Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Great Quilt Exhibit

My friend and I went to the Milwaukee Art Museum to checkout the antique quilt exhibition from the Winterthur Museum. Wow, what a magnificent setting for quilts-- right on the shore of Lake Michigan. This is a fantastic traveling exhibit,  make a point to see it if it comes to your area of the country.

The quilts dated from 1600's to late 1800's. Each quilt was chosen because it represented some of the needlework trends or unique fabric of the time. Many of them were truly masterpieces. They exist today because they were treasured by their families and lightly used. Because they do not allow photography I have no pictures to show you. There is a current book about the collection called Quilts in a Material World by Linda Eaton.

When I saw the first quilt, I was struck with the thought, beauty, originality and huge size of  the work.  Here we are, quilting in America, with the greatest fabrics, threads and machines in the history of humanity.  We need to be producing fantastic quilts with more love  thought and commitment!  Many of us have forgotten how satisfying it is to finish a quilt  that we have made ourselves. Because I love quilting so much, it is hard for me to understand why so many of us send their quilts out for someone else to finish.

Some of the early handwork and embroidery was every bit as perfect as some of our computer aided embroidery and quilting. These women created these quilts, with no books, patterns or fancy equipment. Their problem solving in areas with funny corners or border ideas were amazing. Many of the quilt makers represented, achieved great visual appeal with so few resources.  There is much to be learned from looking at their work.

To sum up this Winterthur exhibit:
  • There was great pride in quality of handwork
  • Originality of design
  • Large scale bed pieces
  • Examples included: whitework, broiderie perse, applique, trapunto, hand piecing, embroidery all using silk, cotton, wool or linen fabrics and thread.
I am awestruck.  We have much to learn and appreciate from looking at this work. I hope all of you have a chance to experience this exceptional exhibit.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Some Comments from Europe on the Quilt Composition Issue

 Hello quilters and readers,

The following email came from Marianne in Belgium. She has some comments, from the European side of the quilting world. With her permission I am printing them below.

I really wanted to comment on this particular blog post because you are touching on a couple of subjects that a friend and I have been discussing frequently.

1 The "quilting-to-death" syndrome that seems to have taken over every quilt in every quilt show
2 The lack of coherence in so-called art quilts as well as traditional quilts

I have for years collected patchwork techniques so I can put together a patchwork top, I can appliqué by hand by machine revers appliqué as well etc.  I can do digitized quilt designs free-motion quilt (if I have to, LOL) BUT where do we go to find good classes in composition? Learning composition should surely go along with all the other techniques and tools we collect but it is so difficult to find composition classes.

I live in Europe and here they are even fewer and further apart than they seem to be in the US. Sure we can do a British City and Guild qualification online but that only provides you with design techniques NOT composition as such (or the one I took part in did not, it was all about ticking boxes in the log-book). Design techniques are all very well (and certainly needed don't get me wrong) but if you are not capable of judging the designs you come up with because you lack the knowledge to do so then you either do not exhibit (that's me) or you end up entering disjointed pieces of work or do what previous ribbon winners have done hence all the quilts are over quilted in designs that have nothing whatsoever to do with the top they are quilted on.

IMHO what is needed is for good classes (online and live) where we beginners can learn the ABC of composition because without that you will continue to get copies of, copies of previous ribbon winners. (Maybe some judges should be sent to art school too?).

Thank you very much for taking on this subject! I do not have a blog so cannot link to your post but will send links to various quilters I know.

Marianne Gadeberg

This is Ann again. We do need to have more information on design and composition for everyone. There are books out there on the subject. Go to your public libraries and look under "art and design." Also there is quite a bit of design info on the web too. It is worth your time to read a little on the topic. If you have a good suggestion for a book or website, please comment in the comment section.

My personal experience with design and color classes has been that they are quite dull.  There are some excellent  instructors out there, but to be honest, it is hard to fill this kind of workshop! Technique classes are easier to fill.

For me experience is the best teacher. When making quilts you will find, with trial and error what works best. One of my favorite things to do is make small quilts. How small? Let's say anywhere from 6 x 6 inches to placemat size. Make a lot of them, experimenting with shape, color, fabric, and thread. Allow yourself the freedom to play and make mistakes.  This is the best way--for me.

When you get stuck somewhere, try getting a second opinion from a friend, and work through the problem. You must try and be flexible and open minded and think of solutions that may not have been in your original idea. Look through books and magazines to see what other quilters have done in similar situations. Even for me, sometimes it takes quite some time to work through a challenge.

I'm going to go and play on a brand new design, which has taken me 3 weeks to solve my problems. At last I've found the solution!  More on this, at a later time.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Questions and Thoughts on a Recent Quilt Show.......

I recently went to a quilt show which was nationally advertised, juried and judged.

It is a fact that the show organizers can only exhibit quilts that have been entered. The quality of a show is always limited by its entries.  As my friend and I walked through the show we were stunned by what we saw. There are many words to describe the majority of the quilts hanging, none of which are positive. In an attempt at extreme self control, I would call the quilts "unfortunate."

It was equally disturbing to me that the judges chose to award the works that had the most quilting and stitching; regardless of the quality or appropriateness of those stitches to the whole work. When I see this happening in the quilt world I wonder, what is going on? What is causing the poor design in so many quilts? Why don't the judges consider the quilt as a whole; the composition, the colors, fabrics used, as well as the effectiveness and quality of the quilting to the chosen design? It seems they are not looking at the whole picture.

All of this results in much soul searching in my part. Why am I disliking so much of the new work that is out there? Am I on the wrong track? I feel like my visual aesthetic is not in sync with the quilt world.
Celebration of Life by Ann Fahl
Lately, I've been pleased by the work I've been producing. I have a new piece hanging in my living room (you'll have to wait to see it), that I hope to keep for my entire life. It makes me feel so good to look at it. Yet I know when it is entered in the shows next year, it will not hang well with the rest of the competition.

What is driving this new direction in the quilt world?  Is it strictly commercialism? This has bothered me for a long time. Everyone jumps on the new tool, the latest book, or hot new technique that is out there. What has happened to the love of quilting?  Why not just make a quilt because you want to? Quilts can be made with simple tools: just fabric, scissors, thread and a needle. Why have we gotten so far off the track?

As quilters we are so lucky to be sewing at this time in history. There are so many beautiful fabrics and thread from which to choose. The internet provides us with information on technique and is heaven. We should be producing interesting, wonderful creative pieces with strong visual impact. Instead...........

Is it the economic times we live in? The world's economy is in a big slump and this affects our emotional and physical well being. Perhaps we just aren't making good design and color choices as a result of our financial situation and personal stress.
Symphony of Color II by Ann Fahl
Let's take a long look at our inner quilting selves. What do we want to accomplish in our lifetime of quilting? Let's try to create better, more original work, quilts that come from the heart.  Rushing through the process and adding yet another quilt to your stack isn't the best motivator for making good work. I like to enjoy and savor each step of the quilting process. The end result is a more satisfying quilt for the maker and the viewer.

All of us working together can make a stronger positive impact on the quilting world, we can make higher quality quilts for the generation that follows.

Ann Fahl

For more comments visit Diane Gaudynski's latest blog