Then I wrote: "All frosting, no cake -- that's as good a description of a large portion of the 'art quilt' world as anything else you could come up with. Unfortunately it's probably easier to find some of these no-cake wonders than it is to find quilts with more rigorous art underpinnings.
Go to the State Fair, for instance. The judges are knowledgeable to the point of hysteria about stitching, binding and making points match, but generally have no training in design. Go to the quilt shop, and find patterns and samples that showcase the latest fabrics but don't go much beyond cute in the artistic department. Go to the magazines and books, and find project recipes complete with patterns and directions so you can replicate somebody else's superficially attractive creations."
Then I observed that venues that do value the cake over the frosting are fewer and harder to find, but mentioned Quilt National as one that does focus on the art.
|great color, mediocre design
A few people commented that this was a bad analogy.
Kathy wrote: "But these particular venues don't claim to be art, do they? This is just what they do and they appeal to a large segment of the population. I don't think there is anything wrong at all with what they do. It's just not what I want to do."
Anonymous wrote: "Comparing quilts at the state fair to ones accepted into QN is ridiculous. They're not the same thing, nor does either side ever pretend to be."
They're both right. I should have been more thoughtful in saying what I wanted to say. I should have limited my examples to the "art quilt" world rather than venturing into the far-removed precincts of the State Fair. So let me take the liberty of restating my case. Even within the "art quilt" world, it's easier to find no-cake wonders than to find quilts with more rigorous art underpinnings.
Exhibit A: the International Quilt Festival in Cincinnati this spring, which I wrote about in a series of posts starting here. The people showing here aren't trying to impress the state fair quilt police; they're trying to make "art quilts." But the work many of them are turning out has a whole lot more frosting than cake. Glitter was everywhere, with metallics, ribbons, lamé, shiny tulle, beads, etc.
But not to single out this venue -- I challenge you to attend any show that focuses on art quilts, or has a category for art quilts, and walk up and down the aisles. Compare the number of quilts that rely on loud colors and flashy embellishment to those with serious design and composition strength. Be honest.
And while you're walking the aisles, go over into the vendor section and check out the products (heavy on embellishment and gimmicks) and the samples (flashy color always attracts attention). Frosting apparently sells a heck of a lot better than cake.
Exhibit B: magazines and TV shows focusing on "art quilts." Read or watch several installments of your favorite such publication or show, and compare the number of articles written, spots aired or quilts pictured with more frosting to those with more cake.
Exhibit C: do the same with the quilting books available in your local shop or online. How many books teach you how to use design principles in developing your own artistic style? How many simply teach you how to make a small quilt identical to the one in the book? In fact, anecdotal evidence suggests that the quilt publishing industry is united in its determination to put out only project or technique books.
Exhibit D: check out the classes and workshops offered at a large quilt show. For example, the class catalog for Houston this fall will be available online in a week or so. Don't pay attention to the stuff aimed at traditional quilters, just the classes advertised on the art end of the spectrum. Count the number of classes focusing on frosting -- embellishment techniques, replication of the instructor's project, working with a particular tool -- and compare to those focusing on design, composition, color theory. I suspect the breakdown will be approximately 100 to zero.
|nice color, mediocre design
Bottom line: those of us who want to make cake must work hard to find our fellow bakers. We have to learn to be more discerning, to tell the difference between cake and frosting. We have to search out teachers, publications and venues that encourage and reward the hard work and rigorous standards of serious art.
There's nothing wrong with somebody making quilts heavy on flashy color and beads, and if somebody wants to buy one, I guess that's OK too, even though I wish the buying public had a higher level of taste. But those of us who want to set our sights higher must first recognize that this is not all there is.