Saturday, October 22, 2011


There have been a lot of comments posted to my blog in the last week and I have welcomed them, whether positive or negative.  I haven't posted individual responses because that would be tedious.  But Elizabethdee's recent comment has gotten me back to the keyboard.  She wrote:  "I think you may be seeing an enemy where none exists. Who exactly is this person who has publicly opined that all quilts must be functional; that it's boring and silly to hang a quilt on a wall; and that it's rude to suggest that a museum display art with respect? I don't recall reading any modern quilting blog espousing these beliefs. Frankly I think you may be exaggerating some of the already intemperate (and yes, extremely rude) comments on your post -- and not responding to what is actually going on with modern quilters... To me it's a little ironic that you talk about respect but I don't hear any in the way you talk about modern quilters."

She's right -- it is all about respect.  I perceived disrespect in the way that various people display quilts -- whether it's strange contortions in a museum or artful drapings in photographs that fail to show the quilt in its full glory.  Many of the people who commented perceived disrespect in the way I talked about these issues, interpreting my remarks as criticism of them or the modern quilting movement.  The commenters and I both had vehement words about the people we perceived as disrespectful; I suspect in both cases the vehemence was partly for rhetorical effect. 

But back to Elizabethdee's remarks.  "Who exactly is this person...?"  You're right, no blog is saying these things, but that's not what prompted my remarks.  I am just quoting people who have left comments here.  For instance, Quilted simple wrote:  "I'd much rather look at an interesting photo of a quilt in use than just the quilt -- talk about BORING."  Allison wrote:  "I personally like keeping my babies warm with the quilts that I lovingly made for them... not hanging them up on a wall for all to ooh and aahh at -- how silly."  And many more than I can count have told me I am rude, or worse, for criticizing the museum.   

But on to her important point:  "I don't hear any (respect) in the way you talk about modern quilters."

I'm going to take issue with that criticism.  I've been writing about "modern quilting" for several months, and my comments have largely been an exploration of exactly what "modern quilting" is and how it differs from non-modern quilting.  I am still trying to pin down a definition, but I don't believe I have ever said anything disrespectful about it.  In fact, on my own blog and on others I have said that insofar as I can tell what it is, I think it's a good idea. 

Many commenters this week took exception to my use of the phrase "so-called" to modify modern quilting, implying that it is somehow offensive, and one suggested I look it up in the dictionary.  So I did; my favorite reference, The American Heritage Dictionary, defines it as "1.  Commonly called."  If that's offensive, I think the victim must have been trying very hard to be offended.

I will confess that I had no idea that the issue of whether quilts are photographed full-frontal with no distractions or artfully draped in lifestyle vignettes would be so inflammatory.  I have learned that a lot of people really love those lifestyle photos.  And for the record, I am not upset when people put such photos on their blogs; I am upset when they are used by professionals such as magazine publishers or pattern sellers.  I recognize that the realities of modern consumer marketing may dictate that the lifestyle photo sells better than the plain descriptive one.  But I think this trivializes and disrespects the quilts, making them no more than another photogenic accessory (and maybe that's exactly how they're being regarded and sold).  Because I value quilts highly this upsets me, and sometimes I may write about it.   You may disagree.

Other commenters have noted that it can be hard to take good photos of quilts, for various technical reasons, and I agree.  That's why I don't photograph my own quilts, except for the occasional snapshot of one hanging in a show; I have a pro do it for me.  But certainly if you're publishing a book or magazine or selling quilt patterns or products you can hire a pro too.  And commenters have noted that museums and other venues sometimes have too little space to display a lot of quilts hanging on the wall so people can see the entire thing.  I think if that's the case, the museum should accept fewer quilts and display them all properly rather than accept all comers and crowd them in.  Again, you may disagree. 

So back to Elizabethdee.  I don't think I'm seeing an enemy at all, whether one exists or not.  I am expressing an opinion about something that means a lot to me.  I did not and do not intend to disrespect modern quilters, whether or not they chose to take offense at my posts.  It's easy to get caught up in a feeding frenzy and see offense where none was meant.  I am not going to do the same.  It's probably time for us all to get back to making quilts.


  1. Thank you, Kathleen, for responding to my comment, and I understand you much better now. I had thought, since you began by saying, Ok, Modern Quilters, you win, you were addressing Modern Quilters as a group, and as a group that was dragging everybody down to the bad old pre-feminist days when women's art was devalued. I am glad to know that you were not.
    Looking forward to seeing your next quilt.

  2. Kathleen, you have the patience and forbearing of a saint. Your point of view was made clearly and intelligently. Sometimes I wonder if people read carefully enough.
    A story for the modern quilters. I have a copy of America's Glorious Quilts, a huge tome. It had been used as a coffee table book in a life style shoot. Then, the frontispiece ripped out, dumped in a waste paper bin. Luckily my friend's Aunt, the office cleaner rescued it and it came to me.
    Quilts are made to be used and loved to death, but also appreciated as something made by hand and not mass produced to go in and out of fashion. Every quilt is special.

  3. Okay enough already! I have been reading this string of posts for the last several days and cannot restrain the need to comment. Quilting,like art, is totally subjective. There is room in this world for all of us. . art quilters, traditionalists, and modern quilters. I am a professed traditionalist. But I love using the wild Fassett fabrics with Civil War prints. Does that make me a Modern Traditionalist? This can go on and on. So, ladies, let's all put on our big girl panties,agree to disagree, stop vilifying each other and get on to what we love best. . .QUILTING!

  4. I definitely understand where you are coming from better in this post than the ones before it. I like looking at this subject from an impartial marketing angle. I wonder what the sales figures are when you compare quilt patterns with full quilt photos on the front to quilt patterns with a lifestyle photo...and as a Marketing graduate who is not currently working in her field, I'd just like to say that I want to work for whatever company studies this lol! It would be so fun to work in the quilting industry :)