Archive for the ‘art quilts’ Category

Dumbing Down in a Crowded Field?

Monday, September 15th, 2008

I make very non traditional quilted textile art works, commonly called ‘art quilts’ , although as I and others have said before, there really isn’t a totally satisfactory term to cover these endeavours.
Recently a publisher announced plans for a new periodical for ‘art quilters’ to consist of one part information including how-to articles and advertising, and the other part focusing on individual artists and their works. It sounds to me like a cross between a catalogue and a magazine, with the inevitable ads. This kind of venture has been tried before. Ten years or more back, there was one with huge amounts of lovely pics and original writing including interesting reviews , but it folded after a couple of years’ struggle with production difficulties -the supporting advertising revenue didn’t seem to be there. Another more recent publication has become a series of mass-appeal project pieces with advertising – very, very technique- and how-to oriented, and really short on the art side of it all. Safe and mainstream.

As one friend privately commented last week, among aspiring art quilters there is so much emphasis on technique and very little attention paid to learning more about art, the general perception being that for those wearying of making traditional quilts there is the art quilt field to just blithely transition into. There are heaps of classes covering how to manage the mandatory dyes and paints, printing manipulating digital images, and all the while designing intuitively … ‘intuitive’ is a buzz word in the art quilt field.

And not only that, but there are associations, organisations one can join to learn all about promoting and marketing your art in a series of professional development programs, ranging from mentoring phone hookups to on-line encyclopaedic treatises on everything the aspiring art quilter could possibly need to know, from what size a mailable quilted postcard should be, to whether quilted art should be framed, mounted or hung, with or without glass, and so on. You can even pay someone to help you design your studio; and no one calls their work area a ‘sewing room’ or ‘work room’ nowadays, it seems.

The main point is usually missed totally: that in truly original work there are no rules.

‘Art quilters’ will flock in droves for subscription copies of this new publication, and will seize the opportunity to be featured artists by submitting images; but I predict none of it will result in wider appreciation of the genre, nor will it result in more high quality writing , or thoughtful reviews of quilted textile art. Michael James ruffled feathers and caused frenetic controversy a couple of years back by suggesting that quilters as a group are woefully ignorant of the wide world of contemporary art and design, mostly happily reproducing what they are taught by workshop teachers who present predominantly technique based classes. Among the many contemporary quiltmakers I personally know there are relatively few original designers demonstrating mastery of design and colour, who choose to use sublimely appropriate techniques (high or low tech) who really think about the content of their designs, and whose work can be identified as being of note within the contemporary art scene in their region in which they operate.

Man-made Surfaces

Friday, February 8th, 2008

Just looking through and sorting some of the pics I took in Egypt last year I found some of these man-made surfaces. They intrigued me just as much as the massive temples and monuments with carved and painted pictorial records and stories that we experienced in our classic tour of Upper Egypt. The tomb and temple carvings were magnificent and along with the massive scale of these buildings, totally awe-inspiring. I’d like to go back and see more, at a cooler time of year, but the problem then is the place is totally packed with tourists like me …

In and around the architecture, all over the place I noticed lots of interesting patterning. Examples such as these were very inspiring, but rarely noticed by visitors focused on all the grand scale stuff around them. I feel they may influence something I do in the future especially once I get my laser cutter. We’re still making customs inquiries, so my order is not firmly placed yet. Uruguay being basically on holiday for another few weeks, we are not expecting answers any time soon.

The main area where I see these surface patterns inspiring something is quilting treatment, machine or hand. For example I can envisage hand made knots, or a knot plus bead, something lumpy set out in the kind of grid pattern of this ancient door in a gate in the wall of the old city of Cairo, UL: the UR panel is a ceiling covered with the 5-point stars that appear in so many temples and tombs 0f the pharaohs; and I have already used this once as a machine quilted motif for the quilt “Gift of the Nile” shown in part on the blog for october 7, 2007. LR is some of the highest part of the gateway to a temple at Luxor (I think) and who knows – I just like it; and finally LR a texture I love, the mane of a lion carved from granite ,standing outside a temple. Granite is really hard but these lines are so beautifully fluid and hair-like. I see it as a machine quilting pattern probably but possibly in combination with hand stitch.

On one of the lists to which I subscribe, in the past week one writer commented that she had to quilt something and was procrastinating since she didn’t like doing quilting. Well, you don’t have to quilt anything. You can tie with wool other threads and string, buttons, staples, safety pins, sewing pins – I have seen all these used to function as the quilt stitch does – ie hold layers together. And, one can always farm it out to someone who does love to quilt. Personally, I find the old under/over/under/over thing beautiful in the right place, ie a carefully constructed and quilted traditional geometric or applique quilt, especially the baltimore album quilts. But so many people are working to produce non-traditional quilt designs these days that it seems amazing to me that they feel bound to quilt them as they always have using the traditional under/over/under/over, painstakingly doing x stitches to the inch, in fine pure cotton thread. Or if they are machining, the now rather unimaginative meandering and stippling seems to be the limit of some repertoires. If you paint, print, applique, collage, dye and and piece non-traditionally to produce non-traditional quilt designs, to me that begs exploration of intereasting, unusual quilting potential. You can quilt with anything from microfilament to heavy string, ribbon, and everything in between whether the label says ‘quilting thread’ or not.

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Freehand Demo at Uruguay Quilters 7/7/07 – arcs.

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

Oh well, I suppose this is a nice casual photo arrangement that blogger has decided is ‘it’ for today since I really wanted to upload all these pics in close proximity.
On the right is a detail of fabric I have shown once before (post for 19th may) I show it because it is an entirely easy, sensible and indeed obvious way to divide a square/block with non-intersecting arcs, the underlying unit in the many I have seen of Susan Leslie Lumsden’s quilts, one of which is depicted on a postcard lying on the luminous quilter’s ruler up towards the top righthand corner of the central photo.
On the table are the segments I cut from 4 layers of fabric to be the first 4 blocks in a quilt for my DD, and which I used as a demo of freehand rotary cutting and piecing for two quilters who hadn’t seen it before. The arcs were then shuffled so that there was one of each colour in each block, and these have now long since been sewn together, and joined by many more. How will I arrange the huge number of blocks I need for a large kingsize bed? Well , there are several options, and I’ll decide what looks best a bit further down that road. They could be randomly oriented as in the printed silk above right, or in blocks of 4 with circle-like formations as per Susan’s, or any of the variations of Rob Peter to Pay Paul –all just arcs cut from squares. This way of working has lots of potential, and the particular bedspread I’ve just started is golds, blacks and dark browns, jungle prints, deep blues, and dashes of purples, oranges, tans, lime and citrus. They consist of commercial prints and several commercial hand dyeds, and as I go I will dig into the scrap bag for an occasional ‘zinger’ fabric to highlight the other fairly numerous fabrics I have gathered for this project.

When is a Quilt an Art Quilt?

Saturday, June 23rd, 2007

According to one writer on the Quiltart list this week, art quilts are “Stuff That Hangs on The Wall and Never Gets Washed”.
The discussion topic centred about what batting/filling people preferred to use in their quiltmaking, and her comment inferred that lightness and warmth were irrelevant for those who made art quilts, ie that these were too small to be of body warming use, anyway, since they hang on walls, see above, and, ergo, are small.

Does this mean only art quilts are small? Does this mean that art quilts cannot be large? Or does it mean that no art quilts are large, ergo, sufficient to be placed on beds as either docorator covers or warmth pieces? Someone else on the Quiltart list today even asked if anyone could give her a list of the dimensions that are usually required for entries into art quilt exhibitions ….. my only thought was ” how long is a piece of string?” there is no answer – anything goes, usually.

The term ” Art Quilt” is a vexed one. It has come to be a generally accepted but often confusing and criticised term describing those quilted textiles which are far removed from the domestically crafted work that we know and understand to be ‘traditional quilts’, and yet which at the same time by virtue of construction similarity (2 or more likely 3 layers,, quilted together as one) are clearly derived from the traditional. The differences between the two focus on their implied purposes (bed coverings versus decorator, wall-art functions) and the manner of the decorative patterns on the quilt top/front. In general terms, the majority of traditional quilts involve patterns of either intricately pieced geometric patterns (sewn together by hand or machine) or pictorial designs (either pieced or appliqued) After the surface design or patterning, the top is layered with batting and backing, and the whole quilted, with often very elaborate quilting stitchery forming another surface pattern. In the constantly evolving world of art quilt design, almost anything goes, from digitally enhanced photographic images, applied with stencil, screen or by hand, paints or dyes, inkjet and various other means of print and other transfer processes, fabrics bonded with adhesive film, and in addition various modern uses of the older traditional technqiues. Piecing and applique techniques still abound, but I noticed that in this year’s Quilt National exhibition, that something less than 25% of exhibited pieces relied for surface design on the ‘ old’ techniques of hand or machine piecing and applique – all others have some blend of paint, dye and computer aided digital something or other, and often quite a few different surface design techniques were used in the one piece. This is not a criticism – just a sign of how rapidly and how far things are changing in the world of Art Quilting. Some prefer the term Studio Quilts, by the way, and yet to me this implies something a bit aloof , elitist perhaps… so I don’t feel really comfortable with it, either.

Since everything I make is of my own design, regardless of size or intended function, I claim that everything I do is an art quilt. Modern quilted textiles, IMHO, defy categorisation in any meaningful way other than to say they are all ‘quilts’. The pic above shows “Tara and Ivan’s Quilt”, a very large king size bed cover intended for their 4-poster as a modern day ‘wedding quilt’. Two friends, Robin and Vance, pictured with me in front of this very large art quilt, were attending the opening of my most recent solo exhibition in Washington DC at the Aus Embassy, in 2005.

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