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.