Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Form, Not Function 2 -- improvisational piecing

There are only 19 pieces in this year's Form, Not Function show, so you can't help but notice when you seem to see the same one more than once.  Don't say to your friend, "Did you like that improvisationally pieced one, the really big one, with lots of white and all that machine quilting? It won a prize." -- because that only narrows it down to three.

Here's what won the second prize, in effect:

Susan Lapham, Playland #3, 85 x 82" (detail below)

It's densely machine quilted with horizontal lines barely an eighth-inch apart.  Yes, as the title suggests, there's a hint of playfulness but the subdued palette of off-colors gives a calm feeling despite the complex piecing, especially the tiny squares of black scattered on the large white areas. 

Honorable mention went to:

Margaret Black, Curb Appeal 7, 84 x 64" (detail below)

Black won a prize at last year's FNF for Curb Appeal 6, somewhat larger and more complicated than this year's entry.  (She also took best in show at Quilt National '17, before she embarked upon this series.) 

What's to say about this one -- it calls out to all of us who love to piece and cut and piece and cut and keep going forever.  Like Lapham's quilt, this one is densely machine quilted with parallel lines, except these go vertically.

And another honorable mention:

Susan Michael, All That You Dream, 75 x 64" (detail below)

It's the tiebreaker in the machine-quilting department, making two out of three with vertical lines.  The bold black-and-white palette gives a more assertive character and graphic quality than was seen in the other two quilts, with overtones of African prints and sparing accents of red and yellow.  Unlike the other two quilts discussed today, this one mixes fabrics, with canvas, ticking and some little shiny fabrics side-by-side with quilting-weight cottons. 

As one who does improvisational piecing with mostly right angles and dense machine quilting with parallel lines, I find it difficult to say anything bad about these quilts!  I'd be happy to have made any one of them.

All three of these quilts, especially the first two, suffered a bit from being displayed on white walls.  It was hard to tell where the quilt stopped and the wall started.  A gray or beige wall would have made them sparkle and sing.

More important, when one-sixth of the whole show consists of basically the same recipe, I have to wonder whether it might have been more interesting for viewers if the jurors had found a little more variety in approach and appearance.


  1. Maybe the jurors had nothing but that type of work to select from....

  2. You could conceivably add Aryana Londir's piece to this list- the color sense is different but the piecing approach looks somewhat similar. I have a weird-not-piecing piece in the show but when I looked at the gallery of accepted pieces the other day, Susan Lapham's was my immediate and prolonged favorite. Something about the balance in the composition, with the smaller bits in opposing corners and what feels to me like really really fantastic use of color really stayed with me.

    After reading your post today (your posts about shows are some of my favorites since I always learn something from what you share) I went back and looked at the show again to see if it felt too "heavy" in that particular approach. After consideration, I'm not sure. The overall show feels balanced to me and there are several other additional (apparently) pieced pieces that don't have this style/approach. I wonder to what extent this is a piecing style that is currently used by a large variety of artists? I also wondered if it might be tied to the jurors, I remember QN2019 when Nancy Crow was a juror the selected pieces felt enriched for those that had a Nancy-Crow-piecing type style. Not that that's necessarily bad, just perhaps an influence.