World of Santas” by Susan J. Dicks displayed more lovely gold metallic quilting (by Jamie Wallen) to complement its charming appliqued Santas.

Detail, "A World of Santas" by Susan J. Dicks

Detail, "A World of Santas" by Susan J. Dicks

The pieced bed quilts as a group were not as uniformly outstanding as the appliqued ones, but there were certainly standouts.  One of my criticisms of the display in the convention center was that the lighting was poor over some of the bed quilts, and combined with the way the displays were roped off, some details were very difficult to see.  Both the ribbon winners for Best Longarm Workmanship and Best Machine Workmanship were in this area, and I have no idea what the judges saw because I literally couldn’t see the quilting.  I can only imagine it was pretty darned impressive, because “The Sampler” by Barbara Persing, which I had seen and marveled over at the 2009 Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza, didn’t win any ribbons.  Then again, it was hanging on the dark side of the moon in the convention center, too.

Detail, "The Sampler" by Barbara Persing

Detail, "The Sampler" by Barbara Persing (at PNQE 2009)

My other big complaint about the quilt display:  there were two special exhibits owned by the National Quilt Museum that were “no photography.”  That fact alone is not my complaint; my problem with it was that there was inadequate signage to indicate this.  As a veteran white-glover, I will tell you that for the most part, quilt show goers are a law-abiding lot (the exceptions deserve their own post someday.)  If people know the rules, they are happy to follow them.  Over at Liberty Place, the Pilgrim/Roy Challenge had two tiny signs indicating “no photography” — and they were placed several quilts in from the entrances!  The first quilt was an absolute knockout by John Flynn, very photogenic, and the attendee would encounter it before she would encounter a sign indicating she wasn’t permitted to photograph it!  I felt terrible having to inform people, as part of my white glove hostessing duties, that they couldn’t take pictures there, because they were uniformly embarrassed and apologetic, when they had no reason to know they’d done anything wrong.

The situation was a slight bit clearer over in the convention center with the Burgoyne Surrounded exhibit; there were a few more signs, but they were still small and not at all eye-catching, at least not when compared with a big shiny quilt.  On Saturday, I encountered a hostess who had discovered her secret purpose in life by unleashing her inner Dirty Harry on those who would dare to photograph a quilt.  Not only did she shout at several hapless picture-takers, at one point she barrelled over to a group of us who were innocently looking at a quilt without any electronics in our hands, calling “Stop!   No pictures!  No pictures allowed!!” and seemed on the verge of enacting a body cavity search when she couldn’t find the source of what she’d perceived as a camera flash.  I hope she got back safely to her job at the TSA.  But most people, including AQS staff, seemed far more polite and reasonable, and hopefully next year’s signage will be less ambiguously placed.

"The Flight of the Phoenix" by Lee Jung Sun

"The Flight of the Phoenix" by Lee Jung Sun

But back to the quilts!  There were several lovely wall quilts, including some by usual suspects like David Taylor, Sue Reno and Esterita Austin.  Standouts for me included Lee Jung Sun’s “The Flight of the Phoenix” and the edge finish on blue ribbon winner “Alpha Block Celebration” by Janet Stone.  There were twice as many wall quilts as bed quilts in the competition, due I’m sure in equal parts to American quilting habits (we finish more quilts if they’re smaller) and ease of display (we can hang more quilts if they’re smaller.)

Detail, "Alpha Block Sampler"

Detail, "Alpha Block Celebration" by Janet Stone

Surrounding all these beautiful quilts were — astonishingly enough — vendors!  What a pleasant surprise!  In my next post, I’ll discuss how some of them managed to twist my arm into exchanging money for pretty pretty things.  Against my will, against my reason, and even against my character, I assure you.

March 31, 2010 at 5:00 pm 1 comment

QFNJ 2010: Part II, More Quilts

Before I write about the vendors, I have to do some addenda to the Quilts post.  First of all, since I don’t get down to the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival in Hampden, VA, I really appreciate that the ribbon winners from that show are exhibited at QFNJ.  The Best of Show quilt, “Circles of Life” by Linda French, was unbelievable.  It is quite possibly the closest thing to a perfect quilt I have ever seen.  The applique!  The piecing!  The trapunto!  The quilting!  The only word that is adequate to describe it is, “swoon.”

"Circles of Life" by Linda French

"Circles of Life" by Linda French

I wasn’t familiar with Linda’s name, so I Googled her; she’s apparently a professional longarm quilter, and this quilt is just sweeping the awards this year.  Her website doesn’t display previous show quilts, so I don’t know if I should have already known her name or not, but after this show year, everyone will.

I was happy to see that Sieglinde Schoen Smith has a new show quilt this year, “Once Upon a Christmas Night.”  I didn’t get a picture of it, as it was mobbed with people gaping in awe at all the perfect details, very reminiscent of “Mother Earth and her Children.” (An image of it appears here, about halfway down the page, with the rest of the winners from MAQF.)  I did, however, have to ask people to stop touching it (I’ve been White Glove committee chair for the past three guild quilt shows, when I happily embrace the role of Quilt Police) and finally just found the white glove lady and sent her over.  This particular quilt has little Advent-calendar-style doors that open to reveal surprises underneath, and people’s curiosity was getting the better of them.

I completely understand the desire to touch quilts; they are a tactile art form.   But each person’s oils and exertions add up with all the others, and can easily damage the quilt over time.  I’ve heard of one guild that displays an example quilt at the entrance of each show that viewers are invited to touch.  The binding is incomplete so the batting can be seen; examples of hand and machine quilting, applique, etc. are on display so it acts as an educational item.  But whether it’s an uncontrollable desire to touch something tactile, an inability to view displayed quilts as art worthy of preservation, or just a sense of entitlement that the rules shouldn’t apply to them, people can behave very badly at quilt shows.  The people who arrive first thing in the morning with their big styrofoam cups of coffee and are just incensed that they can’t sip them while touring the show are the only ones I’ll specifically mention right now, but believe me, I’ve got stories.

There were many memorable quilts.  Up until this point, I’ve focused on the ones that were memorable for their visual impact and flawless execution.  However, some quilts at every quilt show are memorable for other, quirkier reasons.  I have been, for many years, collecting photographs of quilts I’ve seen at shows that contain nudity, guns, or toilets (I have yet to find one that hits the trifecta; any takers?)  I’ve had to become more selective of the nudity quilts, as that’s become more common and not always well executed, but the guns and toilets rarely disappoint.  As someone who has herself won a Judge’s Choice ribbon for a quilt that featured a labeled anatomical image of the human brain in applique, I am hardly one to question someone’s choice of subject matter in a quilt, but I have to say, this was definitely the first time I’ve seen an appliqued Superman drinking a beer:

Superman with a beer

Detail of "Oktoberfest" by Maki Shimada

This was one of several small quilts on the Oktoberfest theme from the World Festival Quilt Challenge, but it was by far my favorite.  See how the foam is done in little seed beads?  That’s dedication.

I have also now crossed a cultural threshold.  While I’ve seen many, many Harry Potter quilts, Wizard of Oz quilts, Gone with the Wind quilts, I can never again say that I’ve never seen a Twilight quilt:

"Twilight" by Jennie Greenhalgh

"Twilight" by Jennie Greenhalgh

You can’t quite see it in this picture, but she used glitter on Edward’s face so that he’s all sparkly.  Now, I am the last person on Earth to make fun of someone for being a fan of something; I’ve attended three “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” conventions, and at the last two I collected actors’ autographs on muslin squares for when I make my Buffy quilt.  I just hadn’t seen a “Twilight” quilt before, let alone one with glitter on “Edward’s perfect face.” All right, so I’m making a little fun.  Then again, I have seriously considered buying this shirt.

Next post:  Vendors!

March 9, 2010 at 5:00 pm 2 comments

Quilt Fest of NJ 2010: Part I, The Quilts

Kathy and I attended Quilt Fest of New Jersey in Somerset, NJ yesterday.  I didn’t win any ribbons for “Blue Butterfly Day” or “Kyoto Ink,” but they looked great hanging and were in very good company.  I look forward to reading my judges’ comments; I already have in mind what a few of the “needs improvement” areas will be, so I’ll see if they agree with me.

"Medea Escaping"

"Medea Escaping" by Marilyn Belford

I actually liked the second-place quilt, “Medea Escaping” by Marilyn Belford, better than the Best of Show.  The use of fabric to create color blending was breathtaking, and her raw-edge applique was impeccably executed.  It’s an enormous quilt, yet it hangs perfectly square and flat, while still having some dimension in the quilting.  Truly masterful stuff.

"Butterfly Dance"

"Butterfly Dance" by Anna Faustino

The Best of Show quilt, “Butterfly Dance” by Anna Faustino, just wasn’t my cup of tea.  The metallic thread couching was well done, and the color and design were lovely, but it’s one of those quilts that’s been quilted so densely that it hung like cardboard.  Plus, I admit I’m just sick of those heat-fix crystals.  When Sharon Schamber and Renae Haddadin put them on the front and back of their multi-award-winning quilts starting about six or seven years ago, I thought they were gorgeous.  Now I feel like too many quilts took a tumble through the Swarovski factory on the way to the show.  Maybe I’ll be ready to see them again in another ten years or so.

The “Tri-State Quilt Competition” was actually only a fraction of the quilts on display; as with other Mancuso shows I’ve attended, the bulk of the display quilts were from various touring collections and special exhibits.  I usually enjoy the Hoffman challenge, but the 2009 challenge fabric was, shall we say, more challenging than usual?  A mint green and brown paisley wouldn’t be my favorite fabric ever under the best of circumstances, and being confronted with a wall of it bordered on nauseating.  I loved this quilt, though:

"Bee" by Nancy B. Dickey

"Bee" by Nancy B. Dickey

The bodies of the bees were made of corduroy and velveteen to create that lush, matte fuzziness of real-life bees; the juxtaposition of the realism with the fanciful pieced designs was really delightful.

I have to say, a lot of the art quilts just were not doing it for me this year.  This is a little internal war I have with myself whenever I go to a quilt show.  On the one hand, I am so glad that nontraditional techniques have been embraced by the quilting establishment.  I’ve read about the controversy when Carol Bryer Fallert won at Houston with a — gasp! clutch pearls! — machine quilted quilt in 1989.  (Perhaps I should put “quilt” in quotation marks, as every right-minded member of the Quilt Police knows that only hand-quilted quilts deserve to be called quilts.  Sniff!)  Ahem.  Anyway.  I’m glad that those of us who machine quilt, use fusible web or Paintstiks, etc. can all play in the sandbox too.  Which is why I get uncomfortable when I find myself standing in front of a quilt at a show and thinking, “That’s not really a quilt.”  I don’t want to be a part of the Biddy Brigade, but at the same time, I don’t want to be so open-minded that my brain falls out.

Ultimately, I think the techniques that rightly give me pause are the ones that use artistic expression as an excuse to be sloppy.  I’ve seen raw-edge fusible applique pieces that are peeling off, embellishments hanging by threads, applied color that has rubbed off onto adjacent areas, and chiffon overlays that have shredded.  I don’t think the show organizers are manhandling the quilts; I think that some of the art quilts are just a little too ephemeral.  Some years back, Quilters Newsletter magazine sparked quite the riot by publishing an article that suggested that fusible web shouldn’t be used in heirloom quilts because it tends to degrade over time.  Angry art quilters wrote in, saying that the magazine was threatening their ability to sell pieces to museums and collectors by publishing this information.

As a scientist, I say data is data.  While conclusions drawn from it may be colored by personal prejudices and preconceptions, if the data was properly collected, it stands.  But rather than being informed by the data and making future choices accordingly, some decided to attack the data — or the choice to make the data public, which is really worrisome.  Problems with “modern art” being made of unstable materials are nothing new; The New Yorker had an article last year about Christian Scheidemann,  an art preservation expert who specializes in modern art and who has had to restore works made of materials such as latex, elephant dung, and tree stumps.  As the author says, “the notion that a work of contemporary art might be built to decay makes many collectors and institutions understandably skittish.”

Having said that, though, it was a great show.  I’m proud to have had my quilts hanging in it.  And I have to completely endorse the Viewer’s Choice, despite the fact that our attendance on Sunday precluded our getting to vote.  “Crazy Sheep” by Debora Konchinsky, which also won for Best Hand Workmanship, would have been my choice, too:

Detail of "Crazy Sheep"

Detail of "Crazy Sheep" by Debora Konchinsky

I am not a crazy-quilt person and never have been, but this was so delightful and fascinating I defy anyone with an esthetic sensibility and a heart not to be charmed by it.  A full list of the ribbon winners, with much better pictures than mine, is available here.

March 8, 2010 at 10:31 pm Leave a comment


Obstacles to Progress

Siamese Cat on Sewing Machine

Making it work!

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