I am back from a wild and crazy few months! Quilt Market marked the end of last-minute stress-inducing projects and now that I am back home I realized that I missed writing my blog posts. I don’t always have great pictures but I do think I have moderately interesting thoughts to share, and I really miss writing. So whether or not you read this, I need to write things and share them, because not doing so makes me feel lonely and sad, like a kitten caught in the rain. Gotta save the kittens.
My first thought upon coming back from Houston was that it seems weirdly hard for people to think outside of the genre they identify with. In particular, I was struck by how closely tied we Modern quilters are to the aesthetic, and overlook the stellar techniques that come from quilters who are either older than the expected Modern quilter demographic or whose style doesn’t align with ours (this also works in reverse, and also with Art quilters).
This really bothers me. Really really. REALLY. bothers me. It bothers me to know that people won’t take classes or avoid classes that present solid techniques just because they have pigeon-holed the teacher as not fitting their aesthetic. My typical criteria for evaluating a class are these:
- Do you have a better/simpler/quicker/sharper technique to share than what I am using now?
- Will this technique give me greater opportunities to improve my own work, or evaluate and add to it in a way that is new to me?
- Do they know how to teach?
- Have they explored anything else besides the one technique they offer? This may sound like an odd question, but the last thing I want to feel in a class is that I know more than the teacher does because I took the time to google it first.
I’m probably missing something, but I really feel that not being able to see the delicious nut of knowledge for the hard candy shell around it means people miss potentially life-changing classes and techniques. And that makes me feel sad-kitten for them. Do I have to make something like the teacher’s? No. But if I can learn from them to then grow as a quilter, then no way will I avoid it because of something that, at the end of the day, is more or less superficial.*
The opinions I have about this and how I present them are really a holdover from my university days: approach things that are difficult and uncomfortable with an open mind; be intellectually honest as it is possible to be; analyze and evaluate trying to see around and through my own bias (and we all have biases). I like to present my arguments out loud because that helps me control for some of that bias, and allows for honest intellectual engagement about the issues I find interesting and/or important. Feel free to disagree. I always encouraged my students (5th grade through college and beyond) to do just that, but to have well reasoned arguments as to why. I am open to changing my mind With the caveat that they must be convincing. This doesn’t mean I am asking you to change your opinions, either, unless you are swayed. This is not an aggressive thing, because I really want to know what you think and really want to know if what I’m thinking is correct upon evaluation from all angles.
There you have it: my feelings on quilty education. Many thanks to my friend Bill Volckening for sharing his quilts for this article. He has such a huge depth of knowledge for quilt history, including Modern quilts, that I really think you should see his collections and read his thoughts.
*The etymology of “superficial” comes from the Latin “superficies“, which literally means “an outward face or appearance”. Technique, to me, is like the stuff on the inside that makes up a person’s body, giving it structure and making it live a healthy life. The look of a quilt, it’s overall aesthetic, is the face they wear and the mannerisms they present.
Beautiful sentiments Mandy. I agree and being that this week I’m really immersed in a world of the more traditional and/or art quilters it’s like visiting another country but I’m enjoying it completely! I like your criteria for choosing a class/instructor. I mostly just selected class names that appealed to me and had space available. Thanks for sharing! (I feel the same way about blogging as well)
Mary Barrette says
Well said (written). Your thoughts apply to many areas of discovery and exploration. It’s sad to see anyone take an elitist attitude about their own opinions at the exclusion of others’. Keep purring.
Thank you! I like that: keep purring.
Valli Schiller says
Excellent post! I’ve never understood why quilters can be so invested in defining themselves in terms of narrow demographics. However, it’s certainly a boon for marketers of books, magazines, fabrics, and patterns.
When I think of all the opportunities to try new things, I get a little giddy. It’s especially fun thinking about how to make them work within my aesthetic. Who know what can happen? World’s best surprise.
You are spot on about this – we can always educate ourselves to learn a particular technique no matter the style of the project it comes from!
Yes! I had a long discussion with a friend this weekend on the disservice we are doing ourselves by identifying so strongly with a Modern or Traditional or Art quilters. We’re all taking fabric, cutting it up, and sewing it back together, in one manner or another. Yes, the aesthetic is different, but my personal aesthetic is different from my friend’s, whose is different from your, whose is different from the next quilter. When I started quilting a few years ago at age 22 I hung tightly to the “modern quilting” label because I felt like I needed a way to distance myself from the stereotypical little old lady making very traditional quilts, now I’m trying to evaluate my skills and learn more about what interests me (like actual quilting) and the skills I lack (like precision piecing -so not my strong suit!)
I’m a recent blog follower after following you on Instagram, but I am enjoying what you have to say and it’s making me think!!
I’ve found that the interesting question to ask is “am I making my quilts or Their quilts?” There is nothing wrong with making Their quilts (and by that, I mean someone else’s vision of a quilt), but I think sometimes it can be limiting. Make what you want, whatever it looks like. My little old lady groups that I quilt with are phenomenal about this, because they’ve all been through it and know that in the end, a quilter’s gonna quilt, and hang the rules. I think I mentioned this with the Crafty Planner podcast, but know the rules for technique because they’re good construction rules to make quilts last for hundreds of years, but know them so you know when you can break them, too, for the need of your quilt. (my opinion, but quilter’s are gonna do what they want 😉
I am so glad you’re enjoying what I write! I had quit for a while because it was like writing intoa vacuum but, like quilting, writer’s gotta write. Have a great day, and I look forward to hearing from you again!