Monday, May 13, 2013

Modern Quilting -- according to the Wall Street Journal

Last Friday's Wall Street Journal carried an article on our old favorite issue:  "Modern Quilters Stress Simplicity, Edgy Subjects."  Yes, it's Modern Quilting, which I wrote about a lot two years ago. It got to be a WSJ subject because Meg Cox, who used to work there, is a quilt aficionada and every now and then will write a story for them about her new interests.  Meg called me a couple of weeks ago and wanted to chat about my ideas on Modern Quilting, and she ended up quoting me in her story.

The news peg for this story was that Meg attended QuiltCon, the first national show of the Modern Quilt Guild, in February.  I had read about QuiltCon on various blogs at the time, and thought that it looked a lot like all the other big quilt shows, but apparently it was a bit different in its demographics.  "Instead of being clogged with electric mobility scooters, as in many quilting conferences, the aisles of QuiltCon... were full of strollers," Meg wrote in the article.  "This was a tech-savvy crowd: The show's organizers counted 2,000 tweets and 4,500 Instagram posts. A surprising number of the posts were about tattoos."

Meg liked something that I wrote in my blog two years ago and quoted it in the article:  "This New and Different Movement... is neither New nor Different."  She also quoted me as saying that I've seen nothing recently to change my mind on that opinion.

I wasn't the only crabby old quilter quoted in the article.  Holice Turnbow, a longtime fixture on the traditional quilting circuit and co-founder of the Hoffman Challenge, said, "Of the 50 attributes they list as modern, workmanship seems to be about 48."

In 2011, when I was trying hard to figure out exactly what Modern Quilting was, I ascertained that Modern Quilters wanted to break the rules.  Two years ago I was never able to learn just what rules they wanted to break, but now, thanks to the Wall Street Journal article, we have more info on that front.  Seems that the most talked-about quilts in the show were ones featuring our favorite four-letter word.

Give a F*ck, group quilt

Many people who attended the show blogged about these quilts and the consensus was that it was so courageous for the quilters to make them and for the show organizers to display them.  The purpose of the group quilt pictured above, according to the project organizer, Chawne Kimber, was to challenge the notion that some words must be censored from quilts.  (Yet she coyly spelled the quilt's title with an asterisk....)

So now we know that Modern Quilters want to break the rules about four-letter words.

Other quilts that caused comment at the show included one of a gun dripping blood.  With the institutional memory of an old lady, I point out that quilts about guns are nothing new; Bean Gilsdorf had two gun pieces in Quilt National, in 2003 and 2005, and in my humble opinion, they were more subtle and artistically noteworthy.

Bang You're Dead, Jacquie Gering (at QuiltCon )

Ouija #1, Bean Gilsdorf (Quilt National '03)

I'm sorry I can't provide a link to the entire article; the WSJ website is subscription-only.


  1. If coming up with a new name for the same old thing gets the younger crowd interesting in quilting I'm all for it - the world needs more quilters.

    I have no doubt they will soon invent "art" quilting with their edginess and desire to push boundaries (ie they will discover paints, dyes and beads). The thing that interests me will be how that progresses. Will they leave modern quilting and join the ranks of saqa? Will they invent their own art quilt groups and shun the existing ones? Will they try to integrate with the larger art world?

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out.


    1. I agree that if younger people have to think they invented it, then let them. One of the things I admire about the MQ quilts I've seen is that they have not yet discovered beads and embellishment, just relying on flat fabric compositions. But wait till the bead and angelina vendors start showing at the MQ shows!!

  2. Kathleen, I'd like to share the link to today's post and all your posts about Modern Quilting with my Lib-Quilters Yahoo Group. We are 'liberated quilters' who like to do patchwork in a free style; most of us began as traditional quilters. We discuss other topics too; I think many members would enjoy your comments about modern quilting.
    May I share your link?
    Thanks very much,
    Kathleen C.

  3. I would tend to agree with you. The problem, it seems to me: "modern" & "traditional" are words that carry a lot of baggage and tend to be value judgments with a certain ring of superiority for the "modern" group. The West claimed superiority over the rest of the world for the West's "modernity" while the "natives" were "traditional". The politics of semantics. Isn't there enough room for everyone without a value judgment?
    best, nadia

  4. I agree with Lisa, whatever it takes to get the younger crowd interested in continuing the tradition. My quilt guild started 20 years ago with a lot of moms of young children. Now the kids have grown up and we are a group of "old lady" quilters. I wish we could figure out how to attract the younger generation to our group.

  5. I think it's great that they're quilting, and if it means "Pickle Dish" pattern needs to be called "Tweet", well then, whatever. It's probably called something else in Atlanta and Boston anyway.

    Using the F-bomb in a quilt and calling it modern indicates a certain lack of creativity. LOL

    About attracting the younger set to a group, ASG is working on that as well. I think it is easier if the 60-80+s set tries to attract 40-50s rather than 20s. There's less disparity in life experience. Coming to the first meeting and chatting is easier. Once you have some 40s, then work on getting some 30s. I find that often the 20s/early 30s just don't have time for regular crafty groups if they have young kids. Also, talking endlessly about health problems and grandkids is a turnoff for a whole lot of people, not just the 20s group. I went to a spinning group and it was surgery one-ups for two hours. Egad! Never went back.

  6. Kathy, I really enjoy your blog and commentary.
    Is it okay to say that some things you say are HILARIOUS? I tried to read the WSJ article but I didn't have a subscription. I'll guess I'll keep trying "the googler"

  7. Why must standards be lowered to interest young and beginning quilters?