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Quilting is a Beautiful & Complicated Art

While I’ve had the title of today’s blog listed as a lecture for a while – the thought has always been that it’s a trunk show however after my first (impromtpu) trunk show I’m am now understanding that the trunk show needs a new title and “Quilting is a Beautiful & Complicated Art” is a lecture in and of itself.  I’m not going to put the whole “talk” here on my blog however I am going to begin this conversation.  Part of this post comes from a thread on a discussion board & an email from a friend.  I hesitated answering at first because I needed a moment to think through the response in a way that would help define the talk and would make sense to my friend.
(c) Elizabeth Rosenberg
In and of itself art is as defined by my good friends Merriam- Webster, as a “skill acquired by experience, study or observation.”  Further, “the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects.”  M-W then goes on to give synonyms such as skill & craft to further define “Art”.  Wikipedia has a whole series of information on art!  Oh my goodness I could easily get overwhelmed by it all if I wasn’t totally happy with Merriam-Webster!
Let me start by saying that all styles of quilting can be an art form from traditional work to the avant-garde.  Whether we’re traditional quilters in the same line as Jinny Beyer & Alex Anderson honing our piecing and quilting skills or rather defined “art” quilters in the line of Hollis Chatelain, Laura Wasilowski.  Please know that with both lists I could go on and on…I want to keep this brief.
When I give thought to all that goes into quilting from choosing fabrics, designs, cutting, piecing, determining batting, & thread design  I’d say most quilters by the very definition are artists.  As we work towards honing our skills we develop a style that suits our nature, that gives us life, that brings us joy.  As I work toward developing my skill as a quilter I can and will share with you some moments where I felt like banging my head on that wall right over there because I was so bleeping frustrated with some part of the process.  Walking away from the quilting room for sometimes a couple of days while I think things through is sometimes the way to go.  “When Alex & Jinny met in NY, Beauty Happened” is a clear testament to working through a frustrating process to achieve the goals of making a NY Beauty & learning paper piecing.
Think about the choices we face in each one of the following components:

Chloe Blue/Ocean

fabric – color, texture, developing an understanding of what works & why; developing an understanding of what style of fabric appeals to us, we don’t need to know why it does just that it appeals

designs – whether changing up someone else’s pattern or designing a simple, effective 9 patch there is a geometric understanding of how things work.  The more complicated the design, the more the fabric choices need to work together.  Quilters often have an intuitive understanding of math, specifically algebra & geometry although a lot of them would say they struggled with math in school.  We problem solve, figure out how much yardage we need (algebra) & the geometry is a little more obvious.
cutting – accuracy is essential – the better the cutting the better the quilt, unless of course you’re working on an “art” piece where free form cutting, ripping, snipping, fusing are embrace for the texture and style necessary for the piece
piecing – piecing well taking time & care gives insight into how much skill a quilter has, it’s why we admire the Amish so much, their skill level is often off the chart.  Yes the patterns are not complicated however they are accurate.  Then there’s all the different kinds of piecing with pins, without pins, foundation piecing – including paper or fabric, appliqué (raw edge, fusible, needle turn, etc)
batting – has an effect on the look of the entire quilt when we’re finished, we have to give consideration to loft and how we want that loft to effect the look of the quilting when we’re finished
thread design – thread weight, color and type all have an effect on the look of the quilt.  We can hide or highlight piecing issues here.
I’ve also been thinking about what kind of quilter I am and I’m going to start a new movement and define myself as a quilter – I’m not traditional, though my work has tendencies in that direction; I’m not contemporary (though by current quilting definitions that certainly seems to be my niche) I’m not an “art” quilter as currently defined.  I’m also not particularly bothered by the sometimes encountered perception that quilts are “just blankets” because for a long time that’s what they were, no matter how ornately made.
I am an artist as consistently defined by Merriam-Webster.  I spend a lot of time & energy honing a craft that I love, that is my passion and in that I have a lot to offer as an artist and as a teacher.  The talk itself goes into more detail with each topic.
Happy Quilting!

13 thoughts on “Quilting is a Beautiful & Complicated Art”

  1. Very well thought out, Teri! You are absolutely correct–we ARE all artists no matter what style speaks to our soul. Just following our hearts and making the quilts that reside there is testimony to the artistry of our process. Well put!

  2. Teri,
    I love your philosophy. You are always stretching your ideas and encompass both the old and the new.

  3. Well said Teri. Yes, you are very much an artist/quilter. Your sense of fabric and color are astounding and teaching your knowledge gives
    credit to your ability.

  4. I really needed to read that today. Thanks so much for all that you’ve taught me so far. I can’t wait to see where the road takes me.

  5. Hi Teri,

    I’m so honored that you chose to illustrate your wonderful post with my quilt. Loved reading your thoughts on art and artists and quilts and quilting. Of course you are a quilter. You are also an artist. You can define yourself to be whatever you wish yourself to be . . .

  6. Well said! There is an art to many things in this life, that is what gives most things a human touch!

  7. Beautifully expressed and so true. I have always said that I consider my quilting “hobby” a form of “art independant study”. The course will end when I run out of either fabric, ideas or motivation. But it doesn’t look like that will happen anytime soon!

  8. I’m getting inspired to be more original. I chose material for a “one block wonder” which wasn’t wonderful. So, I designed my own wall hanging and table runner with all those hexagons and it turned out great!

  9. Quilters have always been creative people. We use cloth instead of paints and thread instead of pencils or charcoal. We still see with creative eyes. I have started making more wall hangings since I moved into a smaller place, and can be much freer with my designs. Not only do I design my own hangings, I have to measure and make the patterns, too. I’m having alot of fun!

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