Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Is it a quilt? 1

When I wrote about my new piece, mostly one layer of canvas with a lot of machine stitching, Christine Seager left a comment:  "Nice to see something new but I have a question.  In the UK, a single layer is not technically a quilt.  Do the rules change when you go international??!!"

My response turned out to be complicated enough that I wanted to take an entire post to explain.

First off, these quilts were not made to enter a juried show with rules, so I guess it's irrelevant.  Our exhibit is an invitational; I suppose the show organizers are expecting mostly traditional-format quilts, and that's what they're going to get, but if one or two don't exactly fit the rules I don't think there will be a problem.  If there is, then Sentinel just won't get hung in Prague.

What if the rules applied?  It probably wouldn't fit the rules for Quilt National, which says "it must be composed of at least two full and distinct layers -- a face layer and a backing layer..."   It might or might not qualify for Form, Not Function, my local juried show, which requires that "All works must be quilted (two or more distinct layers held together by stitches)."  I guess it would be a judgment call whether the second layer -- the solid black area, composed of fabric stitched to the canvas -- can cover just part of the ground or has to cover the entire quilt.  I haven't researched other quilt shows to see whether this qualifies or not.

But I guess the ultimate answer is that I don't care.  I've been getting impatient with the traditional forms of quiltmaking and am excited to break a little bit loose.

For instance, my Quilt National '15 piece, which will be unveiled in May, doesn't use the traditional backing-batting-top format -- the top is traditionally pieced but it's quilted directly to a felt backing with no middle layer.  Nor does it have a traditional binding or facing; the edges are just cut off, and about two seconds later they started to fray, which is OK with me.

If I do make more works in this format, and if I have the urge to enter them in juried shows, I'll have to read the rules, but there are plenty of fiber art shows that accept all kinds of work, not just quilts.  Probably the most important decision facing me now is whether I describe this piece of work as a quilt, and if not, what should I call it?  As an artist who generally tries to avoid the Q-word, that shouldn't be a problem -- I'll just call it art.  But when the piece is being exhibited in a quilt venue maybe I'll want to call it a quilt.  I'll let you know!!


  1. Kathy

    I have never entered work in Houston Quilt Festival "proper" and people as me why. I say it seems to be more "Quilts who happen to be Art" when I feel like my work is "Art which happens to be in Quilt format". I also am not quite as fixated on the rules even through right now I am pretty much appearing more traditional than not. When I am looking at Art that happens to be textiles, the last thing I look at is square corners and other Quilt Police rules. I have tossed around alternative methods of finishing my edges as well, especially if I move to smaller pieces.

  2. I am late commenting on this post, but it is because I have been thinking about some of your quotes of quilt descriptions. For instance QN - "it must be composed of at least two full and distinct layers -- a face layer and a backing layer..." and FNF "All works must be quilted (two or more distinct layers held together by stitches_."
    What do you think is meant by a distinct layer? If one submitted a quilt/a work which had planned holes or windows through the layers and finished off in a manner that is in keeping with the look of the work,.... would this still fit into the category of 'full and distinct layers'?

    1. I think I've seen quilts with holes in QN. But I wouldn't try to adjudicate what does or doesn't follow the rules! (Unless they paid me)