Quilts are done for the book, first draft of the manuscript has been turned in, and the revision process is just getting kicked off. I have a few more minutes in the day, though, to think about other things, and this topic has been on my mind a lot, since people are still talking about it and trying to define what it is: “modern quilting”.
It’s kind of a rambling post, one that I am continually processing and reprocessing, so I’m putting it into a list of ideas of how I feel about it right now. I’d love it if we could get a conversation going, here, about what modern quilting is, and is not, to you, and how modern quilting fits into your life. As for me, I’m kind of finding myself moving on from identifying as one thing or another, and these are the things I, personally, am thinking right now.
- I’m not really interested in the aesthetic side of things so much, questioning whether it is or is not modern, whether it’s minimal or not, what fabric it uses, whether it’s going to fit neatly in a category according to its looks. That’s boring and unhelpful. To me, modern quilting is less about that than it is about what those quilts do and are for; modern quilting is about utility.
- When we talk about modern quilting, we seem to talk about it in a bubble, as if it suddenly appeared one day and was its own separate entity, and the overall movement guided by the MQG actively seeks to set itself apart and maintain a kind of boundary between itself and other quilt types. I’m not all that interested in that, myself, except for feeling that it can possibly scare people off of learning to express themselves fully through their art, trying to keep their work “modern”. Make what you love. Make as much of it as you want. Don’t give a rat’s butt about anything except but making what makes you happy. And if you watch all the lectures from QuiltCon 2013, that’s what nearly every keynote speaker says. Follow your own Muse.
- What seems to me to be missing when we talk about modern quilting is how it fits into the world around it. Modern quilting is part of a larger movement of people interested in DIY and homesteading, “curating” their homes and lifestyles, having their hand and work literally evident in the homes they are creating around themselves. Modern quilting is, in part, a diary in cloth of many women and men who are teaching themselves quilting skills to make things to be part of their life stories. As they grow in their skills and learn new techniques, you can see it change and shape the quilts they find interesting and desirable, through the popularity of circles and fussy cuts, diamond and stars.
- We also talk about modern quilting being driven by the online community, and it is, but I worry that we miss the larger picture. In my area, the people who love modern quilting and enjoy it for its freedom and liveliness and beauty are all quilters who have been quilting for decades. They are all older than 50. So many people think modern quilting is the quilting for the “young and hip”, and don’t see or know the number of people who love it but aren’t active online. I remember at QuiltCon seeing so many, many women and men who don’t necessarily fit the “modern quilt blogger/mom/DIY/craft maven” profile. And it pains me that we don’t acknowledge them for a number of reasons: modern quilting, in the overall scheme of things, is a small segment of the quilting world; many of these quilters have much to teach and offer; it’s seriously poor judgment to limit ourselves to profiling modern quilters based on age.
- Modern quilting also fits into a continuum of quilt history. As a historian it kinds of annoys the heck out of me that many modern quilters seek to divorce themselves from quilt history. Like our grandparents and great grandparents, we are quilting our way through a recession that hasn’t been seen since the Great Depression. Our quilts are often scrappy and made to see hard use, decorative as hell, but not meant to be carefully hidden from view.
- As a professional modern quilter, it concerns me that we ignore the quilters that came before us because they aren’t “modern”, who have much to teach us about working within the industry.