Thursday, November 17, 2011

Traditional versus Contemporary Quilting

I have mentioned that I write for our Canadian Quilting Association magazine.  On the top of my blog is a tab 'My Articles', and there are more of my articles here.

Traditional versus Contemporary Quilting

If this isn’t the hot topic in quilting these days, I  don’t know what is.

Have you ever overheard members trying to book a guest speaker?  “ I want a trunk show of traditional quilts!   I want a speaker who is knowledgeable on all the new art quilting techniques.”

I figured there had to be at least a few of you who were as confused as I was in determining what is an art quilt, and what is a traditional one.  And furthermore, to distinguish what clarifies a contemporary quilter versus a traditional quilter. 
I made a list of top 10 features to be able to tell each one apart.   Carry this with you and when the topic comes up, whip out your list and you can set everyone straight.

How to pick out a traditional quilter:

1.      Their hair colour, not sure of the proper term these days, but grey, white, and silver should give you the idea.
2.     They only shop in quilt stores, and most only go to the same one they have gone to since they started quilting. 
3.     Their machine is the same one they had when they left home and got married.
4.     They have made at least one whole cloth quilt.
5.     They can talk for hours on thimbles, recipes and grandchildren.
6.     They are experts at putting a quilt in a frame and marking it.  
7.     They may not have the newest tools, but they have the most dependable ones.
8.     They have mastered the techniques they use and don’t feel the need to learn new ones.
9.     They still attend ‘quilting bees’.
10.  They are the greatest group of quilters and need to be remembered as the founders of this amazing activity.

How to pick out a contemporary quilter:

1.     They ‘look’ like they are under the age of 60.
2.     They own a long arm machine and know how to use it. 
3.     They have blogs, websites, Facebook and Twitter, and do most shopping online.
4.     Their sewing machines cost more than their cars, and they have at least two.
5.     They have a stash that makes up 60% of their household contents.
6.     They have gallery showings of their work, and enter into many juried shows.
7.     They have a closet full of embellishments, most of which they have never used.
8.     Their husbands think the freezer downstairs is full of food.  It isn’t.
9.     They are outgoing, friendly and know how to have a good time.
10.   They want to promote quilting as an art and are doggedly determined to do so. 

How to tell a traditional quilt:

1.     Colors are subdued.
2.      There are no prints in the quilt.
3.     It has to be 100% cotton.
4.     It is going to be so large, that you probably have to stand at the other end of the room to see the whole thing.
5.      It is only hand quilted.
6.     The artist’s statement is short and only talks about why the quilter made it. Usually an anniversary, wedding or birth are the reasons.  
7.     There is no fusible or machine appliqué, only the real hand method of this technique.
8.     It takes over a year to make this quilt.
9.     There are well over 1,000 small pieces of fabric in it.
10.   There is usually a red ribbon hanging off of it. 

How to tell an art quilt: 

1.     It has no less than 1,000 pieces of embellishment on it,  that do not necessarily make the quilt look better.
2.     It comes in any size, shape or form.
3.     There are various types of material in it, some may not yet be discovered by man.
4.      Good chance there is something you just threw out in your garbage  attached to the quilt.
5.     It is all machine quilted, you will see NO hand work on this quilt.
6.     The fabric will be ‘altered’ in some way. 
7.     The artist’s statement will have a list of techniques, most of which you probably haven’t heard of.   This includes stencilling, discharging, batiking, waxing, shaving, batching, mod podge, gluing, stamping,  slicing, brewing, firing, bonding, cracking,  chewing, molding, shampooing, and conditioning.
8.     The name of the quilt will in no way have any relation to the sight of it.  It probably has a number behind it, as it is in a ‘series’.
9.     A pattern is never used to make this type of quilt, mostly because no one in their right mind would buy the pattern.
10.  It makes no sense to you, has no flow, no rhythm, no theme, and that is what makes it art.

 This article was published in the Spring 2011 CQA/ACC issue.  Please don't copy without written permission.  Thanks so much!


scarlett said...

I don't fit in to either category. Hmmmm...I wonder what that makes me. Congrats on hitting your goals for 2011!

Linda Teddlie Minton said...

Better put on your flameproof undies, but I think it was hysterical! I recognize myself and my friends in both categories ... thanks for taking some of us down a peg, and for the huge laugh!

Quiltmuse said...

Those are pretty extreme descriptions. I think there are a lot of us somewhere betwixt and between them. I know I am. However those are pretty funny list -- and all the quilters I know -- of whatever persuasion --love to laugh.

Karoda said...

i'm ending my day with a nice belly laugh, thanks

Johanna said...

I love your article. Especially your ways of telling a contemporary quilter. Wonder when was the last time I went grocery shopping :)

Wen Redmond said...

OMG~ Too FuNNy!

Anonymous said...

I reckon I'm a contemporary quilter, and I think your 60% claim is a bit conservative! The best humour is always based on a truth and this is certainly the funniest set of descriptions I've ever come across!
Well done!
Janet Cook in England

Anonymous said...


Oooh, your last line will bring out the flamethrowers!
Me, I'm 50% 'yes' in all categories, which pretty well reflects the mix of quilts I make.

Rayna said...

Love it!

My Sweet Prairie said...

I'm with Linda... put on my flame proof undies and had a good chuckle : )
I don't fit either. I'm not sure I see that in real life in our guild, but you have certainly have nailed the common stereotypes!


Snoodles said...

Heehee! This was hilarious! Loved reading it and having a good laugh! I thought I was pretty traditional, but right off the bat I blew it (oh, wait, my hair is colored....maybe that doesn't count!). Love your article, girl, you rock!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this article. It's perfect and I laughed out loud. Like others I kinda fall in between all the categories. My current series are whole cloth but they are not traditional white on white or tone on tone quilting.

Annette J said...

Well I have grey hair, can put up a frame resonably quickly, shop on-line, own a blog, subscribe to groups. My quilts can take up to a year to quilt, by hand and some have everything on them from the local tip. Not sure where I fit but I enjoyed the listings.

Dianne Leatherdale Johnson said...

Right on....Hear Hear!!! Loved it, I am definitely a contemporary quilter.I have a stash closer to 75%, and embellishments I will never use in two lifetimes, but I have em! And I have six colours in my hair!
Dianne Leatherdale Johnson

Susan Being Snippy said...

Lovely article, but i think it is somewhat like watching a Canadian TV show, the humour is different than American! Im glad I am on the north side of the border!

Rebecca said...

I followed Teri over here, and am glad I did! I got some good laughs from this (and had just read how good laughing is for you), plus some warning signs for whether I'm taking myself too seriously!