Saturday, September 25, 2010

Something to Think About

My August blog about a recent quilt show and judging generated more responses than any that I've published before. It seems I have hit a nerve in our community of quilt makers.
Detail from Dancing Coneflowers by Ann Fahl
Right now while I am drinking hot chocolate in my new mug, and I received an email from Sherry Reynolds. She has spent a great deal of time thinking about this issue too, and the direction of quilting today. She included a short statement that sums up what I think are the problems with both the entries and the judging at quilt shows. With her premission, this is what she said, "The beauty of a quilt is not how much thread you can cram on a quilt.  To me, you should be able to take away the quilting and still have a work of art.”

Sherry is so right. Just because we can do massive amounts of quilting on the sewing machine, we have all gone overboard with the quantity, myself included.  We need to step back, consider the design, and decide what would be the most appropriate for the piece. Our quilt judges have a very difficult task, they need to weigh the design of the piece, the workmanship, and the quality of the quilting to come up with their decision. It seems they too, have been influenced too much by the quantity of the quilting rather than the quality of the design and the stitching together.We must remember to balance the quilt top design with the stitching of the layers.

I just published a book about free-motion machine quilting so you know I love quilting. It can be a wonderfully rewarding activity, and I love to see the texture and patterns develop on the surface of my work.  But let's slow down a bit, take a look, and perhaps rethink what we've done in the past, and lighten up a bit on what we are quilting now.

Think about it. Pass this message on to your quilting friends and guilds.

Ann Fahl


Elaine said...

I think you're right. Sometimes I feel the pressure that I need to fill up the space. There are many beautiful quilts that don't need quite so much quilting. They stand out on their own, but the quilting can add just the right touch to the quilt.

Judy Warner said...

I agree that the design needs to be primary. The quilting can contribute greatly to that design, but not by quantity, rather quality and effect.

rachel said...

Thank you for initiating what is a great discussion topic. I feel equally dismayed by the longarm all over pantograph technique that simply does the quilting (gets it done!) with little regard for blocks, borders and individual touches.
I have acquired my quilting skills by beginning with traditional basics. I have acquired many supplies to move into the more creative contemporary/fiber arts realm. Indeed, I can see the overdone quilts as technique examples more than expressions of art. It also seems to stifle my urge to experiment since the emotional voice of the maker is hard to discern.

I do hope to have someone look at my quilt projects and see them as original products of my creative and technical abilities. Is it possible that the Art and Music Appreciation fundamentals courses that have been losing ground in favor of teaching to the three R's is having an affect? Does mass marketing the quilting kits (with pre-picked colors, fabric and design) give birth to more followers rather than independent thinkers?
Thank you for supporting the creative spirit!

Deborah said...

This is indeed an interesting, thought provoking topic. I am new to quilting, but not to sewing and a marketing professional. To me what is happening (as described) in quilting is indicative of what is going on in our society generally. We can't go back in time and revert, but we can learn how to use the new technologies to enhance our creations instead of take away from them. New technologies fool some into thinking that learning a new skill and understanding all its properties is easy and quick. Learning the concepts may be easy, it's the layers of complexities that to me take time to learn and develop. Every new item/product produced has it's place, because let's face it if we don't do some of these things quilting will slowly lose it's audience, a look at the average age of a quilter will confirm this. In terms of independent thinking, we need to continually define what this term really means because it is not always encourage in either the schools or corporate businesses. I am first learning about including composition in a quilt from reading your post. Perhaps it's time for someone to develop a class on design, color and composition with a whimsical slant to make the class interesting.