‘Modern’ Quilting

4 08 2010

Recently, the Milwaukee-Madison Modern Quilt Guild split, due to geography, and became the Milwaukee Modern Quilt Guild, while someone separate from the existing guild founded a Ning group called the Madison Modern Quilt Guild.  I’ve gone and joined the Madison group.

The founder of the new group started a discussion on what makes a ‘modern’ quilter.  I couldn’t resist throwing my two (thousand) cents in, especially since this is a topic that just keeps percolating in the back of my mind.  This is what brownbuilt posted:

I have been asking myself what makes someone a “modern” quilter and I came up with this:
You Might be a Modern Quilter if…
…you consider Deniye Schmidt your own personal hero
….you wander around a quilt show, wondering where all the “cool” fabrics are. You leave a quilt store with a suspicious feeling that all those quilts are beautiful, but not quite your style
….you have no interest in making a traditional Christmas stocking or anything from most traditional quilting books.
….you love fabrics from designers such as Amy Bulter, Heather Ross, Heather Bailey, Tula Pink, Erin Micheal, and Anna Maria Horner, to name but a few.
…. you go online to search for fabric, find techniques, and read other quilting blogs
Any more you can think of?

And this is what I wrote in response:

I had to have a chuckle when I read this, because I just don’t match any of these, besides the second and last ones.  Keep in mind, though, that I started quilting in the most traditional manner possible.  I checked out a book from the library, and followed its instructions for making cardboard(!) templates, traced around them, cut my fabrics with scissors, and then hand sewed(!!) everything for about six years.   (One of my first quilts was a hand-stitched Double Wedding Ring Quilt.)  Then I discovered the sewing machine…  ‘Nuff said.

Maybe I’m way old school, but for me, throwing the word ‘wonky’ or ‘improv’ in front of a block or quilt name doesn’t make it ‘modern’ to me.  I’m not much for abstract art either though.  

I don’t particularly go ga-ga over any designers, though I do admire the aesthetics of Joel Dewberry and Tula Pink.  And most ‘modern’ quilters think the following statement is blasphemy:  Kaffe Fassett’s prints and quilts look like Technicolor vomit.  I think it’s a crime that he re-colored some of Liberty of London’s prints.

I’ve only ever purchased several prints within a fabric line twice in my life, and I have never made a quilt using only the prints from a single line.  I find it boring and not at all challenging.  Quilting is expressing my vision, and I feel like confining myself within a single fabric line serves to only express the fabric designer’s vision.  

For me, being a ‘modern’ quilter is about working beyond the barriers of ‘traditional’ quilting, even if it’s as simple a barrier as working a traditional block in a different value or color scale.  It’s about embracing the things that make us unique as creative individuals and allowing those things to help us thrive as artists.  It’s about being unafraid to follow my own vision, rather than copying someone else’s pattern (and really, how many freaking four-patch patterns can there be out there?!?).  It’s about letting the materials at hand speak to me, and letting my intuition guide the final project.  It’s about being unafraid of color, and working outside of my comfort zone.

I guess, really, for me, it comes down to being true to myself and not becoming entrenched in what others think a quilt should look like.  Sure, I’ll use traditional blocks and settings, but, then again, so did the Amish, and ‘traditional’ Amish quilts are as modern as you can get!  Such strong use of color and line, married with technical expertise – I can only hope to achieve such beauty in my quilts.




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