Friday, November 9, 2012

Quilt Judge on a Soap Box

Not too long ago, I was one of a panel of judges for a lovely quilt show, in a modest sized midwestern town.  Some of the work was outstanding; there was quite a bit of hand applique, a few hand quilted pieces, some amazing pieced work, a few were absolutely masterfully made, yet there were only 5 entries that were original designs!

Pardon me while I pull out my soap box one more time after a quilt exhibit.......... What has happened to us as quilters? Quilting has enjoyed a great resurgence of interest since about 1976--the bicentennial year. Have we still not learned enough about our art/craft to create more original work? Perhaps quilting has become more of a money making business rather than an art.  There are businesses creating books and patterns, tv shows, tool manufacturers, big exhibitions and contests, there are websites and workshops to teach new ideas,  and the list goes on and on........
We can cut out all the pieces for a quilt by cranking a machine, we don't need scissors and rotary cutters. We can sit at a sewing machine, and let it do the stitching for us.  If we create a top, we send it out to be quilted. Somewhere we have lost the joy and satisfaction of creating our own work.  I think you get the idea.
Everyone is trying to sell something!
Each time I finish a quilt, whether large or small, I feel a great sense of satisfaction in creating something that is truly my own. The process of making a quilt is similar to a treasure hunt. I begin with a small idea, and I keep working on a design wall, until pleased with its composition and appearance.  Yes, it takes time to create something that is your own. Most of the time I never know what the final project will look like until it's done.  Why use a pattern, you already know what the finished product will look like?  Where is the surprise?

Ann almost feels like a queen when she finishes a new project, she feels so proud.

Yes, we all have different talents and skills.  Let me challenge all of my readers to try to add something original to each project you begin.  You may be surprised to find you have the skills to create more than you think. You will become more confident in yourself.  Sometimes this path will put some obstacles in your way, it isn't always easy. Remember that the quilting community is one of the most helpful and supportive group of people in the world.  Ask for assistance and you will find many suggestions and possible solutions. After a few projects your skill and idea bank will grow.

Please give this a try. As a community we need to rediscover our creativity.  It's in there, we just need to let it grow.

Ann Fahl


Heather said...

One reason I haven't done much at all with original patterns is that there are just SO MANY exciting patterns out there that I want to do! I could (and do) easily fill all of my quilting time on the patterns I have purchased or found online. However, I did just complete my first quilt ever without a pattern (it was based on a photo so not completely original) and while it was definitely tough I also felt very rewarded when I finished it, so I do see your point. I think with the internet quilting is also a little competitive - when you see so many amazing original quilts out there (like yours!) it's a little intimidating to try to create something yourself because you know it won't look that great compared to these amazing quilt artists' projects.

Lori R. said...

Ann, I couldn't agree more! Even in my more traditional beginnings, I would start with a block that interested me, then develop my own setting, size, color scheme, border treatment, etc. Part of the joy of quilting is "figuring it out".

innerbanks said...

Ann, I have been saying these things (less eloquently) for many years. When I ask people why they don't develop their own designs, they most often say they believe that are not capable of it. I don't think I'll ever understand why so many quilters don't like to quilt.

Sally said...

You are so right. And I must admit it's only recently that I've had the courage to begin creating my own designs. I've begun taking some workshops with excellent teachers who, though they have their own trademark works generally, have inspired me to take their techniques and use it in my own work in a new way. Sometimes you need that impetus to get you going. Thanks for the post. It re-enforces my new path.

Daryl @ Patchouli Moon Studio said...

Even if I use a pattern, I try to make it my own by changing things and never doing the quilt exactly like the pattern. My husband has always told me to do my own designs, because as he puts it, "Using a pattern is like a paint-by-number painting only with fabric".

I have often wondered how people can put quilts in quilts shows these days when they use a pattern they purchased, pay someone else to quilt it and often buy a kit or jelly roll of fabrics where the fabrics are already chosen for them. Where is the creativity? Then they get all the oohs ans ahhs, when truly it was a joint effort to make the quilt.

At a local quilt show here they have started a new catagory that states that if the quilt is quilted by a long arm quilter that you paid to have it quilted, then it is considered a "group quilt", as it should be. But when the "quilter" who enters the quilt in the show and wins something, do they share that award with the person that actually quilted the quilt? Long arm quilters that are paid to do other peoples quilts are like make-up artists or dress designers in that they make YOU look good. How can people call themselves quilters when they do not quilt anything? They are really piecers (or appliquers) and not quilters.

It does seem that nearly everyone has something to sell too nowadays; whether it's a supply, tool or finished product.

The bottom line is that you must enjoy what you do, whether you make something to sell, make a quilt from a pattern or create your own original quilts. After all if we all create original quilts, there would be no market for patterns, books, etc.

Unknown said...

For me, there is an education/learning curve involved. I learn from using the pattern of someone who knows what they're doing. I try to stay away from kits, I try to choose my own fabrics, this is part of developing an eye for color. I do quilt my own's hard enough to say it's someone else's pattern. I agree with you about creativity. And I really feel that quilts at shows should be dinged for not being totally original. I used to show horses, and learned then that judging is subjective, and I'm afraid that in quilting, it's the same. We all quilt for various reasons, some to make snuggly quilts, some to make art, some to win ribbons. Just sayin.

Anonymous said...

And some people just want to make a quilt! Not everyone wants to design. It's unfair to be judgmental about what someone else finds fulfilling. To each his own!

annieQ said...

To Anonymous,
You are right, we are all free to do or make what we want in the quilt world. I will take one step back from my position, but I am still stunned by the lack of original work in this world.

Jane said...

I agree whole heartedly, and it is quilts made from the heart that inspire me to keep on making original quilts. Why make a masterpiece when it is a copy? I really enjoy designing my own quilts, I may use blocks that are in the public domain but the colour, layout and particularly the quilting is all mine. I am not a very good drawer, but do my best and have made some prize winning quilts with original designs, so I am right behind you Ann!

Karen said...

I totally agree!! One of my goals when I served as president of our guild's night chapter was to encourage each person to make something original. Most quilters have a fear or the idea that they don't have the skill. Thanks for saying it so well.

Amy said...

It was kind of odd to read your blog post because I feel like the quilting world is being taken over by art quilts and modern quilts. I love reproduction patterns and reproduction fabrics -- mainly Civil War items. I find pictures of antique quilts and then try to reproduce them. I don't like getting quilt magazines that have all of the modern stuff ... it's just not my thing. So I guess it's just a matter or personal taste. But I do believe that any time people take the time to pick up some scissors, or a rotary cutter, or a needle and thread, or sit at a sewing machine, they are being creative. Some people want to have complete control from start to finish - others want someone else to control things for them.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Ann, it was so nice to hear a quilt judge say something that I have often thought! To me, the design part is the fun part of quilting. However, in order to know if my design works, I have to actually produce it. It is a problem solving/experimenting exercise, sometimes in joy and sometimes in frustration. Perhaps if originality were actually a judging criteria, things would change.

Barb H said...

At shows, I'd like to see credit given to the designer of the quilts, whether an original design or a pattern, and to the quilter as well as the piecer. I was at a show recently where there were about 6 or more quilts made with the identical pattern--the quilters had taken the same class at a local shop--using very similar fabrics. Each quilt was very nice and for some reason, one was chosen for an award--I'd like to know why a quilt is chosen for an award, what attribute made it a winner. We'd all learn something from that.

annieQ said...

So many of you have good comments. Amy has made a comment on her reason for making copies of old quilts. One of the wonderful reasons for being a part of the quilt world, is that there are aspects that appeal to everyone.

My entire focus is on doing original work. But others are here for their own reasons. As long as we are true to ourselves; whether it be original work, baby stuff, or antique reproductions; we will all be happy people!

Do your own thing.

Ann Fahl

Jessim said...

I've designed many of my quilts (I've never shown anything, I'm not that good.)

Most of the time when I post them, someone says "ooh, I've been wanting to make that pattern". Turns out I am not that creative, as the patterns I've designed are often already published by someone else.

annieQ said...

Continue to create your own ideas. Many quilters assume, that whatever they see has been made from a pattern.

Many of my quilts will never be made into patterns. Creating a pattern that everyone can understand is a time consuming challenge. I only want to make quilts, not patterns.

Cori said...

Thank you as someone who does use some patterns to help me learn a new technique.(Judy Niemeyer) I am shocked by the same designs being used over and over again. And all claim to be originial designs.

annieQ said...

Eventually you will feel like you have a strong basic knowledge of quilting, and you will free to just "jump in" with the confidence that you don't need a pattern anymore!