I recently attended a guild meeting, where the speaker began her talk by making a statement along the lines of “those ugly charity quilts some people make are not art.”
Yeesh. Talk about divide the room.
I’ve been quilting since the late 1980’s, and back then the argument was that if it wasn’t hand pieced, or at least hand-quilted, it wasn’t a quilt, because our grandmothers made them all by hand.
Then in the 1990’s it was art quilting vs. traditional quilting. And now, it seems, the rivalry is modern vs. everything else.
What’s with the US vs. THEM thing? As a Facebook friend remarked last week, she’s so OVER the conversation of whether or not a quilt can be called “modern.”
I can’t help but think that, in this mostly female endeavor, any such divisiveness is just corrosive. Our grandmothers laid the foundation of feminism (in the true sense of the word, as in the respect of women as equal members of society), and I can’t help but think they’d be ready to swat our hands with a wooden spoon for not cheering on our sisters, regardless of how different from us they may be. Incidentally, I think they would also be howling with mirth at the idea we should turn our backs on sewing machine technology out of some Luddite-driven sense of reverence for the good ol’ days.
It doesn’t matter how you make quilts, or even why. Yes, I know that there are people who imbue every thread of their composition with deep meaning, and trust me, with an MFA in Fiber under my belt, I would enjoy the intellectual wrangle of a good chew on the “making meaning” conversation with you. But I’m also equally happy to cheer you on when you decide to make a quilt with pink frog fabric for no reason other than pink frogs make your heart soar.
You get to make the thing that turns you on. You get to spend your free time making charity quilts. You get to spend ten years piecing hexies for an insanely large bed quilt. You get to make everything in purple because it’s your favorite color. You get to try new things. You get to do the same things you’ve always done and be damned with the new-fangled stuff. You get to use nothing but batiks. You get to use Kona Ash in everything. You get to sweat the details on a competition-level quilt. You get to chop your points off because accuracy isn’t all that important to you. You get to quilt it on a home machine. You get to quilt it by check. You get to make your version of beauty. You get to abandon things that are not your cup of tea.
The point is YOU GET TO DO IT YOUR WAY. And the meaning it makes is the meaning you give it. This isn’t brain surgery, although I would argue that the pursuit of it is just as important… a surgeon can heal the body, but a quilt can heal the soul. But enough of debating all this. No more making other people’s art “wrong” – okay?
Just go make something you think is lovely. We’ll all be better off for it!
Here, here, a lot of love goes into a quilt however you make it.
Sent from my iPad
Awesome! May I reblog?? Please let me know!
By the way, it’s been several years, but I HAVE made quilts for granddaughter with pink frog fabric!
And YES get over it, everyone! Our grandmothers quilted by hand because they could not afford the luxury of machines. Not because of some snobbish notion that it was the “correct” way!
Oh my! Do you have photos anywhere? Would love to see them if you do!
hmmm… I might not. I was very new to quilting back then. I’ll look.
Reblogged this on Catbird Quilt Studio and commented:
Thought-inspiring discussion of the meaning of our quilting. We don’t need to divide into camps — there is room for ALL of us!
Thank you for the re-blog!
Well said! May this message be spread far and wide among quilters.
I hope so!
Art is subjective, that’s why I hate when people make these huge sweeping statements for or against some type of art. I might not like some of the modern quilts, it doesn’t mean they aren’t art.
Love your post!
For me, the most important thing about art is that people just MAKE it.
It has been said: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Let me extend that a bit to add that it’s, also, in the eye of the creator/maker! And it IS art!!!! Underneath all the wrangling is the pervasive human attribute(?)/failing of pride. At the root of divisive statements resides the core of “mine is ‘better’ than yours” (thoughts, choices, quilt methods, etc, etc). Those who have such thoughts have built walls…….encircling themselves, sadly. We must work at tearing down those walls with the gentle reminders of what was stated in the above post!!! Now…….off to create something beautiful!!!!!!!!
Or sewing machines weren’t invented yet! So glad they pushed that little needle in and out, in and out. And men did it too!
Couldn’t agree more!
Amen!!! I am going to blog a wee bit about this and them send them over to you!!!
Please do! And send me a link too!
… a surgeon can heal the body, but a quilt can heal the soul. Well said. Thank you for this post. I agree whole heartedly.
You’re so welcome!
Sent from my iPad
Reblogged this on Maria's Quilt Scraps and commented:
This is a must read for all quilters! Hunter has said it all so perfectly. Be sure to spread this to all of your quilting friends!
Thank you for re-blog love!
And the blog on my own website – http://www.mariamichaelsdesigns.com/blog/
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I love these kinds of discussions. But there’s one thing I have to make a point on, Charity Quilts. Not that they are art quilts or anything like that. Charity Quilts should be quilts that you’d want to keep for yourself, not a quilt from junky fabric that you wouldn’t dream of using in your quilts. One thing my dad taught me was that if you are giving to charity, it should hurt or it’s not charity.
My guild does such a great job with our “service” quilts. People make them with the same love and care they do all their work. We hear as many oohs and ahs when the service committee shows quilts as when the rest of the guild has show and tell.
The love that goes into charity quilts is a powerful thing – and I can’t imagine not having that in the world!
*stands up applauding and whistles*!!
Have you heard Kacey Musgraves’ song “Follow Your Arrow”? I’m not much of a country fan, but I’ve become a huge fan of this chick for this song alone.
What a SWEET song! Thanks for sharing it Trish!
It’s not just in quilting where women seem to tear each other down more than build each other up. Have you checked out motherhood lately? You weaned him at one? I am breastfeeding until he goes to kindergarten. The organic only vs. processed foods, and the most contentious: the divide between stay-at-home moms and working moms. Women could really be a force in this country if we could learn to support each other better.
Concur! To quote the marvelous Madeleine Albright: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”
I heartily agree. Everyone who quilts is a quilter, end of story. It doesn’t matter what your style preference is or how the motivation for your quilting or how old you are or how much experience you have. As long as people continue to quilt, and the art is not lost, that is what truly matters.
Just MAKE stuff!
Beautiful blog! My thoughts exactly!!!!!
Amazing post Sam! I can really see you speaking to all the different quilters in my life. LOVE IT!
Thank you, Paula! HUGS!
Thank you Sam. Great post.
My pleasure Sue!
Beautifully written, and I couldn’t agree more. I’m so tired of this divide. Mostly I’m tired of this discussion. “Modern” “Traditional” “Art”… doesn’t matter – they are all quilts lovingly made. Just like everything else: some people love some art, other people love other art, it’s ALL subjective.
I’m hearing about that same tiredness from a LOT of people! Maybe we can make it go away!
Well said…as usual!
BTW, my charity quilts are those that just don’t have room in my house, wrong colors for me-not that they are not great colors, they just don’t fit with my decor. Or, they were just something that I felt compelled to make, but not keep. I think this is true for many quilters, there is always a home for a quilt, you just have to find its soul mate.
What a perfect comment, Vicki – that each thing we makes needs to find its soul mate. Thank you!! HUGS!
Well spoken, Sam!
Let’s just go make stuff!!
Yes, Caz – LET’S!!!
It’s easy to use feminism as an example of how women should all pull together and support one another. I walked away from years of feminist activism, study and direct action ( working in rape crisis) with the knowledge that not all feminists were on the same boat. There are right wing feminists (Camille Paglia, Katie Roiphe, religious bigots dressing their arguments in feminist rhetoric while being anti choice(Melinda Tankard Reist), Marxist feminists, Eco feminists, socialist feminists – the list goes on. The arguments go on.
And when my mother died not one of the women I worked with was there to support me. My quilting buddies were.
My thinking after 30 years of this stuff? There are mean people there are nice people and there are people who will support you and people who won’t.
If its a modern quilt, call it that. If its ugly, in your opinion, hold your tongue. Don’t comment it’s boring, we should all just get along, about the debate on what is modern and what isn’t. If you get called on these kind of statements, and your not prepared to back it with knowledge, or being patronising – “you just get on with those little pink frogs because you’re not a real artist” – is not a helpful thing to say – it feels to me like you’re patting me on the head.
Don’t say I’m tired of this debate if you keep giving it oxygen without making an attempt to define modern quilting. Be constructive and kind – we don’t need permission to create, but we do need to define Modern Quilting.
My grandmother – she snorted cocaine, had two kids with different men, drove an ambulance in WW1, and sold sewing machines all over the Australian outback – driving a truck with machines and notions thousands of miles, taught herself to fix machines as well.
She had tattoos, she was loud and funny, and I adored her. She was born in 1899, and she smoked cigars. She was pro choice, she raised my Dad to be able to care for himself, and she had no formal education. She also loved Modern Art, Impressionism and Art Deco. She’d point out to me where those elements were used in a building, a fabric, a cup – anywhere she saw them.
It’s about recognising the design elements that make something modern – if a woman with no formal education can see it, then there is hope for us in defining this movement.
I’m off to design a quilt with pink frogs that’s modern – I may never make it, but it will be fun!
I like the sound of your grandma 🙂
No pats on the head intended at ALL! Nor am I attempting to define modern quilting (and if I did, I would surely be instantly bombarded with links to the “official definition” per the MQG, so I’ll leave that to them). What I’m saying is I want people to stop using the various definitions and categories to belittle the work of others. As an artist, I understand and follow the importance of my soul’s imperative to MAKE STUFF. I don’t want to see that same imperative to MAKE squashed by the unkind words of the mean girls. Yes, there are always mean girls, and yes, I wish for us all to build the skin that is thick enough to ignore them!
And I LOVE the story of your grandma! How cool that you got to know her!
I could not agree more! I think the more voices supporting inclusivity the better. The divisiveness that comes from a group of people trying to judge and label under strict and limiting parameters does nothing to elevate such an amazing community of people who share a common joy .
Well said! I’m of the “my quilt, my rules” persuasion, and will defend your right to make want you like.
May I reprint this one in my guild newsletter? Luckily, I haven’t heard too much divisiveness in my guild, we’re pretty low-key & will clap for EVERYone. 🙂 But I love the way you’ve put it here!
Sue – absolutely! Please make sure it goes out with a link to here so that if any of your awesome pals want to climb aboard, I can meet them too!
Well said!!!!! It doesn’t matter if you work with neon pink frog fabric or with batik. All that matters is the love you put in your work. Be open!!!!! You might be surprised by what you see and like.
Absolutely true! And if you want to finish your vintage Grandmother’s Flower Garden by adding pink satin binding and tying in, that’s good too! I just did this for someone, and though it is not the traditional finish, I love it!
And that YOU love it is the most important thing!
Love it, well said. I must also add that I often get looked at down the noise of older quilters when I walk into a particular store. Just because I’m in my 20’s doesn’t mean I cant quilt as good as the older ladies. I used to get so hurt by it, especially when the owner of store is a close family friend and I’ve been buying from there since it opened 12 years ago. Age of quilter and style of quilt they shouldn’t be looked down upon. They should be admired, it takes a lot of patients and love to create what we make. Sorry rant over.
Oh Amber – I’m sorry that we old broads can make a young artist feel so uncomfortable – truly. (and for the reverse too – can’t we all just offer each other respect, eh?) Come hang out here… you’ll always be welcome!
Thank you, Ive seen some amazing work done by older and younger ladies and as far as Im concerned we are all equal and we learn from one another. I have taught a 50 + lady how to quilt and she has taught me a thing or 2 ( I was 20 at the time). I will see things I dont like but I appreciate the time and effort that’s gone into creating it. And what exactly makes a “modern quilt”? Is it the colors and material choice or is it the blocks and how its created? Could it be even as far as how its stitched hand v’s machine? I think its all up to the interpretation of the viewer.
I so agree with this post!! I get tired of “my way or the highway” school of quilting. There is room for all of us in the quilting world. I have just taught a class of complete beginners, and every week gave them the various options for methhods/techniques, telling them it was a matter of personal preference how they work. I enjoy making quilts for charities – and I hope they are never considered to be ugly!!
best wishes from Anne, in the Glorious Scottish Borders
Hiya Anne! I love it when I hear of a teacher that ls our up-and-comers to fin their own voice. Thank you! for that! And incidentally, I grew up a bit south of you in Maidenhead! We’ll have to hang out sometime and swap stories!
It’s a really interesting debate. There are horses for all quilt courses, I think, well that’s certainly my view on it. If you want to see some fabulous charity quilts, have a look here http://littleislandquilting.blogspot.co.uk at Alison’s blog. She is currently collecting QAYG 12.5″ blocks and is putting them together for a children’s home in Mexico City for former street kids. I love the eclectic nature of how the quilts turn out and that fact that each block has come from some far flung corner of the earth. She is also pretty witty, but she has her mission and knows her audience. She is not fussy about what she is sent and there are some of them that might be considered ‘ugly’ by some, but the love that has gone into them is undeniable, and that is really what matters. Great article!
Oooh – thank you for the link! I’m following her now. What a wonderful project!
Lol! I’m making a quilt with pink frog fabric at the moment, too funny that you should mention that type of fabric- my daughter absolutely adores frogs. It most definitely won’t be judged in a quilt show or by a panel of experts, but I’m making something that I know she will love and adore and actually use. My girl’s are why I started quilting and I’d like to stay true to that 🙂
Please, please, please post pix for me when it’s done!
Thank you! You are so right.
Your text is so beatiful! Thank you for posting and helping everyone to think about making things with love no matter what or how and with no care for rules and not listen to people saying to us what is right or wrong, modern or tradicional, fancy or old-fashion. We are jus people that like to sew and make thinks with our own hands, transforming fabrics into objects to show love, affection, friendship, compassion and joy.
When I first started quilting over 17 years ago, I used to think that quilters were the nicest people. Not so much anymore……
I think that quilters, like people, are for the most part, a good bunch. It just seems that a few judgmental eggs can make for a bad souffle. Scott Dinsmore of Live Your Legend http://liveyourlegend.net/ says that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with…. best to keep the bad eggs out of the top five!
This is an awesome post. Do you mind if I use your graphic in a post and link to your blog/this post? I recently wrote a similar piece and I want to post a follow up. Thanks! Rock on!
Sure thing – and thank you for the re-blog love!
One of the best pieces written about this debate. Well done! As women, we need the community that quilting gives us. It feeds our souls. Let’s just all be there for the beautiful craft we adore. And play nice in the sandbox when we are there. Thank you for this piece.
My pleasure! Thank *you*!
Bravo! Well written and on point (tee-hee)! I also have enjoyed reading all the comments. I want to hug all the people that have been burned by any side of the crafting/quilting arguments. I am amazed daily at the shear amount of awesomeness I see being created across the country. Would I want to make what everyone else is making? Ummm, nope, and I am *sure* others don’t want to make what I’m doing, either! I love the diversity and seeing the beauty, art, and joy in each piece. Thanks again for your article and offering another forum for us to discuss.
On POINT! Yes!!!
I’ve been quilting on and off since 1991. Back then the clerks questions my fabric choices. Now I’ve joined a modern quilt guild because of the large 30-50 year olds draw and the time is more conducive then the other guilds in town. But I’m secretively afraid I may be kicked out. OK maybe not so secretively. .. I now voice it.
I make Quilts because I love to cut fabric up and sew it back together again, and I love to create texture with thread! I am not going to pigeon hole myself!
Yes on all fronts!
Wonderful! For years I’ve said to people that quilting is art, and although there are rules in art, once you know *why* they exist, you’re free to break them as much as you like.
I do not think people who receive charity quilts are going to care if the quilt is modern, tied, hand pieced/quilted or not.They are in need and hopefully appreciate the fact that someone thought of them.
I also agree that quilting is a way for us to do what makes us happy, in what ever color, style, using what ever techneques we want, and as perfect or not as we want and we should encourage and support each other in whatever we are doing.
You nailed it with “support each other” – yes!
That is the best blog post I have ever read. Thank you for honest encouragement!! I hope more quilting mentors will step up & live this out when they grab the hand of beginner quilters like me.
I hope you find great teachers to cheer you on! You’re welcome in my classroom any time!
Was taken by your reference to feminism – the idea that females are equal (and btw, equal to each other too) and how that has historically been expressed in quilts. Coming together for whatever reason (or no reason) improves everything. Competition has been done (and done and done) and where has that has gotten our world? For me the beauty of the quilting world (and quilting blogging) is the hand-holding and the sharing. The quilts are merely physical reminders.
Agree – I’ve met some of the best people in my life through quilting!
I posted this on a FB post that had linked to here and thought I would re-post it here.
“I’m surprised at this and I took it completely differently. I know the speaker and know what she was trying to say, so perhaps that flavored what I heard. Which was, “don’t waste your time making ugly charity quilts (or entering challenges or ____ other things you feel obligated to do) instead of making what you truly want to make and what makes you happy.” Some people do crank out ugly charity quilts, using crappy fabric (I’ve heard this directly from some of our charities. While a person who is cold will obviously appreciate anything to help keep them warm, some things charities receive are not especially appropriate to their particular needs.) Of course, I don’t think anyone in our guild does that and I’ve worked hard for two years now developing our charity program. I’m bummed that people let one phrase (possibly taken out of context/mis-remembered) to color an experience.”
I didn’t see this as having anything to do with judging others or not being inclusive, more as a way to set yourself free. If you don’t want to make charity quilts, don’t do it. If you would rather work on a personal project than work on yet another guild challenge, don’t accept that fabric.
I’m bummed that people took the speech in this way but am interested in hearing everyone’s thoughts. We had a ton of positive feedback after this meeting so I appreciate hearing the other side too. And, knowing the speaker, I know there would have been some really great dialogue with this all hashed up were it raised at the meeting.
Hi MaryAnn! Isn’t it funny that what we hear is altered by what we know and think?! More than one person mentioned to me that they thought that her comments at the beginning were divisive… and one person was deeply offended – she felt like her commitment to the charity work she does was disrespected, and that her calling to do that charity work was dismissed as unimportant because it wasn’t “art”. For me (and let me underline that… FOR ME) I’m on board for anyone approaching quilting however they want to, and to have the opinions they want to have. The trouble with strong opinion making around art is that it can seriously freeze people up, especially when it comes from a speaker – and THAT is what I was writing about. I WANT PEOPLE TO NOT BE SO UPTIGHT ABOUT BEING RIGHT THAT THEY QUIT MAKING ART. I’ve heard from numerous people down south, up here, and online, that they’re scared to show their quilts in a modern guild for fear of being told their work isn’t “modern enough”. They’ve read the MQG definition and can’t figure out if they fit it or not.They overhear a snide comment or two (and I’ve heard those comments from guild leaders modern and otherwise over the last 20 years) and they are scared of being judged. WE ARE ALL SCARED OF BEING JUDGED – we join a group looking to fit in, not to be told we don’t. Hopefully, we will all eventually build up the confidence to make our own thing and be damned with what other people think, but when you’re still figuring it out, it stings to hear that you might be considered uncool by the “in” crowd.
Being told in kindergarten that leaves should always be green and skies should always be blue is a surefire way to turn off our natural desire to be makers… so do divisive and judgmental statements in the quilt world – and I just want to be the person that encourages people to color anyway they want to!
As you and I have talked about before… we aren’t in control of how people take remarks, and we certainly can’t make everyone happy!! But I think we can certainly work more towards more welcoming and accepting words. And supreme care with remarks of critique 🙂
I love your attitude Sam, and so glad you opened this up for discussion! It’s always so exciting when a new quilter shows their first quilt and get a wonderful response. We do love seeing those new quilters and encouraging them!
True, true words! Quilters love to create for loved ones, for charity and for the sheer joy of creating. When someone we love (and those we haven’t met) and care about are celebrating or hurting we make our quilts for them. This IS what quilters do. What difference does it make how we get there and what makes us tick. I love you’re comment about our Grandmother’s swatting our hands with a wooden soon for not cheering on one of our quilty sisters. True.
I love the difference we make. I can’t imagine a world without it!
Everything has been said. Thank you. I’m not a blogger – don’t think anyone would read, lol, but I will repost on fb for some of my quilty friends to see,
Thank you for the re-post love!
Exactly! You said it!
Amen and Hallelujah!
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