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Monday, February 06, 2006

In The Ghetto?

The photograph here is a picture of the next stage of the piece 'No Man Is An Island'. It has had a bit of stitch added, here and there, and some couched fibres. It is beginning to come together, now, though I have still to add the text to it. But instead of doing that, I spent today at Helen's studio, playing with my acrylic paints, painting on tissue paper prior to bonding it to cloth, preparing a book for altering. It's unusual for me to make art with other people around; for me, art is a solitary activity. It is pleasant, though, to have company, to talk about life, the work, the universe or whatever comes up in conversation.

Sewing in general, but quilting in particular, has always been considered a sociable activity...quilting 'bees' are, of course, legendary, and I suspect that today's quilting house groups are but a pale shadow of their historical counterparts. For me, and, I suspect for most art quilters, that kind of camaraderie is not on the agenda. Apparently making odd quilts makes me an odd person... (if my son reads this, I'll live to regret that comment!). Perfectly pleasant people who would give all encouragement to someone making a bed quilt, seem to think that it's open season on people like me, who make wall quilts. The reaction I get from traditional sewers who see my work is rather akin to the reaction I get from some people when I admit to suffering from chronic depression. They don't know what to say, get embarrassed, and then invariably ask inappropriate questions. My favourite, though, is the question, usually whispered between two traditionalists, looking anywhere but at me, 'Is that a quilt?'. If I made the kind of disparaging remarks about traditional quilts that are made about my work, it would be rotary cutters at ten paces! Instead, I'm meant to pretend it doesn't matter.

And if I'm really truthful, it doesn't. I make what I make. I don't need anyone's permission or agreement. And, like Groucho Marx, I wouldn't join any club that would have me as a member!


Debra said...


I've had lots of the same reactions.. a 9 patch baby quilt at my guild gets full-on applause. While I show an art quilt .. full of original thought and unique work and everyone sits on their hands.

(we won't even go to depression thing, except to say it has virtually vanished since I've become post menopausal.)

Lynn said...

You are so right about the seeming lack of appreciation for art quilts but I think it may have more to do with a lack of confidence that many trad quilters feel for original art quilting and even for machine quilting of anything! They got into quilting because they saw others doing something they admired and felt they could learn to do. When they see art quilts, they don't think they could (a) think up the design, (b) execute the piecing or applique, (c) machine-quilt, (d) embellish with couching or beads, and (e) do any surface design, especially not PAINTING on top of a quilt.

My sewing circle admired my work but always says "Oh, we could NEVER do that." I think they mean "We WOULD NEVER do that" but perhaps it's not because they wouldn't like to, just don't think they could. We all like to succeed in what we try.

Lynn said...

Oops. I forgot to give myself a recognizable name. It's Lynn. My blog is Life on the Highland Line. Think I'd better fix that.

Rayna said...

Debra -- in my FORMER guild, I had exactly the same experience. Dead silence when I showed an art quilt. These same people (now 8 years later) told me that my workshops were too off-the-wall for them. LOL. Marion - I'm with you and Groucho!

Omega said...

Maybe it's a combination of two things: fear on the one hand, and a result of lack of discrimination in general on the other. On visiting an exhibition of contemporary embroidery I have found it difficult to explain to a traditional stitcher that some of the works are fantastic pieces of art, while others are really just a mess.

Traditionalists are perhaps rather like cooks who understand, follow, and even write recipes being asked to appreciate chemical experiments. It isn't possible without a lot of education. And I don't think the chemists are too worried. So neither should we be, tho' it is horrid to be whispered about.

Elle said...

I'm lucky in that my guild's accepting of art quilts and enjoy seeing my pieces and have lots of questions about my techniques. I've inspired others to give it a try. I do agree though--who wants to join a group if they don't understand or appreciate your work?