Thursday, March 24, 2011

Signing my work

When I wrote the other day about my facing method, I showed a picture of the back of a quilt.  Visible on the sleeve was my name and the title of the quilt -- I put that on the backs of all my work.

Elena left a comment: "When I saw "Jaunty F" in San Jose, I was surprised by your signature on the face. In this post I see you also sign boldly on the sleeve.  There are many thoughts about how and where an artist signs his work. Signatures are a rarity in any quilt world.  Would you share your thoughts about this? And what are you using to make that signature? Discharge paste or bleach?"

 It's funny that she brings up this issue, because it's one that I have wrestled with over the last several years, and I would say my practice is evolving, at least as far as the front of the quilt is concerned.  On the back, I have been using this method of signing the sleeve for a decade.

First, let me talk about the back -- I use Finish dishwasher gel (used to be called Electrasol) in a squeeze bottle to write my name, the title of the quilt and the year.  I like this brand because the consistency is stiff enough for the gel to hold its bead and give sharp edges to the lettering.  With other brands I've tried, the gel is more liquid and the bleach oozes and wicks out to give a fuzzy edge.

Now back to the front of the quilt.  Elena refers to "Jaunty F," a quilt I made from selvages as a commission for Hilary Fletcher.  I wrote about it last fall when Hilary's collection was on view at the San Jose Textile Museum.   

I have made several quilts from selvages.  I like the texture of the raw edges, and especially love the printing in the margins of commercial fabrics.  So when it came time to finish this quilt, I thought it would be amusing to sign the quilt in the same style that designers sign their fabrics.

The typical selvage would read something like "Spring Flowers by Suzy Queue for Alexander Henry Fabrics."  Mine read "Jaunty F by Kathleen Loomis for Hilary and Marvin Fletcher." 

Here's another quilt that I signed the same way.  It was a donation for a fundraiser for the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, to occur during the museum's black-tie Bourbon Ball event.  I signed this one "Bourbon Ball by Kathleen Loomis for KMA+C."  It was a little more subdued than the one for the Fletchers, because the writing went vertically.

With my pieced quilts I have not been so bold.  For many years I generally did not put any signature on the front.  Recently I have begun to stitch my initials in free motion quilting, through all the layers.  The letters are just under a half-inch tall.

I think I kept the fronts pristine all those years not from modesty but from some concern about judging and jurying.  I've heard horror stories about quilts that had blue painters' tape applied on the front to cover a signature when the judges came through -- and nobody removed the tape when the show opened. 

But I've changed my ways and plan to put my initials on everything from now on.  Maybe I'll even go back and put them on older quilts.  I haven't paid enough attention to this issue to respond to Elena's comment that signatures are rare in the quilt world, but if I attend the big quilt show in Cincinnati next month I'll be on the alert and report back. 

Meanwhile, what do you think?  Do you sign your quilts?  If so, how?  If not, why not? 


  1. Thank you, Kathy, for sharing your technique and views. It's interesting that you are still wrestling with it. I like your solution for pieced quilts. In keeping with medium, a stitched signature seems just right.
    I've stamped my name on backs at the bottom. Signing on a quilt top feels like a bold declarative move. I'm not ready for that yet.
    Here's another viewpoint about this topic

  2. I have not thought about this in awhile. It is funny that quilters don't sign their work in the front. I don't really understand why not! I always write mine on the label on the back, but I am going to add it on the front on the next quilt.

  3. Elena -- many, many thanks for the link. I would recommend that anybody with the slightest interest in this subject go to that article and read it! I found lots to think about, both as an artist and as an owner of other people's art.

  4. i think it's extremely important to sign my quilts! Too many vintage and not-so-vintage quilts are unsigned and we'll never know their stories or the people who made them.