Saturday, August 13, 2011

Contemporary Quilts = Sloppy Quilts?

Today I picked up a book at Barnes from the discount area about contemporary quilts. While the designs were interesting I was again reminded of how many people seem to think because a quilt is "art" that it's okay to ignore the basic principles of good quilting.

I don't mean to be mean, I really don't. I understand that there is a learning curve. That's not what I'm referring to. I'm talking about the people that you know have been doing this for quite awhile, and still seem to have no desire to do things properly.

Quilting has been around a long time, and I think it's only right that we respect the traditional quilters of the past as well as today. Our fore-mothers would greatly appreciate it if we would learn how to execute the basics properly.

What am I talking about? Here are some examples:

  • Saggy front due to not having enough quilting
  • A very non-square quilt when you know it wasn't intentional - they just didn't care enough to square up the piece properly
  • Poor quality binding - uneven thickness, poorly stitched on
  • Unevenly quilted - densely quilted in a few areas then essentially ignored everywhere else
  • Hanging threads - Both the non clipped threads from starts and stops, but I've also noticed areas that were "unstitched" but they didn't bother to pick out the little lashes left over
I don't mean to be a quilt snob, I really don't. But I do take it a bit personally, and find it embarrassing when I see art quilts where it's obvious the person didn't really give a damn at all. Fiber artists often have strained relationships with the traditional quilting world and in traditional shows, and I am put off by people who seem hell bent on perpetuating the idea that art quilts are just "slapped together". We are working very hard to earn respect as fine artists using a medium not readily accepted in the art world yet - please don't make it harder!

Just slow down and put some effort into it! If you are hanging a piece in a show, that piece is a representation of yourself. Don't you want to show your best "self" to all those people coming to the quilt shows? All it takes is a couple of classes on the basics; binding, quilting and tension!


  1. What consitutes "properly" or "quality" is not yet universally decided. I support everyone doing it "their" way if it is artistic expression for them - there is no way of knowing they didnt "want' to do it properly. For whatever reason what it is is what it is. Art is not a competitive sport - let it be judged in the the eye of the consumer not by colleagues unless your goal is mentorship and that is more about guidance that judgement.

  2. While the content and execution may not be to my liking - that is not what I am referring to. I am referring to poor structure. A painting on a poorly stretched canvas would be an example of someone not taking the time to learn the proper techniques to their craft.

    I have no problem with "the rules" being broken, but I do believe that you have to know the rules before you can break them with purpose in order to achieve whatever you might be striving for.

    As far as being judged - I was referring to pieces I am seeing in published books and competitions who are indeed putting themselves out there to be judged.

    But, this is an opinion piece and it's only that, my opinion. :)

  3. Proper quilting standards have been set and quality work should be quality work including binding, blocking and even quilting across the surface. Just because the quilt is intended to be "art" that doesn't permit sloppy work, no I think more better higher quality work is called for as one of the definitions of an artist is entails a continual honing of the craft one participates in.
    Strive for good quality art work Stephanie & teach it! The more we teach and promote good quality work the more quality of the work will increase.

  4. I agree with standards, and with learning the rules before you break them - that comes from my art school background. Basic principles. But the work I'm drawn to is often about torn edges, imperfections, detritus. I want to walk the line in my own art between basic principles and the worn lines of the found object - how closely do we examine objects and intentions before we break down to subjective filters of preference? I suppose you can't please all the people all the time...