Thursday, June 19, 2008

The No-Quilt-Police Quilt Show

I've been giving lots of thinking to the kind of Quilt Show I'd love to go to. Again I just got magazines with the award winners at some major shows and I'm just left feeling hohumm. hmm. okay. Sure some are technically gorgeous, but just don't do it for me.

This quilt (a Depression-era String Quilt from the Virginia Quilt Museum) is a perfect example. I figure these blocks are about 3" - none of them are very square.

Of course I'd want to see newly made quilts, not just antiques.
Nothing made from patterns, kits, blocks of the month. Fabric choices made by the quilter, gosh darn it. Applique that someone has drawn the pattern for themselves or just cut freely from the fabric. Hand marked quilting - no stencils.
The usual judging rules would be banned from my dream show. I want quilts with heart, soul, imperfection, joy... Not what you get in the big, tense overly stressful quilts that seem to be prized today.
My awards would be:
  • Quilt we'd want to sleep under when we're sick.
  • Quilt we'd most want to wake up to every morning.
  • Quilt that will still be as fresh and wonderful in 100 years as it is now.
  • Quilt that makes us smile
  • Quilt that makes us want to dance
  • Judges' Favorite: Joyful
  • Judges' Favorite: Color
  • Judges' Favorite: Exuberance
  • Judges' Favorite in hand quilting etc
you get the idea. what other fun awards can you come up with?
If your guild is putting on a show, see if you can add some awards like these. Everything shouldn't always be Best Best Best.
It makes me sad that the Gee's Bend quilts are so invigorating and have done so well in the art world and yet seem to have made no impact on the Quilt World, not in the shows and not in the how-to books. Beautiful art books for sure, but that seems to be it.
In Tonya news, I went out for my first long walk since my knee acted up. It all went fine and I don't seem to have messed my knee up. Woohoo. But I didn't do any sewing afterwords, figured it best to stay off the knee and just hand quilt instead. Getting closer and closer to done.
Bonnie did an interesting post about machine quilting after attending a show. And have ya'all seen the beautiful string quilt Holly just pieced together?
argh, hate it when Blogger refuses to space properly. sorry this post is all jumbled together.


Amanda said...

I'm with you on this Tonya. I'm pretty new to quilting but I hate it when I start to feel I have to apologise because my seams don't quite meet up, or there's two bits of fabric the same next to each other, or there's a wobbly line in my quilting etc etc. I'm beginning to think there's at least two types of quilts - probably more - but roughly speaking, those quilts made especially for shows, that you'd probably never want to use or dare to wash, or put in your own less than perfect home. Then there are those that you just want to pick up and cuddle and squish, and snuggle under and know you could USE and that would look great in your homely home.

Hedgehog said...

Please, sign me up for that show! As an attendee, as a submitter, maybe even as a judge! It makes me so sad to see when people are so hard on themselves because of someone else's imaginary rules. I appreciate almost all types of quilts - and if you want to be perfect, go for it - but why does that attitude seem to dominate the quilt world/industry? Isn't there room for everyone?

Speaking of industry, I'm getting really turned off by that aspect of this art/craft. I don't want to be told what to do/use. I don't want to be marketed to all the time. I'm glad I have access to books and tools, but I don't need to buy them all. Quilting has become such an industry. People have stashes that would last them three or four lifetimes if they sewed 24/7 for the rest of their lives. Of course I also have a stash, but I just want to keep these things in perspective.

This is certainly not our (great-)grandmothers' quilting. I want to quilt in a way she'd recognize. I could teach her new things, she could teach me forgotten things, but she'd still recognize quilting as quilting. I'm afraid if she went to something like Quilt Market, she wouldn't.

Sorry for the rant!

dutchcomfort said...

Wonderful post Tonya. I have split feelings too. I purchased a lot of fabfrics and patterns to make quilts of. I learn a lot from making these quilts. I guess it’s like when I studied graphic design, you first want to know the techniqual stuff, the rules, the materials you can use, the effects and then you can go and play around. I love to make quilts from my own design or by being inspired by a drawing or a card, like my kitty quilt.
But then... I love to make the technical difficult Dear baby Jane blocks and I hope that the fabrics I use will make the quilt very much my own.
So in the end, I guess I love both ways. Most important is that we make quilts that we enjoy to make and enjoy to use.

Your awards are wonderful, maybe you could add Quilt that makes someone in need feeling comforted and/or Judge’s Favorite Charity Quilt.
Those quilts don’t need to be crazily complicated, but obviously made with love.

Millie said...

I'm with you. I went to a local quilt show this past Spring and it was completely and utterly boring. A lot of technical skill, but very little heart.

I think of famous paintings from artists like Cezanne, Van Gogh, O'Keeffe, Hopper, Whistler, Homer, Eakins. The ones that hang in museums. They are not "perfect." They break the rules students get taught in art school.

Funnily enough, the really great paintings adhere to one rule: they generate an emotional response in the viewer. Which is what really counts, in my opinion.

jovaliquilts said...

Great topic for discussion! I've enjoyed everyone's comments. In my guild's show, awards are given by popular vote. Almost every time, the most traditional and the most elaborate are the ones that win, but we also have very few that are 'liberated quilts.' I sometimes wonder whether voters in a different state or a different time would choose other quilts.

Joyce said...

Most quilt shows are so worried about details like stitching down the corners of the binding that they ignore the emotion of it. I have seen huge Baltimore album quilts with miles of tiny hand aplique and more miles of exquisite hand quilting but the overall impression for me is Yawn! It makes me tired just thinking of all that precision hand work. I guess it all boils down to personality. They do enjoy all that tiny hand work because I've met and talked to the quilters. However, there should be a place for the rest of us too. That's why I never enter judged quilt shows. That said, however, the latest book I just got is very precision. We'll see how it goes and maybe how it looks as wonky work. Lol.

Donna said...

I do appreciate good solid technique -- not the show stopper quilts, but at the same time a quilt that's going to withstand its use... I think often liberated quilts are seen as shoddy construction (and lets face it some are) rather then beautifully executed examples of a particular style.

More then awards, I found myself thinking of categories I'd have in my quilt show... they'd include: Quilts to take to the park for a picnic; Quilts that inspires fort making; Quilts for eating popcorn under; Quilts for the blind (with such loud colours they couldn't be missed);

sewprimitive karen said...

Tonya, oh. You are absolutely right. A lot of the prize-winning quilts are positively frightening.

Quiltdivajulie said...

Great conversations going on here...

I quilt because of the colors; because they make me feel something and/or the results say something meaningful to me...

At the local level, I do enter some shows, but only to share the glorious colors with others and to see if anyone else "gets" the emotional reaction part...

Interesting to me how many variations of this conversation are out and about in blogland ~ ~ ~ Chris (my long arm friend) and I were having this same conversation last week regarding hand guided machine quilting vs. the computerized mega-machine stitchers. Two VERY different ways of getting from sandwich to quilt.

Most of all, I dislike the "quick project" mentality that is becoming more and more dominant ~ I prefer slower, more personal, and emotionally considered work. Without the investment of SELF, I'm not 100% sure the results count as a "real" quilt (think Velveteen Rabbit).

Katie said...

I want to come to your quilt show. How about a catagory of Cat or Dog's choice. I prefer shows that have no contests attached. We have one locally at our plantarium. Only requirements are no quilts made from kits and must have a star in the fabric, pattern or quilting. There will be every kind and size of quilt there and made by every type quilter. They only have a viewer choice award. I so look forward to this show every year.

Ahava Hopps Brooke said...

Great post and great comments, everyone.

I agree that quilts should have soul. I'm afraid most often I am left cold when I see Houston's best of show. Most often I do feel that it's all technical virtuosity vs. creative vision.

It reminds me of in art history where there was the Paris Salon - the officially sanctioned art exhibit. Then there was Salon des Refusés. ( of all the innovative works that were refused by the Salon. Works that rejected the staid painting of the day in favor of new "raw" painting - e.g., Manet. This was the birthplace of impressionism!

We need a Quilt Salon des Refuses!

loulee said...

So what you're saying want quilts the way quilts used to be?
Me too.

Exuberantcolor/Wanda S Hanson said...

I would come to your quilt show, and enter in it too. I rarely spend more than 2 seconds looking at the winners of a big quilt show. And I agree, choose your own fabric, don't just buy a group, Just Like the Sample, to make it. I rarely like the winners of the art quilt contests either because some don't qualify as a quilt to me. I guess there is a fine line between original and quilt as we think of a quilt. I like quilts with heart and soul.

Tracey in CT said...

Totally agree, Tonya. Those 'perfect' quilts just don't excite me so much. And they make me feel inferior because I know that I could NEVER make one like that evern if I wanted to.

I'd love a category for "Loved almost to the poin of falling apart"

Passionate Quilter said...

I HAVE a quilt show like that!! I teach at my studio and every other year I have a quilt show--just for viewer's pleasure ONLY of my quilts, my friends quilts, my students quilts. I offer no prizes--just 100+ quilts hanging in the woods. My 7 year dgd had her quilt that she did in last years show. It won't win a prize, but it captured everyone's heart as she stood proudly by her quilt most of the time! I just love sharing our quilts made with love. Ahh, not all were perfect, but they had soul.

I think your choice of awards would be perfect...but I probably won't even do that....just showing quilts for fun.

elisepearson said...

i like the cat's favorite and dog's favorite idea!

i also like quilts that you'll see differently from different angles!

Fiona said...

Hear, hear. That's the show I want to go to as well! I can really identify with one of the comments above - that I don't want to be 'told' what colours to buy or to know exactly what my quilt is going to look like when it's finished. In the same way I would never use fabrics from all one design - because then someone else (the designer) has chosen the colours and fabric patterns and not me. For me that takes all the pleasure and creativity out of making it. I have nothing against buying books for inspiration - and I have (too) many of them, but I don't necessarily want to recreate a quilt exactly - someone else has already made it. I think that's why I like really simple patterns - then you can go to town with the colours and fabrics.

Kristin L said...

Great idea!! You know, you could make this "Quilt Salon des Refuses" happen online (in your copious spare time, of course -- ha ha!).

I'd add a Brave Use of Scraps category too.

Nancy said...

Tonya, I like how you think!

Holly said...

Aw thanks, Ton :) I agree with Quilt Pixie on the "quilts that inspire fort making"... and tea parties... camping quilts. I like functional quilts.

Kristin Shields said...

Great ideas! I was thinking about this just today. I was wondering how a free pieced quilt would go over at my guild's show this August. It might be fine since next year's raffle quilt is actually going to be a free pieced log cabin. Also, the great thing about the Sisters Quilt Show is that it's just for exhibition. There are some special exhibits with prizes, but most of the over 1000 quilts all over town are not judged. The go from very simple to very complex and there are always some free pieced ones.

woolywoman said...

Amen Sister! Say it! ( That's me being the choir.) In Lisa Boyer's book Dorky Homemade Quilts she proposes a show where you sit in comfy chairs and they spread the quilts over you. Nothing hanging up.I was fresh from a Gee's Bend exhibit when I made my first quilt. Lucky for me I then went on to Gwen and Freddy. I have no IRL friends who quilt how I do, which is too bad, but I have my virtual friends!

Unknown said...

No kits! No patterns! I'm SO with you on this. There have been 200+ years of quilting tradition and inspiration out there we can all soak up. Why are people afraid to make their own designs and their own choices?

*karendianne. said...

My contribution - Storytellers. I like Shows and Show and Tells even but I much prefer to know your experience with a quilt. What you learned, what you experienced, what is the life story behind the quilt.

So my category would be Storytellers. 500 Words or Less tell me what into it! The LIFE!

English Majors? Love, *karendianne.

YankeeQuilter said...

What a great conversation. You know how I feel about ribbons...if I see one more kit quilt with ribbons hanging from it I'll just scream!

Magpie Sue said...

I am *so* with you on this one! (But you probably already knew that!)

Love Kristin L's suggestion of "Brave Use of Scraps" award. How about a companion category for arrangement of orphan blocks?

julieQ said...

I love your new categories!! Yes, yes, yes!! How about: the softest and cuddly-est?

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Trish Lee said...

I have a category:
"best at keeping the monsters out from under the bed!"

I sew a bit of that into every quilt I make, it's the MOST important part!