I have no shame in admitting that I am an anarchist quilter and have been for quite some time. I make quilts, and I make them in any way I want to. If I want to have raw edged applique, I do. If I want to sew a piece of newspaper or even aluminum on my piece, I will. I will paint, tear, stain, strain, stamp, dip, and whatever else I need to do to create a piece I have in mind.
Even though I make non-traditional contemporary pieces, I adore traditional work - I just adore it when someone else is doing it! I am in awe of the intricate pieces and the traditional quilting (hand and by machine). Honestly, when I have to quilt a traditional quilt for a gift or anything, I’m extremely uncomfortable. I don’t know how to approach the quilting on a traditional quilt usually. One of my goals, is to eventually be able to purchase a whole cloth quilt from one of the “big girls” in our field. The traditional quilter’s artistic skills amaze me all the time!
I often hear that art quilters should switch and call themselves fiber artist because we don’t “follow the rules” therefore we don’t really make “quilts” anymore. I will continue to call my pieces quilts, because they follow the guidelines that are required for them: at least three layers and secured together with stitching through those layers. Just because I don’t necessarily have traditional piecing in it, does not mean it isn’t a quilt.
Ahh, but you may be saying to yourself it can’t be a quilt because the stitches are not uniformly perfect, or it’s not a rectangle because one side is longer than the other. This may be true, but I tend to look to other art forms (and yes, quilting is an art form, whether it’s traditional or contemporary). A painting is a painting if its painted! If a painter paints a stripe on a piece of plywood the art world generally isn’t going to argue with him.
Sometimes I feel there is a growing animosity between traditional and contemporary quilters, and I find it sad. Rather than arguing amongst ourselves as we often find, we should be banding together and asserting ourselves as artists. We need to recognize that neither side should be expecting the other to change; if you want to piece traditional quilts go for it, if so and so wants to create an abstract quilted fiber piece, more power to them! No matter what type of quilts we’re making, we need to support each other and promote quilting as an art form. It is such a diverse and multifaceted community, we have so much to offer the art world!
The key here is education. When people say it’s “just a quilt”, try responding, “Yes, it is a quilt. It is also art.” There are priceless tapestries that hang in museums that have never touched the floor, are they “just rugs”? Is the Mona Lisa “just a painting”?
Instead of picking on each other, or judging each other, or excluding X type of quilting from quilt shows, etc. let’s expand our horizons. Quilt shows are beginning to open new categories to be able to accommodate the many various types of quilters, let’s encourage them to keep doing so! If you’re in a traditional quilt guild, don’t be afraid of inviting members who are non-traditional and the same goes for those contemporary guilds. Each group could benefit highly from the knowledge of the other, and we can certainly use each other support!
Diversity after all, is what makes life so interesting! Don’t ya think?
And...for any of those interested in updates from the previous post on discharged pieces, this is what is next to be quilted in my studio, the discharged butterfly: