Here are some snippets of that conversation (quotes are literal, not passive aggressive):
"...makes it sound as if this is the only thing that has happened to quilting for one hundred years."
"...in my humble opinion, ALL articles on Modern Quilt Movement make it sound like no one has been quilting in the last hundred years!"
"Sounds like 'someone' just discovered quilting and is touting MODERN QUILTING as the new thing, it is not new."
Also, more times than not, modern quilters, was put in quotes.
I don't know about you, but it sounds a little bitter doesn't it? I did not become involved in this discussion, maybe because I was afraid of losing it on them. I was pretty pissed off that an ART QUILTER group was being so judgmental and catty to another group of fiber artists. I'm always baffled when a minority group decides to go after another minority group, seems a little counterproductive and hypocritical.
I decided to contact some of the quilters that were interviewed in the WSJ article, and pick their brains a little about the perception of the modern quilters by the rest of the community. Here are their thoughts - also, stick through to the end and maybe a little faith will be restored!
Flaun Cline: Flaun Cline is a working mother and loving partner with an all-consuming passion for quilting. Raised by an English major textile enthusiast, love of the fiber arts was ingrained at a young age, but did not manifest prominently until 2009. She is the President of the Minneapolis Modern Quilt Guild. Her work can be found on Flickr, Instagram and on the world-wide web under the name of I Plead Quilty! Also, if you ever get to see one of Flaun's quilts in person, always be sure to look at the back. I swear some of her quilts it would be hard for me to choose which side to use as the front!
Maddie Kertay: "With a passion for quilting and enough sass to fuel a power plant." Maddie runs the site/Facebook page for The BadAss Quilters Society - this ain't your everyday group of quilters!
Lisa Sipes: A longarm quilter by profession, a serial sewist by nature. She can't help it, it's in her blood! Lisa is an amazing quilter, check out her blog ThatCrazyQuiltyGirl
Do you feel current modern quilters think they "invented" modern quilting?
Goodness, no. Perhaps traditional quilters feel that way because of our portrayal in recent media reports or because we don't feel a great need to follow what the "quilt police" say we should. Many of us don't prewash, we don't always press to the dark, we use polyester thread... It doesn't mean we disregard everything that came before, just that we question everything and find other ways to get great results!
I suspect that off handed comments and division promoted by the media has set the teeth on edge for both who cling to the term modern and those who feel a call to more traditional quilting. Honestly it is all a bunch of
spitting into the wind. It is much like buying a house. If you are shabby
chic at heart you are not going to be happy living in a Frank Lloyd Wright
home and if you are all cutting edge coolness living in a ramshackle farm
house full of fluff and ruffles is going to feel claustrophobic to you and
yet we don't go around criticizing people for the type of house they choose.
Then add Art quilters into the bunch.. they never get respect from either
group and have to be happy with their own work since these poor dears are
going it alone no matter how you cut it!
At the heart that is why I opened BAQS, it is a place where all who are
about support and not only being with those who support their particular
style can come to roost.. a passion for what you do is always important as
well as an open enough mind to know that others might choose another path..
or they might mix up their paths. I know personally I am all over the map
when it comes to quilting and I am happy not to be pigeon holed as anything
else but BadAss :)
Though this is a difficult question to answer, because different people think different things, I think that largely, the answer is no. I doubt anyone thinks that anything has been "invented", however things *are* being done in new/different ways.
Are the quilters labeling themselves as modern quilters, or were they labeled as such by the community?
We mostly label ourselves, but there are those who assume, for example, that a certain longarmer is a modern quilter, when she doesn't feel that way at all. (I think you know who I mean.) It's a side-effect of being human; we need a label for everything. Boy/girl, black/white, straight/gay, modern/traditional, we feel better when we can put things in a box. I don't feel labels matter that much, but more modern quilts resonate with me than traditional quilts.
I think at the time it was the name that felt best for those who started the
groups but I do take issue with it since modern is only a function of its
time in space. I honestly don't know a better word but it is a poor fit at
Again, this is a difficult one to answer. I think that a lot of people do label themselves as a modern quilter, then others, like me, have been labeled as such by the community. I don't call myself a modern quilter. First and foremost, because I'm not a fan of labels. With all things. We've become a society of labels, I'm not about that. When I'm in any type of relationship with someone, I don't need to label is as any sort of sub-type of relationship. I don't need to label my body type, my style, etc. I just want to live, let live, love, let love, and really - just do what I like. So with my quilting, I just do what I like. I think that working with Thomas Knauer was a big turning point in my quilting "style", but I still have no label for it. I like to put out good work. That's all that really matters to me. I think that maybe labels help some feel like they have an established identity or purpose, but I'm sort of the opposite.
The first machine quilters were shunned by the hand quilters, the longarmers were initially shunned by the machine and hand quilters, the art quilters were (are?) shunned by the traditional quilt world, and now it seems as if the modern quilters are starting to be judged by the traditional and art quilting community. Have you experienced any judging or negativity because you're a modern quilter?
I haven't personally experienced any judgement at all as a modern quilter. That may be an effect of my attitude, though. I was told by a wonderful designer at Market last week that she, as a woman in her fifties, has experienced a lot of up-turned noses by more recent quilters (who tend to be modern). If modern quilters come with a chip on their shoulder and a lack of willingness to listen and learn, even if they don't agree, they're going to get negativity right back.
Some would call some of my work "modern" but if you are to use the
guidelines of the movement itself my work does not cut it in that world. I
shun straight lines like a hooker shuns a tent revival, I am not simple, I
don't quilt on a home sewing machine. I like wildly quilted feathers and
cross hatching.. I would say that my style is fresh, colorful and Badass..
but modern it is not.
Absolutely I have. I wrote a rather opinionated blog about it, and it's funny because I only expressed about 1/10th of what I wanted to. We all know it is happening. And we all know why. Am I going to have to put it out there and say it? I will say it. It's happening first and foremost because change is difficult to swallow. While people may not believe anything is "changing", and they think that the newer generation of quilters aren't doing anything different, things ARE changing. Otherwise there wouldn't be so much friction. The other thing, and I hate to use this word, is jealousy. The modern quilting movement is getting a lot of attention. And I think it should! Because it's good to give attention to things that are helping such an old craft stay alive. And modern quilting is playing an integral part of keeping the quilting community alive and dare I say prosperous. It is putting a lot of attention on something to a whole new group of people that typically don't know, nor do they care about quilting. But it's different now. Things ARE changing. What is changing? Who knows? You can't always put your finger on it, you can't always label everything. But you know it's happening. You can feel it. And I think that there is perhaps a bit of jealousy that it's getting attention. No other reason, because really, there's no other reason for jealousy, is there? People think that modern quilters lack skill and ability. But those same people that think that, have not taken a moment to look deeper at it. People think modern quilts are "simple" and don't deserve attention. There is nothing simple about what I do. May I repeat that? THERE IS NOTHING SIMPLE ABOUT WHAT I DO. There may be simplicity to the design of something that I do, but complexity of the execution. And vice versa. Everything that I do, and how I do it, is done for a very specific reason. Thomas's In Defense of Handmade is probably the best example of that. They're not all simple. Are some? Yes. But so are some traditional quilts. So why point the finger at modern quilt artists that are just trying to do what they love?
Why do you think the new generation of quilters are so attracted to the modern quilting style?
I think each generation feels the need to distance themselves from the previous generation. Styles evolve in music, movies, art, fashion, and younger people in the process of discovery want the new, not what's been done before; that's for their grandparents. Of course, styles tend to be cyclical, as well, and a lot of what is seen now in the modern quilting world is heavily influenced, or even directly copied, whether consciously or not, from Mid-Century Modern design, De Stijl, and even the Amish. We do not have a corner on this "modern" thing. That having been said, modern quilts can be more simple, eliminating a lot of the intimidation factor for novice quilters. I think there is also more intense, saturated color in modern quilts than traditional, thereby creating more attraction in our media-bombarded brains. (The Contemporary and Art quilt worlds seem to fall somewhere in-between, to me, utilizing intense color for certain pieces, and more subdued in others.)
I think that the generally easy shapes, simple quilting and low detail
orientation of these quilts makes these quilts seem achievable to the person
just thinking about sewing. Over time I suspect that the movement will
mature, and change as its members gain more skills and confidence and
perhaps bore with boxes and straight lines Or maybe it won't - who the hell
knows. I do know that the quilts I saw at market were generally more
complex than what I am seeing in the blog world right now so maybe that is
some indication. I know that the quilt that won at Quilt Con was not
simple at all and actually violated just about every mandate of the MQG
manifesto.. so who the hell knows!
I think it's because they want to make pretty things, mainly. The thing is, what is "pretty" depends on who you ask. We ALL want to make pretty things. Right? Or meaningful things? Or happy things? I think a lot of it also may have to do with the hardcore online presence in modern quilting. We are a community. We share with one another and we are happy to post our work online... blogs, flickr, instagram, etc. So when you've got that community support so easily accessible that is somewhat lacking (?) on the "other side", that is going to be a big draw for people.
Are there any personal thoughts you'd like to share?
We modern quilters tend to be less conventional. Some of us have tattoos, piercings, and update not only our quilting style, but our cocktails and music while shaking up our get-togethers; we enjoy the company of passionate quilters with a different perspective. I think the updated attitude and style of the modern quilting movement has injected a lot of new blood into the quilting community at large. The Minneapolis Modern Quilt Guild is quite inclusive and has members from their 20s to their 80s! We enjoy everything each of us brings to the meetings and we'd love to see you there, just make sure the quilt police are off your tail.
For me this bickering and division among quilters is painful to watch and I
want no part of it and strive for a supportive and meaningful exchange at
all times. Most bickering comes from insecurity (if I am to take a page
from my parenting experience) so I would say to be true to your passion and
let the rest do as they must and will. Don't worry about what other quilting
groups say or think. There is enough creativity, fabric and inspiration out
there for all of us!
A ton. I have a ton of personal thoughts to share, and they are my thoughts and mine alone (though I know of several that agree with me). So I'm not speaking for anyone but myself, here okay?
To me, modern quilting is about making quilts that matter. Modern quilting is about making quilts that tell a story, convey an idea, make you feel something. Am I saying that all modern quilts accomplish that? No. Am I saying that no traditional quilts accomplish that? No. However, there's something to be said about making a quilt that tells a real story, versus throwing together a bunch of star blocks with fabric that you like. I think that mostly, the modern quilting movement is so grossly misunderstood (or at least that I AM), and that is why there's confusion and friction and even animosity.
The things that I read online before QuiltCon made me seriously wonder about humanity sometimes, because the judgementalism was just... whoa, dude. But then, everyone is entitled to their opinion right? But you really just don't need to try to tear down an entire group of people just because you don't agree with what they're doing. And I hope you realize I'm talking in a much larger scope than just quilting. :)
For the most part, I think modern quilters just want to be left to create and quilt. They appreciate traditional quilts and art quilts. It's not their fault that modern quilting is getting media attention lately, and frankly I think both the traditional quilters and art quilters need to chill the hell out and realize that there is no such thing as bad publicity in the art world. Publicity is publicity, and if an article gets more people in the "real world" looking at and talking about quilting as a viable business and/or art form, then by all means, LET IT! If we could teach ourselves to avoid labeling everything, I think it would help in that there wouldn't be those invisible lines segregating us. Does that make sense? There's no need for segregation in quilting. We are all making things, which is hugely important. To make things, rather than buy them. Because it feeds the soul, and the industry! It gives us a sense of accomplishment. Yes. Making things is important. It doesn't matter if what you make sucks, because if it sucks, it's supposed to suck. A lot of people make stuff that sucks (though who is to judge, right?) because you have to make stuff that sucks to learn how to make things that are good. And "good" should only be what is "good" to the individual. Try not to get sucked up into the arguments and negativity because that kills creativity and makes you doubt yourself. The most important thing is to give yourself permission to do what you like, try new things. You don't have to do what everyone else is doing. And you don't have to listen to the people that have negative things to say. But, it is also important to be able to determine whether they're actually being negative, or offering constructive criticism to help you on your way. If it is the latter, then it is also your choice whether or not you take it to heart and make changes. You know? I'm getting way too babbly now. But these things are important to me. Basically, can't we all just get along? And make lots of stuff?
To give a little hope to the situation, I want to share another quote from the original discussion about "modern quilters", this one made me feel better:
"We owe it to them to accept what they're doing and encourage anyone who we see experimenting. Just a few years ago we were bemoaning the fact that no young women were sewing anymore, so however they start that's great!"
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